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Frustrated! Am I the only one who wants to know WHY?

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  • #21
    OP are you a visual learner? I have 2 steady trainers (one flat, one jumping) and a prerequisite for anyone I stay with is they must be willing to get on and demonstrate their point. Clinics are usually an exception to this, but they are rarely in the budget anyway.

    If after several unsuccessful attempts to put their words into action I am still confused we just trade places for a few minutes so I can actually see what they're trying to convey. It has done wonders for me.

    Sometimes it's the horse, sometimes it's me, but either way I find it way more productive.
    Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

    The Grove at Five Points


    • #22
      Originally posted by mbm View Post
      i understand and can feel everyone here who asks "why" i am the queen of asking "why" or any question.

      my opinion is that until a rider can let go of the part of the brain that always questions, they will never be able to truly ride by feel ..... and feel is the most important thing to riding.

      so yes, asking questions is ok, but try to just experiment and not worry so much about the why of it. it will be come clear once you get past whatever issue you are currently working on

      i guess it can be summed up" shut up and ride!" which i used to think was obnoxious, but now i see the beauty and correctness of that statement.
      Ohh... this is also a good point.
      Big Idea Eventing


      • #23
        OP, I am the same way. I want how and why about *everything* and can't always feel what I am doing and why it's leading to (often bad) results. I'm on the verge of quitting dressage (what I was left with after my accident, minimal jumping allowed) because there are so many things I don't get.

        That said, my jumps trainer talked me through something SO basic but SO difficult yesterday -- really using my body and minimal hands to get a good downward transition. My horse is lame, so BO loaned me one of her school ponies -- a hard-mouthed little b*****d who does, somewhere in there, understand core aids, but his usual response is "la la la I don't hear you!" Jumps trainer started with me doing trot to walk and finally switched to walk to halt because I could NOT get the pony to downshift (my mare is super easy this way.) Seriously, on a 20 meter circle, I'd give what I thought were pretty clear aids for trot to walk, and then bounce around for another circle or two before the pony got it. Made me cry!

        So we broke down walk to halt into the most simple pieces. OK, it took about 5 times in each direction to get a good transition, but I came out knowing a LOT more than I did when I went in... and am hoping mare is sound enough for walk to halt work soon so I can try it on her.

        But yes, I do get it. Not all -- probably not many -- instructors can give you what you need. OTOH I do think it sometimes takes more than one lesson with a trainer to figure out whether you'll work well together. Riding is possibly the most humbling sport there is!
        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


        • #24
          I'm the exact same way. I sent you PM with some websites and books for people like us. For some reason, my body has a hard time doing something unless my head understands why. Yoga helps a lot with that.
          Best Regards,
          PA Hi-Ly Visible [PA Hi-Noon (by Magnum Psyche) x Takara Padrona (by *Padron)]

          Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique


          • #25
            I always refer to it as the difference between "Education" and "Instruction".

            Instruction= Do this. Good. Again.
            Education= The why.

            There are way too many people out there who give "Instruction" and I venture to say plenty make a great living out of it. Sometimes that's all their students want, and that's all they get.

            Those who can 'Educate' riders are few and far between. They've sat on hundreds or thousands of horses, and understand what works for what type or what issue and what doesn't and why. They're horsemen (and horsewomen... don't mean to be sexist!).

            Once you've ridden with someone who gives you and Education (and that's what you want), it's hard if not impossible to go back to Instruction.


            • #26

              Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post

              I also think that a lot of riders teach based off what they know and not what the student knows. You might know how to hold your body over a fence and the mechanics involved but the student doesn't. It helps me when the instructor explains what I'm doing wrong and then how to correct it.

              This x 1,000. Yes! Exactly!
              PA Hi-Ly Visible [PA Hi-Noon (by Magnum Psyche) x Takara Padrona (by *Padron)]

              Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique


              • #27
                Originally posted by eponacowgirl View Post
                Sometimes "stop doing that!" is the only thing you can say (always in a joking manner, from me, anyway!)

                I have a new student who will turn her hands down and double up the reins by her ponies neck to steer, half halt etc. I explained to her why it was incorrect, how it was not really safe and what she should do to fix it. Then, as she went around, I would say "watch your reins... don't do that with your hands..." and then when she was jumping, since habits are hard to break, of course, she kept on... so all was left to say was "stop doing that!!!!"

                Her mom laughed so hard she cried. And the kid quit doing that.

                It's actually well documented, though, that "stop doing that" or "don't do x" is not nearly as effective as DO THIS. The more you say, "don't X" the more the person is focusing on X and trying what to do instead.

                So instead of "don't crouch" something like "keep your shoulders back."

                For throwing your body at the fence, the phrase that worked better for me is "keep your helmet still"
                If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                • #28
                  Originally posted by RAyers View Post
                  If I read the OP correctly, while you want to understand, to explain some things abut riding is like teaching a child to walk by telling them what to do. Or, teaching them by having them read about it. Much of riding is innate and is not easily described, e.g. theory rarely matches actuality.

                  The video idea is great. Use multiple learning styles. Then you can compare what you felt versus what you see. They rarely actually match. For example, you may feel you are leaning backwards when you are actually sitting up straight.

                  Many trainers never develop teaching skills because riding is so innate to them. They never have actually thought about what they do on a horse. You questions thus end up falling on deaf ears.

                  In the end you need to take some responsibility and figure things out on your own to get that innate response. If a trainer tells you only what you are doing, try the exact opposite and see what happens. If you "crouch too early" try not "crouching" at all. As William Steinkraus wrote, "I took all my lessons, went out in a field and practiced on my own to figure out what worked best for me. Then I threw out the rest."
                  this is a spectacular response.
                  Reed and I have been talking A LOT about the innate response of a rider.

                  You have to ask. And you have to be willing to say, "but that still makes no sense"...

                  I don't know what "crouching" is. Is that ducking?
                  All you have to do is keep your shoulders back. Trainers always say "keep your hips back".
                  Well....foolish mortals...the inevitable side effect of "hips back" is that your upper body will close the angle... (right Denny!?)
                  ya, I got that phrase from Denny. Good way to vocalize the action and I'll never forget it.

                  So to not "crouch", you keep your SHOULDERS back.
                  And actually, biomechanically keeping your shoulders back will anatomically bring your hips more forward. But don't think about that part.

                  Think about how you feel when you gallop down a hill. You support with your core, you keep your SHOULDERS back and inevitably it actually brings your pelvis more forward.

                  As Reed also suggested:
                  If I am having issues with something, if what I'm doing is not working, I will often try the EXACT OPPOSITE...just for kicks..just to see. Often it works.

                  Shoot, to canter my OTTB to the right (at this moment in his training) I totally throw the reins at him to transition up (it completely works and he stays round) swap my grip to a driving rein on the left and then put my right rein in the left hand and just keep my index finger of my right hand on the right rein so I can sort of do a little suppleness action if I need too.
                  No kidding.
                  It works.
                  And guess what!? You can totally do that in a dressage test at a show if you want.

                  I even showed Toby the Cow Pony in SJ with my reins flipped over his head so the buckle was in front of his neck (and shoe string attached in case I dropped one) and held them in a driving rein fashion. If I didn't I had a tendency to collect too much and ride that little QH canter backwards.
                  Most people never noticed. Except for Toby of course. He thanked me for never taking a tug..
                  Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


                  • #29
                    Specifically referring to this particular example, I would have preferred the H/J trainer refer to it as closing the hip angle too early and leading with the shoulder-which creates an insecure base of support-rather then the silly "crouching" reference one usually uses with little kid up downers. Seems a little simplistic if not condescending let alone offering no hint on how to correct (as in leave shoulders back and w.a.i.t.).

                    But, in their defense, in a group lesson/clinic, you cannot have a running question and answer session with a single rider at the expense of observing everybody doing the excercises and offering a few seconds of feedback to each.

                    There is nothing worse then paying for your time and having it dominated by questions from another rider while you sit and wait...and wait...and wait.and wait for the trainers attention.

                    Perhaps private lessons work best for technocrats rather then them getting frustrated by trainer trying to teach a group and offer each rider some feedback equally.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                    • #30
                      A lot of adults like to know why and ask questions about theory, and a lot of trainers really don't like to teach that way. Many trainers simply don't know theory.

                      I would say, know yourself, and find a teacher who is interested in theory and answering questions.

                      However, the "shut up and ride" is also really important. In a lesson, especially a group lesson, you only have so many minutes on the horse, and you want to maximize those minutes by actually riding, rather than by sitting on your horse talking.

                      The secondary factor is that the instructor is responsible for your safety and the safety of others in the ring with you. Sometimes instructions are given not merely as suggestions to improve your equitation, but as instructions to prevent a fall, accident, or other imminent disaster. The more you can learn to "do first, ask questions later," the more effective you will be as a student.

                      Riding is a skill that requires a lot of pieces to come together, and there is a lot of bouncing around until you get there. Some of the theory doesn't apply at all until you have a really steady seat and leg and hands, and a fair amount of strength and muscle memory, and it takes some time just doing it to develop those skills.

                      The obvious book, for people who like a lot of theory about position, is Centered Riding by Sally Swift.
                      If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                      • #31
                        I had a dressage trainer that I really just did not click with. In the beginning it was fine. When my horse started going really well and started really learning how to carry himself she started asking way too much of him. She would tell me to half pass when he couldn't even leg yield while keeping his body straight yet. She would have me trying to do canter/walk when he was still rushing into his canter/trot transitions. This caused my horse to get frustrated and upset. I decided to take a break and just go back to basics and I never went back. Horse was so much happier and is now doing shoulder-in/haunches-in/changes/counter canter/etc. with ease and relaxation. I would ask her why we were pushing my horse to do these things and she would never give me a direct answer.

                        This same trainer also couldn't seem to answer my questions. When asked how to get my horse to lengthen his stride instead of just going faster she told me that my horse just wasn't built to lengthen and would never be able to do it. Now, my horse will probably never have a Grand Prix worthy extended trot but he has quite a decent lengthening now, and I truly believe that every horse can lengthen and collect, even if it is minimal. That was another warning sign to get out of there.

                        I understand wanting to know the why. It can definitely help you understand what exactly you should be doing if you know what it is going to help. I think you just need to be careful in how you word your questions so that it does not come across like you are questioning the competence of the trainer. Instead of saying "Well, why is it bad if I crouch?" which implies that you don't think its a problem that you do it, try asking something like "Are there any exercises I can work on to help better my position so that I don't crouch?"

                        Make sure you can tell the difference between if the trainer truly doesn't know the answer to your question (as in the case of my old trainer) or if they are just not understanding what you are asking. Try to avoid starting questions with "I think..." or "I've read..." or "I thought that...", as those can imply you are trying to challenge the trainer. Good luck.


                        • #32
                          I would agree that if you're the kind of person who wants to ask a lot of questions, you should (a) find a trainer who teaches that way and is happy to talk theory and (b) set up private lessons. In a group format, it's not only annoying for the other students to not have the instructor's attention, but often hazardous.
                          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                          • #33
                            Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post
                            In my opinion, this is simply not good enough.

                            It probably has a lot to do with how I learn and process things but "because I said so" isn't enough for me.

                            In order for me to learn and improve I like an explanation or details of some sort. For me "bring your elbow back" isn't as helpful as "bring your elbow back so you can be more stable with your core."

                            I also think that a lot of riders teach based off what they know and not what the student knows. You might know how to hold your body over a fence and the mechanics involved but the student doesn't. It helps me when the instructor explains what I'm doing wrong and then how to correct it.

                            "stop doing that" doesn't help me at all! If I could stop doing that then I wouldn't need so many lessons!

                            As far as the crouching, this is my explanation.

                            As part of how a horse goes as a "hunter" we want them to be slow, off the ground, in the air, and on the landing side. We want an even, steady, non rushing pace. Crouching down quickly on take off tells your horse to go faster. Especially if you fold before the horse takes off. It's a reflex action by eventers who are used to galloping XC fences, riding green horses, and pelting around stadium courses. It's a defensive mechanism for horses that jump big or early but when it becomes ingrained you can MAKE the horse leave early and rush.

                            You have to think of slowing your body down in the air, and waiting for the horse to jump up into you.

                            Now if I could do all that I could save money on lessons!
                            Of course it's not enough, it was in jest, hence the big grinny face.
                            We're spending our money on horses and bourbon. The rest we're just wasting.


                            • #34
                              ALL instructors should not only tell you WHY, but then break everything into digestible pieces of HOW and WHEN. The right thing at the wrong time (w/o timing) is problematic. Very few people can make changes/replace behaviors easily. They require different approaches, different timing, etc. The responsibility for actual change is the students, the methods for making the changes/the proposals come from the teacher (or are done by the trainer). Too many people say 'collect more' etc etc, but not how, when, why, etc, or they employ the same methods for stadium vs country. And there are often people who teach who can themselves show a horse but NOT train them progressively or have any idea of how to change rider's behaviors.
                              I.D.E.A. yoda


                              • #35
                                IME there are different types of trainers... the two most prevalent being either the technical coach or the results-driven coach. Sounds like you need someone technical who will explain to you the how/why/when/where of the exercise.

                                Also, since you seem to be a visual learner, getting a friend on the ground to video snippets of your ride (even if it's on a smartphone) will ILLUSTRATE to you what you need to change, so it sticks in your head.

                                Lastly, arrange a time in the lesson to discuss the theory (whether it be before/after/during or even later in the week with a coffee/over email).

                                (If your coach gives you their way of doing something, provided it is safe/reasonable, the time to discuss other theories of how to approach it is not really appropriate. You're paying your coach for their time/experience/opinion, not to compare/contrast their method with someone else's you read about online. Talk to them about it during your designated "theory" time as noted above.)


                                • #36
                                  I'm like you for the most part, though possibly a little less extreme?

                                  I was having diffculties with my guy in canter when we first started in lessons years ago - sitting canter has always been hard for me up till this point, but it was often blamed on the horses I was riding who didn't exactly display this as their best gait.

                                  One day, my coach says to me - you know in canter you should rotate your hips like so, as if they're on a wheel turning backwards - well darnit, why didn't someone tell me that YEARS ago, might have even fixed the mare I sold in part because of her crappy canter! Anyways, within the lesson I was able to do downward transitions off just my seat, and all 3 gaits have improved SO much since.

                                  Damned if I know what motion exactly I thought I was supposed to be doing while riding the canter for some 10 years before this mind you, I guess some horses were just more forgiving!


                                  • #37
                                    I didn't get through all the posts, but I remember years ago when I started taking lessons, I often didn't 'get it' until I understood the 'why'. Now, I'm still that way, but also find a visual helpful...i.e. my trainer to get on my horse and show me what he's asking...


                                    • #38
                                      "crouch too fast" I dont even know what that means much less how one is to fix it! Usually if you are doing something wrong-you are given tips --exercises or the mechanics of how to fix it. like if you are jumping up the neck there are usually certain exercises to practice and learn new muscle memory and what it feels like to do it right.


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by Far_North_Equestrian View Post
                                        I'm like you for the most part, though possibly a little less extreme?

                                        I was having diffculties with my guy in canter when we first started in lessons years ago - sitting canter has always been hard for me up till this point, but it was often blamed on the horses I was riding who didn't exactly display this as their best gait.

                                        One day, my coach says to me - you know in canter you should rotate your hips like so, as if they're on a wheel turning backwards -
                                        O.M.G. This is brilliant. This makes perfect sense. *light beams down from the heavens and angels sing* Vee and Fluffy (my horses) will thank you for this forever.
                                        PA Hi-Ly Visible [PA Hi-Noon (by Magnum Psyche) x Takara Padrona (by *Padron)]

                                        Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique


                                        • #40
                                          Originally posted by californianinkansas View Post
                                          I'm the exact same way. I sent you PM with some websites and books for people like us. For some reason, my body has a hard time doing something unless my head understands why. Yoga helps a lot with that.
                                          Best Regards,
                                          Would you mind awfully sharing those resources with me as well please?

                                          He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).