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Am I being Unreasonable?: Lesson Students

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  • Am I being Unreasonable?: Lesson Students

    I teach riding lessons to a girl who was having issues with her horse. We have finally reached a point where we have her guy figured out and things are progressing well. We have planned a cross country schooling this weekend, but I get an email message today saying they were going to take a riding lesson this week with someone else (who is equally qualified). In this same email, they compliment the "amazing" progress we have made with her horse (?)

    Some history is they have done this switching stuff to me before as well as to other trainers they ride with. They have scheduled riding lessons with other trainers, yet called me when their horse was colicing - we hadn't had a riding lesson in over a month. I think that part of the problem with her horse is that she rides with 3 different trainers at once telling her different things. It is confusing the horse and rider especially since the horse and rider pair are only aiming to compete at BN.

    Am I being unreasonable to say that I don't feel comfortable taking them XC schooling unless I do the prep lesson this week? Is it over stepping my bounds to tell them that I think it would be better to ride with only one trainer be it myself or someone else? Or should I just deal with it by continuing to ignore their wishy-washy behavior?

  • #2
    Are the different trainers the same discipline? If one of the other trainers is dressage only they may be fine.
    If she hadn't had an over fences lesson with you in a few weeks I would tell her that that is required before a xc school.

    Can you sit down with her and her parents and go over their goals for the upcoming year and how to get there? Maybe as part of that discussion you could ask about her other trainers and maybe they would be open to you contacting the other trainers so you could all work together for a common goal.
    Take to opportunity to ask why they are going to the other trainers: is it money, school horses, facilities, she wants to ride with her friend who likes trainer B???? Answers to those questions may help you help her.

    I know my hunter trainer has had students that keep their A show horse in another state with a BNT trainer that travels to FL in the winter and NY or VT in the summer. The student then trains locally with my trainer on their not as fancy horse. Both trainers touch base with each other on a regular basis to keep student on the same track. I think this is more common with hunter riders than eventers.

    As long as the student and her parents understand this continuing to use multiple trainers with no coordination between the trainers may slow down her progression go ahead and keep working with her. If they begin to begin to bring other trainers methods to your lessons as way to undermine your teaching methods it might be time to cut them loose. (ie...I don't want to try it your way because trainer B has me doing it some other way.)
    Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


    • #3

      I have been in similar situations in the past and have had to have "the talk" with students before, regarding this issue. Personally, I refuse to train anyone that is riding with 3 different instructors because they are not getting what I am teaching, if they keep getting told something different by someone else. It is a waste of my time and I think a waste of their money to be doing something like that, especially as a Beg. Novice rider. The lower level riders really need consistant steady training with one trainer in order to progress well and have a clear understanding of a concept and program to follow.

      If you do not feel comfortable with her ability cross country schooling without having a show jump lesson first then don't take her.

      Good luck!


      • #4
        Safety should be paramount and schooling XC is not something that should be looked at lightly. However, I think you have to ask yourself a very hard question: Do you *really* think the rider is a safety hazard schooling XC without having done a prep lesson with you OR are you using it as an good excuse to prove a point because you are ticked off about not riding with you exclusively?

        It is a hard question but one I think you need to ask yourself honestly. One of the toughest things about being a trainer has to be dealing with perceived loyalty issues. I have been with the same trainer since I started but have always been encouraged to clinic with others, etc. Then again, I have had the same doctor, dentist, and hair dresser for the past twenty years, so I may be a bit of an anomaly!

        However, I have seen other students come and go with my trainer and some are harder than others (specifically, situations like you described when the student goes to someone else after the trainer has fixed a lot of their issues). Unfortunately, it is part of being a professional and something trainers have to be able to deal with. That being said, you also have the right to require anything you think is really necessary to safely school XC, including prep lessons in the arena. Just be sure that your motives are pure.


        • #5
          I'm going to chime in as an ammy who takes lessons. I keep my horses at home for many reasons but a big one is so I am not bound to any particular trainer. I am upfront with whomever I am taking lessons with that I also may take a lesson with another trainer. It is a small world and word spreads fast. Sometimes you are progressing with a trainer in one area but still need help in another and a second opinion, training method might help. Sometimes it is the same thing, said in a different way and you suddenly get it. As a trainer you should be confident enough to have your student lesson with someone else and not be offended. They will be more likely to continue taking lessons with you if you are open to another prospective. One trainers method will not work on all horses and riders. The learning process is always continuing.


          • #6
            If you have had a lesson with this girl in the last few weeks and are confident in her safety then I don't see the big deal. She's paying you for the XC lesson anyway right? If you feel her one lesson with another instructor so damaged her then you can have her hop over little logs or something.


            • #7
              Yes, a little unreasonable.
              First, though, I completely understand why you'd like to have her taking lessons with just one person (you or someone else) and getting into a program where the instruction follows a logical progression and is uniform, rather than her getting potentially contradictory stuff from multiple instructors.
              But it also sounds like you see what she's doing as "lesson-hopping" and disrespectful to you, which it might not really be. I think it's easy to assume that everyone should see it the way you do: pick an instructor and stick with that person. And that's usually a good plan.
              But plenty of people don't see it that way. They also probably don't think they're being the least bit disloyal by taking lessons from several instructors (in fact, I'm guessing this hasn't crossed their minds if they are so open with you about who they are taking lessons with this week. If they felt guilty, they could've just made some other excuse for not doing a mid-week lesson). They see instructors kind of like restaurants: try it, keep going back if you like it. But even if you like it, that doesn't mean you'll only visit that one restaurant from this point forward.
              And, like others said, if you think one mid-week lesson from someone else will prevent this girl from XC schooling safely over the weekend, she's probably not ready to XC school safely, period.
              I evented just for the Halibut.


              • #8
                I also keep my horses at home, so that I can pick and choose who to train with.... but I would never expect my regular trainer, or either of my occasional trainers to take me XC schooling if they didn't have a full, complete, current view of where I am at. That would just be completely unreasonable for the trainer ! Especially if it's a junior. I'm a grown-up (sort of) and can perfectly well take myself XC schooling just with friends, but no, I don't think you are being unreasonable - if you are not comfortable taking her, given the situation, then sit her down and tell her so. Tell her your criteria ... 3 successful jump lessons in the week prior to XC schooling ? 3 weeks of successful lessons ? Whatever it is, tell her. We had something similar with one of our juniors, and in the end, my trainer just said no, she was not prepared to take her to her first Novice, with the current level of preparation that she had seen. You're the trainer - you decide what you're comfortable with.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by NeverTime View Post
                  They see instructors kind of like restaurants: try it, keep going back if you like it. But even if you like it, that doesn't mean you'll only visit that one restaurant from this point forward.

                  Lower level riders who think this way are doing their riding a huge disservice.

                  Learning a difficult and possibly dangerous sport is quite different than eating at a restaurant! Going to different restaurants for variety is a good thing. Going regularly to different instructors of the same discipline (unless one is the mentor of the other - meaning they are teaching out of the same system) only serves to confuse horse and rider and slow their progress, or even make them go backwards!

                  Good trainers have a SYSTEM. And there are many different systems out there - therein lies the problem.

                  The best way for lower level riders to progress is to find the best instructor that they have available to them, and stick with them until they understand the whole system, and have the skills to carry it out. Usually that's when they are solid at Preliminary level. Only at that point do they have the knowledge and experience to filter bits of info from other trainers to successfully decide whether or not it fits into their system. If a rider tries to include a technique or thought process into a system that doesn't fit, they will go backwards in their progress.

                  Clinics are a fun experience and are fine for anyone at any level, but again to benefit the riders they should then discuss new things that come up in clinics with their regular trainer, so that again it can be decided what new things fit into the current system.

                  This was discussed at length at the USEA convention a few years back, and the top experts unanimously agreed that this was true.

                  So to the OP, I totally understand where you are coming from. I would suggest having a very frank talk with them about this issue. Good luck!
                  Last edited by lstevenson; Feb. 15, 2010, 05:10 PM.


                  • #10
                    You HAVE to do what you are comfortable with. No question. No point in watching a kid get hurt when you inner alarm was ringing. However, I think part of the job as event instructors is to find a way to make it safe when confronted with any manner of things. This rider has rider with you fairly consistently. You should be able to design an xc school that keeps her safe and teaches her something. If you know the horse and rider, you know their weakness. Therefore, you should be able to create an "ah, ha" moment without putting them in physical danger.

                    Not ideal, but part of the job description in my little pond.


                    • #11
                      I see both sides. Clearly they are not that knowledgeable, so they don't know the impact yet of their "dating" multiple trainers. For more advanced riders it can be very useful I think, but at this level I'm not sure I've seen much success.

                      YOu should definitely not take them XC schooling if you are not comfortable because of safety etc. I f you are just annoyed, which I understand, be prepared to lose them as a client. If you can live without their (even just occasional) $$, then explain to them why it is not ideal for either horse or rider etc.

                      If you can't live without their $$, I would handle more delicately. I may talk about the importance of consistency for a horse and rider who are learning. I would expose them to students who started with you and have made fantastic progress. - Particularly if you have someone who came with similar skill level and has by-passed this student - but still take them XC schooling.

                      Other than that, frustrating as it may be, they get to do as they wish. Again, if you think horse or rider safety is at stake, tell them so and explain why - regardless of risks to you. Other than that, focus on more loyal students


                      • #12
                        If you don't feel comfortable taking them x-c schooling because you haven't seen them in a month, tell them that. I think that's totally reasonable, as well as your judgment. (Assuming that these people have not x-c schooled with you in the past--if they have I'm sure you could pick up from where you were?).

                        If you want them to cancel their other lesson, or don't want them to ride with other people (this week, or ever), that's different. Personally, it's not something I'd ever agree to, but some trainers (esp in h/j barns) have that rule, and I guess it's up to the students to decide how they feel.

                        I'm really not sure what this has to do with "loyalty" as much as safety, progress, etc. I'm not jealous of my trainer's other students.

                        I have ridden with people besides my "usual" trainer, normally more for reasons of convenience than preference (they were having a $20 winter indoor group lessons next door, they thought they could sell my horse, I trailered a horse in exchange, stuff like that). I never saw it as instead of or undermining my existing program--just additional opportunities to take advantage of.

                        I know riders better and richer than I who have also taken separate dressage or sj lessons to work on specific phases with specialists.

                        I don't know, trainers are free to make their own rules around riding with others, and students are free to decide if those work for them.


                        • #13
                          I don't think that you are being unreasonable. There are a lot of variables to a situation like this and if it makes you uncomfortable then don't play along.

                          IMO, the whole multiple trainers phenomenon is not really suitable for lower level riders. When a skill set is tenuous it is best to have progress monitored by one consistent eye so that the rider does not waste their own time or get over faced. I don't know if that is the case here, however.

                          I wonder if you might be well served to think about what it is that is the bothersome aspect of the situation: do you feel used (the colic scenario)? Do you worry about her skills/safety? Are you frustrated with the 2 steps forward 1 step back with the horse? All of these problems have different solutions. If you can identify the root problem and address it specifically and fairly (maybe even by instating a uniform policy) the you will likely be most satisfied.
                          "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" Immanuel Kant


                          • #14
                            It is important for lower level riders to be in a consistent program with one underlying theory.... it takes some sophistication to pick and choose theories/methods from multiple programs and meld them into usable program.

                            Even if this rider and horse are not a DANGER if you take them xc schooling without them sticking with a consistent program--are there going to be other people at the venue? Is the student going to reflect badly on you due to their lack of (or improper) preparation?

                            Third Charm Event Team


                            • #15
                              Often times when a person is just starting out with riding, they need to take lessons from various people-to see what trainer is the best "fit" for them. As a mother of a child who is a young rider-we tried about 4 lesson barns in the area-often overlapping trainers, not to be disrespectful to the trainers, but to find out which barn/trainer would work the best for our needs. A few tried to get "possessive" of us after about 5-6 lessons-those were the ones we ended up moving on from....


                              • #16
                                The best way for lower level riders to progress is to find the best instructor that they have available to them, and stick with them until they understand the whole system, and have the skills to carry it out. Usually that's when they are solid at Preliminary level. Only at that point do they have the knowledge and experience to filter bits of info from other trainers to successfully decide whether or not it fits into their system. If a rider tries to include a technique or thought process into a system that doesn't fit, they will go backwards in their progress.

                                I absolutly and totally disagree with this theory completely. As a thinking reasonable adult with a good grasp on my current skill level and where I want to go I am perfectly capable of gaining on the different styles of instructional teaching.

                                These theory assumes that people taking instruction are basically morons, and the idea that you must stick with someone until prelim is silly.

                                Some trainers focus more on perfecting each component before moving on, which can make me feel stuck. Others don't dwell on things and instead add in something new to learn better, which can leave me wanting to fix the first thing. A combinatin of the two is the ideal learning structure for me.

                                I also think that when you ask this question you'll get a different answer from a trainer versus a client.


                                • #17
                                  Don't mean this snarky at all, but I think that it is interesting that some of the posters here advocating one trainer/one way are some of the same folks that were so vehemently against ICP in that recent thread because it is too "singular philosophy/one way". I'm neither pro nor anti ICP, and I do value being involved long term with the same trainer, but I stay because I CHOOSE to stay... not because I am *required*. Usually the folks doing the requiring have a need to do so.


                                  • #18
                                    OOOOOHHHHHHH! Good One!


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post
                                      These theory assumes that people taking instruction are basically morons, and the idea that you must stick with someone until prelim is silly.

                                      It does NOT assume that people taking instruction are morons, but that they don't have enough knowledge and experience on the subject matter to be able to know whether each piece of new information meshes with their current methods.

                                      Surely you can see the difference between the two.

                                      And if you think it's "silly" then you are also saying the panelists at the USEA convention are silly also, as they all felt strongly about it as well. If memory serves me correctly, that included Stephen Bradley, Amy Tryon, Karen O'Connor, Jan Bynny, Mara Dean, Mike Huber, and a few others.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by SevenDogs View Post
                                        Don't mean this snarky at all, but I think that it is interesting that some of the posters here advocating one trainer/one way are some of the same folks that were so vehemently against ICP in that recent thread because it is too "singular philosophy/one way".

                                        Uh, that shouldn't be suprising. As I said in my earlier post, there are many different "systems" out there - therein lies the problem with training with different instructors, IF their systems do not mesh. Trying to mesh bits of info from 2 or more different systems together can be a counter productive situation.

                                        Some bits of info work in everybody's system, and some only work in some and really make horse and rider go backwards in others.

                                        If a lower level rider is going to learn, progress, and move up the levels, they need to stick with a system, which ever one that is, until they reach a certain level.

                                        The ICP really has nothing to do with this, but since you brought it up, they are trying to make one system "the only way", and who's to say that the way they have chosen is the right one? Many things they preach are not compatible with the ways of many of the undisputed greats of our sport, riders like Lucinda Green or Mark Todd.