I'm Too Good For You, And Other Lies

Apr 19, 2015 - 8:00 AM
Lauren loves teaching riders at the beginning of their careers just as much, if not more, than those who have lots of experience. Photo by Jenn Mosle.

It happens all the time.The conversation goes something like this:

Cute Amateur Lady, upon seeing me in an article of clothing with my logo on it: “Oh, do you know/ride with/work for Lauren?”
Me: “Well…”
CAL: “I would love to ride with her, but she’s too advanced for me/she wouldn’t want to teach a beginner/she’s too important to teach a beginner/I’m not ready for that level of instruction.”

As a beginner at a sport myself—triathlon, where I am the equivalent of the Schooling Show Reserve Champion of the Intro Division For Ladies With Blonde Hair—I can understand the intimidation. I am always nervous going into my bike shop, even though my local shop is owned by THE NICEST GUYS in the history of the universe, who never give me a lick of crap for my beginner-dom, who never tell me my questions are stupid, and are always too happy to help me learn basic concepts or give me little tips. Why? Because I think that, with all their knowledge and experience, as successful time trial-ers and Ironmen and what-have-you, that they’re too good/busy/important to be bothered by little old me, that I’m not ready for that quality of instruction.

This is nonsense.

I’m quite good at my job. I make FEI horses that are not only successful but also nice to ride. I have amateurs, professionals and youth students alike riding at the upper levels with great success. And I’m often the busiest girl at the ball; many times I’m at the shows with north of 10 horses. 

But people are afraid of little old me? People think they’re not WORTHY of little old me?! Puh-LEAZE. I love teaching beginners. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Here’s a few reasons why:

1. They are clean slates. When I get a beginner rider, be it a kid or an adult, I get no baggage. No one’s told them something screwy, or wrong, or complicated. They don’t get hung up in stuff; they don’t know enough to get hung up in stuff. 

By getting students (and this is true of horses too!) at the beginning of their careers, I know I can start them the right way, and help guide them through the quagmire of misinformation that so many beginners get wrapped up in at the start.

2. The learning curve is steep. Addressing the finer nuances of the canter pirouette, or the one-tempis, or the piaffe-passage transition, is one helluva thrill. But it’s tedious and difficult work. It’s exhausting. And it takes time.

Teaching someone to put their horse on the bit for the first time? Teaching someone how to get the correct canter lead? Showing someone bend on a circle? This takes but a second. And when it’s done, that person thinks I AM A GOD AMONGST MEN. Who doesn’t want to be thought a genius? If helping a student achieve her goals is a drug, then helping the beginner student is a quick and cheap fix. And like any good junkie, I’m always eager for more! (This metaphor has gone off the rails a bit. Work with me, people.)

3. They want it so bad. This is particularly true of my beginners who start as adults. Maybe they saw Black Beauty. Maybe they begged and pleaded for riding lessons as a kid and their parents didn’t cave and so now, as adults, they’re finally on their own and ready to pull the trigger. This passion is amazing, and while it’s not like my advanced students aren’t wicked passionate, this is different. This is like the first three months of a new relationship with a hot boyfriend, and everything is all fun and stars. 

(Then we introduce the sitting trot, and it’s like the third time the hot boyfriend stays over and he snores and leaves the toilet seat up and belches without shame and the shine starts to wear off, but it all works out in the end. Also, I don’t belch.)

4. They’re brave. This one’s especially true of my beginner kids. When you’ve never had a bad experience on a horse, you have no baggage about expecting one. Drop my stirrups? No problem! Do a lunge lesson with no reins while singing, to work on breathing? Fabulous! Close my eyes in a canter transition, or stare up at the ceiling during sitting trot because I’m supposed to be imaging George Clooney shirtless in the arena rafters? Why not!

5. It’s a challenge. Sure, I love teaching the upper-level guys, and it’s all kinds of challenging. But teaching the beginners of the world requires a whole ‘nother set of skills, and it is so, so much blissfully harder. How do you establish good basics in someone with no foundation? When you teach an experienced rider, there’s so much you get to take for granted, particularly if her experiences have all been good (probably because she started out with a good instructor from the beginning!)

6. The journey is incredible. I have a student who, while not a beginner rider, was certainly not an experienced dressage rider when she started with me. She’ll do her first Prix St. Georges soon, on a horse she trained herself. Another who had a lifetime of work in the hunter/jumper world will make her Third Level debut. And we have two who came to us as rank beginners as adults, a HUGE challenge, who are looking to First Level and beyond. Watching them make that move, watching them hit that centerline, watching them put on their tailcoat for the first time? That thrill is amazing for anyone, but especially when you remember the lessons on proper sitting trot position, or the right way to balance the whip and the reins simultaneously, or their first dressage show EVER. 

So if you don’t think you’re worthy of a proper trainer, think again. And even more importantly, if a trainer tells you that they’re too good for you, keep walking. We all are worthy of the best instruction we can find, no matter the level. No one should ever settle for less—it’s not worth it!

LaurenSprieser.com
SprieserSporthorse.com

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