Recently I’ve discovered a bit more about myself. You could say I’ve been on a journey of self discovery, but that makes it sound like a whole street lighted up, when in actual fact it’s just a lonely lightbulb.
I’ve been having showjumping lessons at a new local venue. I first went there to practice jumping at a different venue with lots of colourful fillers.
The instructor who runs it has a very calm manner and is fairly dictatorial but in a positive way – trot a circle, change the rein, relax your knee, bend the elbow – and it’s very relaxing and really let’s you empty your mind of life’s clutter.
The warm up is pretty basic with the odd positional correction and suggestion to improve the way the horse is going. During the warm up you discuss how the jumping has been going and any concerns. Then this instructor builds an exercise and you ride through it with comments and chance to improve.
Personally I find it relaxing, I think I actually thoroughly enjoy the learning process, and find that I focus completely on the moment, and having critique whilst I ride the course, or the feedback after, allows me to make any adjustment which is shown by the improvement in the second attempt. The end of the lesson always ends on a positive note and you go away believing in yourself, knowing what to practise, and confident for the next lesson.
Sometimes I find that if you’re doing an exercise in a lesson that you’re familiar with, the instructor running through the aids makes you pay attention, and check each one so that you ride the movement correctly. Even if you can list the aids it can be helpful to have someone reminding you in case the effort of thinking about your inside leg means that your outside rein has gone walkabouts.
On the other side of the coin I recently had a dressage lesson and the approach was definitely coaching, rather than teaching. I came away from the lesson quite disparaged. I felt like I wasn’t capable of achieving, and that I was wasting my time and efforts. It wasn’t the instructor’s fault at all, but I realised its my reactions.
When I’m told to do something which I find difficult, for example I know I drop my shoulders, but repeatedly telling my to bring them back makes me retreat into my shell. I get tense and obviously rolling my shoulders back becomes impossible. Then the cycle continues. And of course Otis picks up on my tension.
I’m aware of my faults so I respond better to subtle hints or reminders whilst we look at the bigger picture. Another thing I’ve realised is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and live by the whole “practice makes perfect” ideal so I like the repetition of an exercise adding in another factor to think about each time, so the boundaries are pushed until it’s perfect. I don’t like switching between different exercises or just being given feedback for when I ride at home- I can’t remember it by then!
This is more of a coaching technique I believe; critique what you observe on the day and prepare the rider for self teaching.
Now, I enjoy teaching myself, and am self motivated, but I like homework and help with directing myself, otherwise I can’t decide which area to improve first so don’t make much progress.
These lessons, combined with watching some other lessons and instructors, has made me aware of the fact that there are hundreds of approaches to teaching and learning. As an instructor the ability to adapt your teaching style, whether it’s dogmatic or laissez-faire, to suit your client and enable them to best learn, is what makes you good.
As a client then, you shouldn’t be afraid to look at other approaches to teaching, or even other explanations, as it can give you a better and more complete understanding. However, us instructors do value loyalty! But doing a bit of research and asking questions can help your instructor explain or adapt their technique to you.
So all I’ve found out about myself is that I respond well to a quiet mannerism, and a style of teaching based on repetition so that I can digest and practice each element. I think this comes out in my teaching, so hopefully my clients like learning this way!