View Full Version : What does it take

Sep. 12, 2009, 01:17 PM
To realize you're with the wrong trainer or instructor?

For me, it was the gradual realization that my new horse was not progressing at all. The same instructor who had helped me get relative success with my previous horse was NOT the right person to help me with New Horse. But it took me a while to realize it. A bucking fit and a bad fall during a lesson was my tipping point.

What tipped the scales for you?

Sep. 12, 2009, 01:41 PM
Oh God. LOL. Eventually, a train wreck starts to really look like a train wreck, LOL.

I think the best way to do 'quality control' on your trainer is to go to dressage shows with well trained judges. Clinics with well established clinicians can also help. If the judge's and clinician's comments and methods are very different from what your trainer or instructor is doing(and if you've chosen a good judge or good clinician) you may be looking at making a change.

The thing is...it just isn't always simple. The trainer that gets you to do 'more stuff', even if it's cooler 'stuff', isn't always the better one. The trainer that keeps you back doing simpler stuff isn't always the better one, OR the worse one. The trainer who you feel angry at after the lesson, or upset with...even he isn't always the bad one.

The trainer you ADORE and think you can't do without....also may actually be a very bad choice. Your horse may be very inappropriate for you. Or your horse may have limitations that mean ANY trainer would have a tough time helping you. Those who you ask for help may be very biased, due to some personal conflict (or benefit) from the trainer. It's really so hard to know, especially when one has less experience.

The toughest thing to learn, is that what we're trying to do is just difficult. There just is a certain avoidable amount of difficulty in learning a technical sport. Dressage is just not easy. Lessons - good ones - are usually at some point, frustrating, difficult.

Sep. 12, 2009, 03:39 PM
Thank you for answering the question I did not ask.

Yes, I stubbornly stuck with a trainer who had done good work (or so I thought) with a previous horse. After he died, why change? Well, turns out, the trainer was not sufficiently experienced with young horses. I would have been better working on my own.

Now, with a few more years of experience under my belt, and a coach with true ability, I do indeed get positive feedback from judges and clinicians. But back then, there were signals I either could not or would not recognize.

It's OK to call me Queen of Denial -- it fit in those days.

ToN Farm
Sep. 12, 2009, 04:40 PM
To realize you're with the wrong trainer or instructor?
For me, it was the gradual realization that my new horse was not progressing at all.
What tipped the scales for you? About the same reason for me. I think if you have a competent horse and you are a dedicated rider with at least average talent, you should be progressing in a reasonable amount of time. Progressing doesn't necessarily mean moving up the levels, but you shouldn't continue to be struggling with the same issues with no resolution except to be told.......'do it again'.

I think, as you said Beasmom, it is not necessarily that the instructor is not good, but rather it may not be the right instructor/trainer at the right time for that particular horse and rider. It imo is vital that a trainer have experience teaching what it is you are paying them to teach; i.e. young horse, FEI horse, green rider,....etc.

I stayed with a couple trainers way too long because I wasn't wise enough to realize it wasn't working, even though my gut told me so. Probably even now, while I'm wiser, I could get stuck in a bad match situation again, but I think I would recognize it more quickly and get out.

What 'tipped the scales'? Well, I think it's just a straw that breaks the camel's back kind of thing. You just get sick of leaving training sessions frustrated.

Sep. 12, 2009, 04:47 PM
It is a delicate matter to be able to switch trainers without ruffling too many feathers. I have had many. Some I would love to work with again but geography is not in favour. Some I will work with again on particular issues with particular horses. I don't think I have ever had a bad trainer, but I outgrew them for different reasons.
One because she was a good third level rider and I was schooling 4th at the time. One because he did not like my first horse, and the second horse did not like the trainer. Another because he doubled his rates and I had trouble with that. But in the end, if you are not feeling reasonably satisfied and like you've got somewhere after a workout with your trainer, you need to look at why. Change is a good thing as long as not too frequent. It gives you a different perspective.

Sep. 12, 2009, 05:18 PM
You'll "know" when it's time. However, it does take some courage. I've seen a rider who took clinics with a top judge. The clinician all but told the rider her previous instruction wasn't correct. Now we get down to opinions but when the clinician rode the horse, the owner could see what the clinician said was working in ways she had only dreamed. Did she find a new instructor? No. She didn't have the courage to change and can not break out of the cycle of bad riding.

I fired a trainer because of the way she treated another student who was a friend of mine and mistreated her horse. There was just too much drama and ego. Unfortunately, it's not always that black and white.

Remember, don't let that drama and over inflated ego rob you of your passion.

Sep. 12, 2009, 05:27 PM
I think when you begin to question your goals and wonder if they are being met by the current trainer, and you start asking yourself questions. Like you are.

One thing I would find important would be what you observed - is the horse progressing [the way I want him to] with the current trainer. A year should produce some nice results. I am amazed, for example, with the change in my school horse under my trainer's riding over this past year. He's been scoring 75% at his rated shows this summer, in Training 1&2 and will continue showing training in 3 and 4 and maybe a level 1 class next year. The horse uses his back, he swings, he responds to lateral aids by moving off correctly, listening, waiting to be asked for something interesting. Very impressed. A year ago, his head was up and his back was hollow, and he seemed to be waiting for somone to ask him for something bad. (new horse in the stable). A happy, working, strong-backed, strong legged horse, now. I would be willing to keep such a horse with such progress with the trainer another year, were he mine.

I would evaluate a trainer year by year, myself, unless the trainer showed up doing things I just objected to, like shorting me on the rides he gave, using unapproved equipment, like a bit I didn't agree with or which was illegal in his discipline. But I feel like all trainers are just that - good for something. Their time may come when the horse is ready to move on to something else, someone else, or someone else can bring them along in this next thing I want him to improve on. That's all, its not breaking up with a boyfriend and its not a life time commitment, its hiring the right person for the right job, so use your instincts and use your brain to decide where and under whom the horse belongs, today.

Sep. 12, 2009, 05:36 PM
I think this is a good thread and food for thought for those who may be seriously questioning whether or not they should quit riding. I know that wasn't the original intent of your post necessarily, Beasmom, but this can be a serious problem for riders. I only choose to comment on this because I am aware of an adult amateur right now in my area that is considering giving up riding because she feels like a failure. But everyone else on the outside looking in at her realizes she would be so much happier if she just could get away from the training barn she is in.

I have had a student or two come to me when they decided to leave their instructor/trainer as a "last ditch effort" just before they nearly sold their horse or gave up riding completely. I'm pretty sure they felt their riding would never improve and that the horse they had was the problem, but before quitting, someone sent them my way. It was nearly IMPOSSIBLE for them to leave their former trainer because of the emotional and psychological issues involved, even though their riding was bringing them absolutely NO pleasure. They nearly sold their horses and quit, but someone wisely advised them to try another instructor and just make sure that it was the instruction/training they were in and NOT that they simply SUCKED or that their horses were "bad" in some way.

PLEASE, for all of you who are stuck in this scenario, I know it is hard to break away from someone and risk hurting them in some way...but wouldn't it be worse to never try another path before ending your journey?

Sep. 12, 2009, 08:37 PM
To realize you're with the wrong trainer or instructor? <snip>

What tipped the scales for you?

well to answer the first question: guts. you have to be strong to admit you were wrong. this is tough.

as for the 2nd: finally admitting that it wasn't working anymore - and the horse speaking loud and clear that things were not good.

Sep. 12, 2009, 08:40 PM
The toughest thing to learn, is that what we're trying to do is just difficult. There just is a certain avoidable amount of difficulty in learning a technical sport. Dressage is just not easy. Lessons - good ones - are usually at some point, frustrating, difficult.

Thank you for that. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who struggles!

Sep. 12, 2009, 08:41 PM
Very good post, PennyRidge! Yes, I was at that point with my previous trainer. Riding wasn't fun anymore, I wasn't getting anywhere, horse & I were bored, and the big fall shook my confidence. I wanted to quit, but horses have been a life long passion. So, while I wanted to hang it up, I couldn't imagine life without horses.

So I tried another instructor. Things started getting better, and she has been instrumental in rebuilding my confidence and improving my riding skills. I found another, better horse, and life is good again.

If you recognize yourself in this thread, frustrated, bored, frightened, intimidated, have any inkling that something is NQR with your trainer/instructor, don't be afraid to shop around. Trainers don't own us. We don't own them. I've even told my own students this. I don't ever want them to feel afraid to make a change if they feel it's in their best interest. Flip side, I've told a few folks that I don't think I'm the teacher for them.

Robyn, this is a difficult, technical sport. When I took up golf (briefly) the BO asked me why on earth I would take up the SECOND most frustrating sport in the world. Dressage, of course, being the FIRST most difficult! We all struggle. This is hard! However, when every. single. lesson. is unrelentingly frustrating, with no discernable progress made, that's the time to either have a sit-down with the instructor or see if there's a better match out there for you and your horse.

Life's too short, and even more so for our equine partners.

Sep. 12, 2009, 08:52 PM
I am going through this right now. The trainer I chose was excellent for the task I presented her with: take a hot horse with some very incorrect training and essentially retrain her, and help me get over my fear of riding her. Those goals have been accomplished very well. It helped, actually, that I was badly injured in a fall from a different horse right after I put my horse in training, and was unable to ride my horse at all for 2 months (and it was about 5 or 6 months before I could handle a full 45 minute lesson.)

Over the past few months I've realized that she's a very good trainer of horses, but not necessarily the best choice for someone just starting out. I've developed a few bad habits, most notably too much "hand riding." (And I can say that the more advanced students do *not* "hand ride.") OTOH she took me on when I was at my lowest, and I now feel very safe and confident on my horse, who can still be hot and silly and always has an opinion, but is turning out to be a great choice for me after all. (I went from being basically afraid to ride her without someone walking beside us, to taking her out on the road on my own... oh yeah, and coping with her being at her spooky "best" at a Linda Zang clinic...)

I have many other reasons moving on - most importantly getting the horse much closer to where I live (I have been putting over 1000 miles per month on my car just getting to the barn 4 days per week), and getting good trails access. Money has also become an issue. I am also at a point where I need to catch up with my horse, who's now schooling First and Second levels, and that is best gotten from a trainer who will focus on correcting me. I will be out of full training but still getting lessons from the new place's trainer(s), who work more with newbies, and probably my current trainer as well.

The current trainer has been very understanding; I think she knows I need something she is not the best at providing right now, and she definitely wants me back when I am ready for her again.

Sep. 12, 2009, 08:59 PM
Quietann, sounds like you have excellent reasons for moving that have little to do with the trainer herself. It also sounds like she understands why you need to move on, but she'd be happy to have you back in the future. The best of all possible worlds!

Few instructor/trainers are equally good with their horse AND human clients. The ones who can teach AND train have a special gift.

Sep. 12, 2009, 09:27 PM
urm- a good intructor is one that can listen to the horse and to the rider
the art of instructing is to improve both horse and rider

a good instructor - is caperble of assessing the rider skills be it from a noivce to imtermidate to advanced

a good instructor is one that - encourages the rider - not battle with rider nor horse

a good instructor --- is one with proven background from eperiences or fully qualified
or is an accredited trianer instructor not one from hearsay

Sep. 12, 2009, 09:39 PM

But GLS, wouldn't you also agree that some instructors are better than others at certain things? For instance, some excel at teaching children. Others excel at fixing problem horses. Another, while equally skilled in dressage or jumping, might favor one thing over the other.

Not all instructors, even those with certification, have equally good people skills. Some people are naturally charming and personable. Others are gruff or authoritarian. Not every instructor is right for every student, and vice-versa.

Sep. 12, 2009, 10:37 PM
i dont think there is anything wrong with switching trainers... but. some people switch with the changing of the seasons :) and that isnt good either.

i think that once you find a trainer that works for you, you work with them until it doesn't work anymore. but i feel that we have to be honest and ask why it isnt working any more.

for me it has been that i just didn't understand the trainer when at one time i did. this might be that i "outgrew" them, or maybe i changed enough that i longer was able to learn form them. <shrug>

to me the most important thing is to listen to the horse. if the horse is progressing and is happy then i would stay. if the horse is not happy and is not progressing then i would start to question.

and if i were going to give up riding or breed my horse and put her in a field i would know something was horribly wrong and try to figure out what.

i think ToN said it best.

for me, i just want to learn and progress my horse in a horse friendly way. i am happy with any trainer that can teach me the correct way to train... they can be loud, quiet, unsocial, social, etc etc and i don't care. as long as they have what i want to learn and are willing to put up with me trying to soak up knowledge like a sponge, then i am good to go :)

but, it is very hard to make this kind of decision. at least for me it is. especially if i have been with someone a while..... somehow i feel like i am betraying someone.... :( not rational i know... just how it feels.....

Sep. 12, 2009, 10:52 PM
I've always wondered at people who start with one trainer and stick with that one trainer forever.
There are *very* few trainers out there who can take a green rider from green to constantly advancing and improving forever. We grow out of trainers if the trainer we have is doing their jobs right. And a good trainer moves a student or horse along when they've hit their plateau of expertise.
For example...in dressage I don't think many top level trainers can relate the best or most effective way to an intro level rider or horse. And the ones who excel with the newbies don't usually do very well with students or horses when they hit a certain level.
Some trainers are great at explaining concepts to riders and can't train horses very well. And vice versa.
Some will have styles or personalities that don't jive well with certain equine personalities.
Moving trainers more often than once every ten years isn't unusual and shouldn't be weird. Because if a trainer can't teach you all they're able to in ten years...there's something wrong with the trainer. (or the student isn't very bright at all)

Sep. 12, 2009, 11:56 PM
How do you know? When you're stalled out completely and can't seem to grasp the topic/subject. Then you go to a clinic or watch other instructors teach and see if anything they say makes more sense to you. Otherwise, it could also be you just having a problem with one thing and not everything with that instructor.

I would strongly disagree with a show being the best way to judge an instructors ability to teach you--if you're a beginner/low level rider. You need to look at videos to see how you are riding normally, over quite a few days on your own and many lessons. The show ring often makes good riders at home look terrible in front of the judge. Also, only one or two videos of a lesson can also be bad because many people get nervous there as well and fall apart because they ride for the camera and not their instructor--or they're just having a bad day.

That's my 2 cents worth. Once you find the person that you really click with and normally things go great, don't be too quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Then again, when you work on something FOREVER and feel you still don't understand it (months of trying), then you move on.

Always remember, it's sometimes the instructor, and sometimes it's the student and/or the horse. There are so many pieces of the puzzle that unless you really know much about dressage, you should get the opinion of someone else you trust and who knows a bit about dressage.

But with all that said, the original poster seems to have some more experience with her past horse and realized it was a style issue in training the horse. So good call on that one. If you know more and are a bit more advanced in your knowledge and skills, jump ship and find someone who understands your horse (age, breed, abilities or lack thereof). :)

Sep. 13, 2009, 06:52 AM

But GLS, wouldn't you also agree that some instructors are better than others at certain things? For instance, some excel at teaching children. Others excel at fixing problem horses. Another, while equally skilled in dressage or jumping, might favor one thing over the other.

thats why i said listening skills not al trianers have that and not all people in any kind of industry has that
listening to what your clients needs are important if you want to sell yourself as a trianer
then you must be able to listen and if you want to sell your self as a trianer in what ever field then you must be able to comply to all parts of that teacher trianer
for exsample any one that cant inform the client or demonstrate what they are teaching
arnt worth alight a lot of people come on here with problems with the horse with there bo and trianers of the barn and the simplest of foundational flat work isnt being tuaght
ie the half halt stride which is a a freind of a pace to the rider and the horse the same as the trot is its a pace which is the most common of paces used in all displines right across the baord yet none know how to teach it nor to perform it

Not all instructors, even those with certification, have equally good people skills. Some people are naturally charming and personable. Others are gruff or authoritarian. Not every instructor is right for every student, and vice-versa.

people skills 1st is to listen - but then thats a two communication if the rider isnt listening to the instructor then one might not get as far as they would like
the 2nd part to people skills is people tend to forget that there 3 personalities in that one lesson with one rider more if in a group

theres you - the horse - and the instructor

another thing is how big is the group of people in a gruop lesson it should be a maxium of four people so you can give each an equal share off ones time

and in that as i have seen evidence on here how is each group being taught
lots of people in small groups in the same big areana being tuaght at any one time
the voice of the instructor or hearing of the rider might be mis commnication as not being heard so ther fore the instruction given isnt and wont be 100% on either party
so the rider might get pissed of but so might the instructor
thats a fault that can be rectified by not teaching loads of people all at once with lots of trianers all at once

there are many reasons why people get anti at each other plus it can be a persoanlity clash in that sernerio you best off out of it and look for another trianer

the point is you have to ask yourself what are your goals or aims for this year or
how high or indepth do you personally want to go
or how far has the horse training gone and can it get better or worse

some people send there horses off 30 days trianing and yet have problems when they come back - and when they come back they have trianers in there yard but the trianer is limited
in the knowledge of how to get the horse to do xyz when its just been broken
thats lack of knowledge of the trianer

or a trianer in there lack of knoweldge truses up a horse like its in bondage
hoping for an outcome of better behaviour which not only brings pain but doesnt do anything
for the horse except make him pissed off more which in truth could then put the rider in potential danger as being thrown

if a trianer cannot answer you or give you sound adice and instruction for improvement and encourage you and your horse ----- then you move on to another that can

also remeber that changing trianer is variety of work so the horse and you can be given new ideas
vareity is the spice of life helps keep the horse and you more focused
sometimes people need it told a diffrent way for it to sink in, or shown even tho you might be learning the same thing-

i have one main bnt trianer then i have also have a couple of bnt others none are tied to my barn or yard i also go for lesson with a other people that are recongised jump judges of the bsja

why its knowledge - there for me to learn and improve myself in my own limitations

and your own limitations are key of what you want to do or be and then you use a trianer or instructor to help you acheive them once achieve if they cant improve you to the next set of gaols or aims you change it -

Sep. 13, 2009, 08:33 AM
Well said, GLS.

Sep. 13, 2009, 04:14 PM
Just one last thought I had today.

Always remember that there are different instructors for different needs, and different times in your career. Meaning, as you get further along you will often be fine with more a horse trainer than super instructor. When you're beginning, you need your own super instructor to help you develop the correct seat and feel. When you're training horses you need help with training the horse (and someone who can communicate that to a level that helps you).

The "everything's happy" instructor just has never been that important until the world went completely PC. And I'm not seeing that it's helping a lot of lower level riders move on up. I'm not saying the harsh screamer, etc., is good, but I think everyone needs someone that will push them to work harder and achieve their goals (most seem to want to make at least 2nd Level and do it well--which means schooling 3rd Level at home). The instructor who lets you and your horse give a lot less than what is possible is not really doing you any favors. They're just collecting a pay check. Push yourself and your instructor.

Sep. 13, 2009, 05:38 PM
I have developed a rule in my life, especially when it comes to my horses, never get emotionally attached to someone you hand a check to every month. I don't want the barn owner, farrier, trainer or instructor to be my best friend. If I am paying you for a service, it's all business, that's how I look at it. It doesn't mean I don't send out birthday cards, or spend time listening to someone going through a hard time. It means if I have to leave the barn due to something I feel is wrong, or you continue to show up late or cancel lessons, it's my choice to take my business elsewhere. It's not I'm right and your wrong (or the other way around), it's I'm paying for a service and no longer getting what is good for me.

I know this sounds harsh, but it has served me well.

Sep. 13, 2009, 05:51 PM
No calhoun, doesn't sound harsh to me.
Sounds very mature and business savvy. :yes:

Long Spot
Sep. 13, 2009, 06:04 PM
Not all instructors, even those with certification, have equally good people skills. Some people are naturally charming and personable. Others are gruff or authoritarian. Not every instructor is right for every student, and vice-versa.

This is exactly what I was thinking. Sure, sometimes there are folks who just shouldn't have the shingle out. But for the most part, I think the issue is just not a good match between trainer and rider/horse (or both).

Not every approach is right for everybody. At the heart of the matter should be the correct information but there are so many ways of going about delivering that information, to both horse and rider. Learning styles differ greatly, in both humans and horses. Teaching styles differ greatly as well.

While most good and great instructors/trainers can work with different learning styles, when things don't mesh no matter what you try, it's time for both to move on. The trainer needs to be able to admit that they are in over their head or unable to relay skills and info just as much as students need to know when things aren't working for them.

Years of experience in a trainer doesn't always mean that they are infallible. Sure, it's something we all look for, but we need to look deep into those years. Sometimes they are years of experience doing things the wrong way or the half assed way. Sometimes someone who used to be wonderful at their job have lost their lust for the job done well and correct, and are just towing the line.

I think the line in the sand is different for everybody. And it's usually not an easy decision to make.

Sep. 14, 2009, 11:27 AM
To realize you're with the wrong trainer or instructor?

When you've been with them for four years and you still don't know how to ride. This wasn't a dressage trainer. I'd been showing in breed shows with a very nice person. He kept me safe, but I wasn't learning a damned thing.

What tipped the scales for you?

I had a nice young horse that we'd bred. I wanted to ride him myself and not be dependent on a trainer to tell me what to do. I watched a friend's lessons with another instructor at my barn. I liked what I saw and gradually made the switch (I was waiting for a custom-made saddle, which helped ease the transition). I'm still friends with the other trainer. He knows my goals have changed and he's cool with that.

Current instructor doesn't do much showing. She takes no shortcuts and has a very good eye for horse and rider mechanics. She will work with both my horse and me until we "get it," no matter how long that takes or how many times she has to tell me the same thing in a different way. :lol:

Sep. 14, 2009, 11:57 AM
I am new to dressage but not new to horses and lessons and the like.

I've cliniced with instructors and had moments of 'gee that feels like a shortcut'. I can't recall any glimmers like that, that didn't prove to be true. I've also cliniced with folks who were tough tough tough- but fair and wanted me to learn and wanted me to question and explore.

I think you have to study and keep your eyes open to all that is around you, keep an open mind. Not be afraid to ask questions. I won't do business- in horses or elsewhere- with anyone who can't or won't encourage a good question and answer session, who doesn't want me to explore and push back and ask and have a free flow of dialog. "Because I said so" is not acceptable :) as an answer. Some people really don't like questions, they counter it with more questions, and I don't like to play tennis looking for answers. There's leading someone to find it, and there's evasion and shadowboxing. Maybe that works with some folks, not so much for me. We all have different learning styles, you know? listen to your gut.

I think a good, mature instructor wants you to grow. They are not threatened by it. they are rare as hens teeth :)

JackSprats Mom
Sep. 14, 2009, 08:24 PM
I'm not even sure if you always need to feel like you're not progressing to switch trainers...sometimes a change is as good as a break (as they say).

I changed barns and decided to try their trainer (change of barns was not because of trainer), actually it was my trainer that suggested it (she's a good friend too).

My previous trainer was getting results from my horse BUT my new trainer gave me a some new tools to use which in combination with what my other trainer has taught me has lead to even more progression

So I guess my feeling on this is, even if you are doing well with a trainer, sometimes 'fresh' eyes and opinions can help.