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What do you look for in instructors?

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  • What do you look for in instructors?

    How do you determine if you like the instructor, what do you look for? For a relatively inexperienced eye, what can the person be looking for in their coach? People that are new to dressage probably have a terrible time finding a good coach!
    When you say the horse isn't using his back, not engaging how do you develop the eye for that? Some horses track far under, but aren't using the back?

    Overall I guess the question is what exactly are you looking at in a GOOD dressage coach?

  • #2
    Must be enjoyable to work with, be able to put ideas into words that I can understand, meet me and my horse where we are (figuratively more than literally; but literally would be a plus), and the ability to advance under their guidance. Advancing would not necessarily mean "moving up the levels", but more that I become a better rider, and that my horse becomes more rhythmic, supple, and forward thinking with their instruction.


    • #3
      Also must actively persue their own education--i.e. work with a trainer or clinician regularly.

      Sane and drama free is an enormously huge plus.

      I also personally like to work with someone who shows, or judges, or even better, does both. Others may not care about this.


      • #4
        I want a coach who can see more than I can, then can explain to me how to see it. I also want that coach to ride better than I do, and have more knowledge than I do.

        Beyond that, I want a coach/trainer who understands that she/he doesn't know everything and seeks out additional information all the time, who is positive, and who is not a yeller. I don't want a trainer who is an emotional basketcase or who can't be a calming influence if my nerves get to me over something.

        The trainer I ride with all the time is a very "let the rider figure it out" type of trainer. She feels that is the best way for things to stick with a rider, and wants her riders to be able to do their best even without her around. However, she also believes in learning all you can with whomever you can. She tries to get regular clinics with another trainer who is much more detailed and "put this hand here, that hand there, move your legs this way" type. The overall results they each want match, but they teach differently, and my trainer understands the value of hearing things different ways and working with different instructors to combine what they teach and learn as much as possible. As someone who is constantly seeking information and knowledge, it's very important to me that my trainer have at least as much interest in learning as I do.
        If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


        • #5
          I look for someone who has pursued their own education, but it doesn't have to be in dressage. I have worked best with instructors that have a similar background to me in that we can communicate. Good riders and trainers of horses are not always the best instructors, it takes someone who can communicate with other people. Of course they need to have experience in what they are teaching.

          No drama is an absolute requirement.


          • #6
            Hopping over from H/J land, but I figure good instructor qualities isn't discipline specific. I didn't know what made a good trainer until I had a bad one.

            Communication, communication, communication. Brilliant riders aren't always brilliant instructors. To me, a good trainer can describe things many different ways. If the trainer's saying "sit up" and the rider isn't getting it, they need to say "shoulders back, chest out" or "lift your ribcage." Different people also learn different ways. One rider may just need to hear it while another may need to see it and yet another may need to feel it. A really good trainer can work with any of these people.

            I think the best trainers teach you to be independent. After something goes wrong, they ask you questions instead of the other way around. They talk about what each exercise is doing for the rider and the horse and how to use it correctly.

            The biggest turnoff ever was when I had a trainer full on give up on me. I was having a problem getting a horse to canter (mind you I've been riding 10 years, I can canter) and there was some disconnect. I was trying to do what she was saying but I just wasn't translating her words into the right actions. She kept telling me the same thing over and over, and I kept prompting her with questions to try to get something else out that I could use. Finally she just watches me and goes "this is bad." Looking back it could have been solved if she had just pulled me into the middle and physically put my body where it needed to be. I believe that was my last lesson with her. She didn't want to invest in my riding, so I didn't want to invest in her business.
            "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

            Phoenix Animal Rescue


            • #7
              I think it's very important that an instructor has apprenticed for a long time under someone who is a highly successful and respected trainer.

              There is no substitute for this, as it generally gives a trainer a good, thorough knowledge of the subject. Which is just one of the qualities that a good instructor must have.

              Other must have qualities are a good "eye", good communication skills, human and equine psychology skills, and the ability to think outside the box.

              Some of these traits are inherent, and some are the result of years of experience. But most are evident when you watch some lessons.



              • #8
                Trainer must ride and ride well. Trainer must like to talk in the lesson. I don't mean about life, about what they see and want me to do and why etc. I have been battling between two trainers myself right now and one is amazing and he uses a microphone system so I can hear him and he talks and explains as we ride. Watch George Morris clinics.. I know that's hunter/jumpers but I like that he talks. Another trainer I ride with is great too but she doesn't pipe up enough and I feel like I'm guessing a lot. I don't want to hear "that's great, looks good, put your heels down".... and sometimes price is a factor for me. The trainer I really like, I cannot always afford.
                Live in the sunshine.
                Swim in the sea.
                Drink the wild air.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by toesforward View Post
                  How do you determine if you like the instructor, what do you look for? For a relatively inexperienced eye, what can the person be looking for in their coach? People that are new to dressage probably have a terrible time finding a good coach!
                  When you say the horse isn't using his back, not engaging how do you develop the eye for that? Some horses track far under, but aren't using the back?

                  Overall I guess the question is what exactly are you looking at in a GOOD dressage coach?
                  apart from whats been said already
                  you wwant one that not only sees whats going on between you and your horse but one that is fully committed to the lesson being given

                  ie not one the moby , not chit chating to all and sundry drinking tea and having a general coversation with other bods and turning ther backs on you

                  your a paying client and you pay for the instruction you do not pay for them to have tea chat on the mobile whilse teaching you

                  all accredited trainers are listed with any club as in 4-h or useventing etc any soceity or associated connected to the FEI



                  • #10
                    It's pretty much all been said:

                    Instructor's ego doesn't become an obstacle in your progress. Stay away from Drama Queens.

                    Instructor is honest in his or her dealings. If there's even a hint of dishonesty, run not walk the other direction.

                    Instructor is furthering their own education. Those that don't or can't will be left behind and will drag you with them.

                    Instructor is not taking calls from her married boyfriend during your lesson. Sitting on the phone or yaking with friends on the rail shows a lack of respect for the student who is the consumer that purchased the hour.

                    Instructor, who is almost old enough to be an AARP member,
                    does not behave like a 12 year old middle schooler.

                    I think most of us has had to deal with some of these traits. There are good instructors out there. In your local GMO, see who's students are doing well and are happy. Talk to people.


                    • #11
                      For me...
                      I'm an almost 50 adult with only a few riding years under my belt. What I look for may not be what an upper level rider would look for, but here are my criteria.

                      First and foremost, respect. Should go without saying, but frankly I've seen some trainers speak so rudely...sorry, if I am paying a trainer for a service, they will be polite or that is the end of the lesson.
                      Nicing me to death is not necessary..snarky or rude.....done.

                      On the respect theme..respect my horse. Listen to what he is saying. Yes some horses can be dinks and need some firm "coercing"...but if my horse is saying "I'm trying but I can't"...don't make me do it 50 more times til we are both frustrated, exasperated and deflated, but still not "able".

                      I like a trainer that will say "let me get on, to see what you are feeling". If a trainer doesn't feel it, as good an eye as they may have, feeling and seeing do NOT always go hand in hand.

                      Pursuit of his/her own education...that is a biggie.

                      Humans unteach themselves or reteach improperly very quickly if not reminded regularly.
                      A trainer invested in their own pursuits also makes me think they take this all seriously.

                      I like to watch a trainer teach...but I also like to watch a trainer RIDE. As a relative newbie, my verbage isn't there..and I can't make my horse "do it"...but I know what looks right for me..and I can tell if I will like a trainer long term by how he/she rides, but also how he/she handles their horse on the ground and in the stable. Much can be learned outside of the arena.

                      And lastly, if I am a regular student and we go to a show, I would hope I would be coached. I would not want the trainer to be focused on his/her own mount, forgetting that I am there.

                      I don't have a huge list. I'm no diva. I do however have basic expectations that should go without saying, but I've found those basics are not always as basic as I would have imagined.


                      • #12
                        Look at how that trainer's students are doing. Are they moving up through the levels? Progressing in their riding? Successful at shows?

                        Spend time at the barn she teaches out of to see what the environment is. Watch her teach several lessons. Do you like her approach? How do other students respond to her?

                        To reiterate that some folks have already said...favorite thing about my trainer is there is no drama or gossip coming from her.

                        2nd most important thing.....Have fun at shows. For me, these are mini-vacations and after some good riding we want to have some good fun.

                        Good luck.


                        • #13
                          I want someone who can compete at the international level. They don't have to be on the Olympic team, but I want that knowledge, that striving for GP. Someone who can deconstruct things and put them back together later. Someone who is not teaching you to be an eternal training level rider. Someone who respects the horse, but has enough experience to know when the rider needs to put her foot down and explain the non-negotiables to her mount. At the same time know when it's the rider's fault. Someone who can elevate you in each lesson. Doesn't mean every problem is solved after each lesson, but you can clearly see the path, and the horse buys into the path. Someone who can come up with a different exercise if the standard one for the problem doesn't work with this particular horse/rider pair. etc.etc.etc.
                          "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


                          • #14
                            I've made so many concessions on the types of trainers that I've had in the past. Finally, I decided- I needed a trainer experienced making GP horses (not buying finished horses); competed and judged. Also, CONTINUED their education. If a trainer thinks that they know everything, or no one is good enough to teach them- it is a huge red flag for me. We all have to keep learning, pushing ourselves.

                            I think another thing to watch for is how does the horse react to the teaching style....do the horses look better when they are done?
                            "I'm holding out for the $100,000 Crossrail Classic in 2012." --mem
                            "With all due respect.. may I suggest you take up Croquet?" --belambi
                            Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club!


                            • #15
                              I agree with much that has been said. yes, I do love it when the trainer is willing to hop on my horse. Not all trainers will do that.


                              • #16
                                Wow. BetterOffRed hit the nail on the head. Any instructor I work with has to be willing to keep on learning and be humble enough to realize he/she doesn't know it all and never will.

                                I've known a couple of those "know it all" trainers and they're pretty hard to take.

                                A good instructor never leaves the student feeling worse at the end of the lesson than at the beginning. He/she finds something to encourage the student and give that person something to work towards and for. Instructors who put down their students in an effort to make themselves feel superior are not worthy of the title "teacher".

                                Can you tell I've had (or witnessed) such treatment?


                                • #17
                                  ... _. ._ .._. .._


                                  • #18
                                    For someone without experience, I would watch the other students' lessons, and see how they look. Look at the show record for the trainer and students - is the instructor getting results? Watch the trainer ride. Try a lesson, and see if you understand the trainer and enjoy the ride. also, talk to other students. are they satisfied? Do the horses seem well cared for? Finally, is the instructor professional in their dealings and compulsive about care of their horses?


                                    • #19
                                      agree w/ xfactor

                                      Originally posted by Xfactor View Post
                                      For me...
                                      I'm an almost 50 adult with only a few riding years under my belt. What I look for may not be what an upper level rider would look for, but here are my criteria.....

                                      .... I like a trainer that will say "let me get on, to see what you are feeling". If a trainer doesn't feel it, as good an eye as they may have, feeling and seeing do NOT always go hand in hand.
                                      .... Pursuit of his/her own education...that is a biggie.

                                      ..... And lastly, if I am a regular student and we go to a show, I would hope I would be coached. I would not want the trainer to be focused on his/her own mount, forgetting that I am there.
                                      picked out several very relevant (to me) points.

                                      I have watched the 'lastly' situation happen to acquaintances at shows. Cross that trainer/instructor off my list! no matter how nicely they ride. Don't leave the students at loose ends at a show if you, Mr/Ms/Mrs UL rider, are supposed to coaching them! If you need a groom/assistant to help w. your own mount, bring one! better yet, try to pick shows for your students that don't conflict with shows you are attending as a rider.


                                      • #20
                                        These are the things I love about my trainer

                                        1. always upbeat and respectful with a lot of positive reinforcement ( even if things aren't necessarily going well)
                                        2. Grand prix rider and judge, who is out competing and has students competing at all levels
                                        3. will get on my horse if things just are not going well, and often will find I am feeling a different thing than she is seeing, so we start over...
                                        4. able to obtain the end goal of the moment , whether it be becoming more through/ getting off the inside rein/ respecting the leg or whatever... by thinking up exercises, not just preaching. She always seems to have an exercise that accomplishes the goals without doing endless circles.... This gives me tools to use on my own and is NEVER boring!
                                        5. Is completely accepting of the fact that I do not ride warmbloods. When I started with her I had a very traditional/heavy irish draught gelding, then moved on to a morgan(who I subsequently retired due to a torn medial meniscus) and now I ride a hot little chestnut thbd mare. She has been excellent with all three, and they could not have been more different!
                                        6. Back to always treats me with respect and never with frustration. She knows I am an amateur with another life and does her best for me with each horse I ride. I always finish the lesson looking for the next one!