Friday, January 22, 2010

Speaking of Budgeting for Dressage Lessons (and a bit about clinics)

(The preamble to this blog post was published here on 1/22/10)

Why should we budget for lessons? Don't most of us have lessons pretty much once a week?
To answer that question, look back at your check book over the last year. When did you write checks for lessons? List the dates. Notice the gaps. How many regular lessons did you REALLY take? How many weeks did you really skip? How consistent was your training, really?

It is very easy for time to slip away from us. And that is for those of us who take regular lessons from our regular instructor.

A lot of us depend on "clinics" for our "training". I put parentheses around those words, because here in the United States, the only training a lot of us get is in infrequent clinics; typically, clinics from different trainers each time, so we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Clinicians focus on one specific problem, and give pointed solutions for very narrow margins of improvement--that is all they can do in the limited time they have with a rider. That is their is not to teach the clinic participants how to ride or train their horses. Ideally, the riders already know how to ride sufficiently, and can add the piece that the clinician suggests to their horse's training. That's it.

A long-time student of mine said "people that depend on clinics for their information go hoping to find that "magic bullet"; that one piece of information that they believe is going to make their horse look better, go better, get over a hump, or make them (the rider) sit better, or have better feel, or give them a good position, or show them how to train their horse. It isn't that simple, but you can't convince them of that, so they go, and they go, and they go, but they never progress. You can't convince them that they need to learn to ride according to the training scale and that takes a lot of dedicated work with an instructor that is there for them pretty much all the time, whether it is in person, in a lesson, or on the phone or by email to answer questions."

And as Henk van Bergen put it, in the FEI Level Trainers' Conference that I went to Jan. 18-19, "here in the U.S., and it happens in Europe, too, but not as much, the typical way of learning is to go to clinics. So you get a piece of the puzzle from here, and a piece from over there, and a piece from over there, and you gather them up, and try to put the pieces together, and all you have is a mess. They are good bits of information, but you have no system. You must learn one system, and for that you have to have one primary instructor. Then, when you learn his/her system, then you go to clinics and take the bits of information and you add them to what you know, because you have enough knowledge to think about those bits of information and determine if they will be of value to you. If you don't have a system already in place, then you don't know what bits to keep and what bits to discard."

Here are two people, pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum of dressage (my student is an adult amateur rider who has ridden with me for years, and now her son also rides with me and at the other end is Henk van Bergen who has been an instructor/coach at the top of the international level for many many years) who have figured it out. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist. It just takes a true student of riding.

And I agree with both of them. One of the things I tell potential students is, "find an instructor who has a system that you want to learn. Take regular lessons from that instructor, and learn that system. Once you understand the system's fundamentals, then you can enhance that education by going to clinics and learning from a different perspective, but the fundamentals have to be learned first.
There is only one way to ride and train horses, and that is the progressive athletic development of both the horse and rider. We call this system the Training Scale. It addresses all the concerns of the athletic development of both horse and rider. I can't imagine teaching anyone to ride without adhering to these principles."

And yet, many, many, people out there giving lessons, who call themselves "trainers" that have never even heard of it, let alone know how to teach this system.

If you are taking lessons, ask your trainer this simple question--"Have you ever heard of the training scale?" If they say no, I would go elsewhere for your lessons. If they say yes, ask them what the principles of the training scale are.

If they can't recite them to you on the spot--Rhythm, Suppleness, Contact, Impulsion, Straightness, Collection--, find another instructor.

But I digress. If your trainer knows what the training scale is, commit to their system by budgeting for regular lessons; and scheduling them with your trainer is very important for your progress as well as your horse's. The easiest and fastest way to develop your horse's training and your riding ability is to take a lesson, do your homework for a period of time (whether it is a few days, one week, two weeks, whatever), take a lesson, do your homework for the same period of time, take a lesson, do your homework, and so on, without interruption. It also makes your trainer happy because then they can figure their budget, counting on the income from your lessons.

To be consistent, we need to figure out what we can afford for periods of a minimum of one year at a time. Write it down, schedule the lessons with the trainer, and then pay for them as you would pay for your horse's board--monthly, in advance. And remember, the more lessons you can take, the faster you will progress (but don't take more than two lessons per week unless you don't own your own need time to practice on your own, as well!).

This accomplishes two things. First, you have reserved your instructor's time on a certain day, at a certain time. Second, you have a standing appointment that you are less likely to forget.
Added bonuses are that you don't have to write checks every week, and it is more difficult for the trainer to back out of a lesson, and it is more difficult for you to back out of a lesson. So the stage is set for dedicated commitment and consistency. And that is a huge step in the direction of accomplishing your goals.

No comments:

Post a Comment