After being asked to comment on what I think makes a good student I came up with four strategies that have kept me objective, teachable and perseverant as a student.
1st rule I live by as a student: Avoid Trainer “hopping” – Pick a good instructor.
I picked an instructor I could respect, one I had rapport with, one who’s teaching style I understood and could learn under. Then, when the training sessions get tough, I have the confidence she will get guide us through it successfully. Having confidence makes one a better student.
When you find your instructor, stick with them! It saves money and time.
All this “trainer hopping” that goes around these days is wasteful. I’ve often heard the comment “I can learn something from everyone!”. Possibly true, but first you will likely confuse yourself. Few amateurs know enough to discern the “whys” and “wherefores” of one teaching style from another.
My instructor knows my skill level, my history and each of my horses. Therefore, her teaching will be the most efficient. To go to an expensive clinic in hopes of great revelation and leaps and bounds of improvement is unrealistic, and therefore, in my opinion a waste of money. The instructor there doesn’t have any frame of reference in regards to you and your horse, therefore how can they truly be effective?
2nd Rule I live by as a student: Respect Authority
Respect, respect, respect authority (Taught to me at a young age by my pastor)! So when you choose your instructor the next step is to begin the process of being a good student. Humbly put your self under their authority, do what they say!
“Sit down, shut up and fake it till you make it” quoted by Rick Hughes.
The less I talk, the more I learn from my instructor when she is allowed to speak. I make an effort not to interrupt my instructor during lessons. When she is guiding me through exercises and I don’t agree, I do it anyway. Many times I’ve been under instruction and thought to myself “there is no way this is going to be beneficial”. But keeping those humility lessons I learned in church alive, I continue doing as told and voila! suddenly a huge transformation happens. AWSOME!
With each of these moments, I have proven over and over to myself that authority is there to teach us, not squish us.
3rd Rule I live by as a student: You have time.
This I learned from one of my favorite Spanish Riding School teachers, Alois Podjhajsky.
There are many grueling moments in dressage training that lead most students wondering if they will ever “get there”. How many times have we ended a ride by ourselves thinking we just slipped behind, not ahead?
I found great peace in reading Podjhajsky’s words “you have time”. If you don’t know it today, chances are you will figure it out by tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, the next. Suddenly, I began to give myself a break, but more importantly, give my horse a break. So my advice would be to relax, and if nothing else, dwell on how it will feel when you finally do get it…tomorrow, or maybe thereafter.
4th Rule I live by as a student: Pick horses your instructor approves.
If I have picked an instructor I respect, why wouldn’t I take their advice in picking a horse? How can I expect to get their support if I buy a horse without their input, bring home something that they don’t believe is a good match, possibly unsafe for my level of ride, and not a mount that can enhance my level in the sport? Eventually, if students continue disregarding their instructors in this area, their instructors will likely loose interest. And why wouldn’t they? Their student has just put them in a position were they are least likely to succeed. A no win situation for both parties.
My ‘picking’ skills increased ten fold when I brought in my instructor’s expertise. I saved money, avoided time wasted and money poorly spent on horses that were unsuited to me or simply had poor track records and bloodlines that I would have never detected otherwise. Instead, I ended up saving time and money with really great horses that I have enjoyed thoroughly!