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The Perfect Student

Many of us spend countless amounts of money on training, seeking to improve our horsemanship and anxious to soak up that endless vat of equestrian knowledge. In fact many folks actually hide such expenses from their significant other worried that the dollars spent would seem excessive to a non-horsey person.

Consider whether you are obtaining every last nugget of benefit from your lessons. What makes a perfect student? For many years I have been both student and trainer and here is what I appreciate in a student, and what I hope my coach appreciates in me.

Anneliese Gilchrist : Trainer and Owner at Northfield Farm, Otego NY

  • Be ready and waiting and preferably warmed up and on your horse when your designated hour begins. Why waste the valuable time you are paying for completing a warm up? If the ring is already occupied a quick ask of the trainer before you enter is usually appreciated, and most of us don't mind if you come in five or ten minutes early. By that point we are already concluding the prior lesson.
  • Dress appropriately. Yes just like everything else you need to dress for success.  Presenting a professional, clean appearance of both yourself and your horse shows the trainer that you take this riding thing seriously and that you respect their input. Denny Emerson once said something to the effect that after many years of training he just wanted students who wanted it as much for themselves as he wanted it for them. Showing up in dirty jackets, saddle pads, tack, etc. is a sure way to say, " Not that bothered." For us and for many trainers the work we do is not just a living, we take pride in making a sincere improvement in the horse and rider. Building a future based on solid understanding, encouraging and developing confidence, trust and harmony between the rider and their horse. We show you respect, and we appreciate that being a productive two way street.
  • Don't talk too much. At the beginning of the lesson it is appropriate to discuss issues experienced, progress hopefully made and goals but then it is important to just get on with it. If you are talking you cannot be listening. And why spend your money to chat on? If you are having trouble understanding, then it is fine to ask for more clarification, but limit your chat to the lunch break. At the end of the lesson thank your instructor, engage in a quick review of the lesson and then leave the trainer to move on to the next lesson.
  • Don't call your trainer at all hours of the day and night. The time to talk to them about your horse is before and at the end of the lesson. You can shoot them an occasional email, or make an occasional call within business hours if you need extra help, but don't abuse your access.
  • Do your homework. For e.g. If you are learning a new dressage movement then know the aids. When the trainer leaves you at the end of the lesson make sure you have a clear map of how you are going to incorporate what you have learned and practice it between lessons. Trainers can clearly see who has been doing their homework and it is also easy to tell if students are getting off track. Sometimes students get a bit ahead of themselves ~ as a student be careful of introducing new stuff to your horse without a proper understanding of whether your horse is truly ready. If you are not sure, ask.
  • Show up on time and pay on time.  Again this is part of the respect project. You should have your payment ready at the time of your lesson unless you have a credit arrangement. If you are fortunate enough to be on billing, then be prompt with your payment. Trainers and barns are not finance companies so it is important not to abuse their kindness in fronting expenses on your behalf.
  • Don't over clinic. The perfect student is following a carefully mapped out plan that is in the trainer's head. When students run around working with all and sundry their work often becomes confused or at best, things are undone and need to be redone. Find a trainer you believe in and show some loyalty, you with enjoy quicker results this way. Horses and students can become easily confused. 
And what you may ask is the perfect trainer? That is coming in my next blog.
Grand Prix Dressage Trainer Paul Alvin-Smith, of Willowview Hill far, Stamford NY. 

" We take pride in what we do."

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