I’ve had several riding instructors since I began riding some 30 years ago. Some knew my strengths and weaknesses and how to help me work with each. The really good ones (of which there were a few) knew how to take my strengths and motivate me to do better. Of course, there were some who took my weaknesses and only made them worse. Fortunately, I had sense enough not to stay with those instructors.
Memories of my good (and not so good) instructors came to me as I read this month’s training article, “Coach Your Horse for Success,” by esteemed trainer and former USEF National Young Horse Dressage Coach Scott Hassler. In this article, Hassler tells us that an ideal coaching style combines skills such as how to motivate the horse with beauty and tact. He says, “The riders I respect most ... don’t falsely build their horses up, and their horses never feel defeated. When a good coach addresses an issue, the horse receives the correction by thinking, Yes, I’ll try harder for you! Got it! It’s a beautiful dialog because of the coaching style.” You can read the full story on p. 40.
Another sign of a good coach is a rider who can get on any horse and ride him to the best of his ability in any situation. British Olympian Charlotte Dujardin proved this during her master class at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show in New York City this September. Since Valegro, her World Champion mount, couldn’t make the trip from England, Dujardin borrowed Canadian Olympian Evi Strasser’s horse, Renaissance Tyme. Only upon her arrival in New York, did Dujardin have the chance to ride the horse. So it took some good coaching for her to ride the Oldenburg gelding successfully. In her master class she told the audience that it’s important to work with the horse, not against him. “If he’s afraid of something, I can reassure him and be positive and say ‘it’s OK,’ and then he trusts me and carries on, rather than being afraid,” she said. Read “Dressage in The Big Apple” on p. 48.
This month we also bring you a story about collegiate riding and the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA). Did you know that riders who participate in the IDA (and other collegiate riding teams) must compete on horses who they have never ridden before? If they're lucky, they have about 10 minutes to warm up before entering the ring. Talk about learning to be a good coach for your horse! Read more on how these young riders learn to make the most out of each test they ride in “Catching a Ride” on p. 60.
I hope you find these articles (and the rest) beneficial in your journey to be the best coach for your horse.
Until next time...