Monday, December 14, 2009

Riding lessons: A confession

I had my lesson, and it went well. Harv has "still got it," I learned some new exercises, and I left the ring feeling invigorated. Actually tickled pink. Never one to take a good feeling and run with it, I pondered why I was so jazzed. It was a good lesson, but I didn't exactly piaffe around the indoor, and the instructor found some substantive problems to work on. It just got me to thinking. What did I get out of this session that put me on a natural, full-blown John Denver high?

Bear with me while I hyper-analyze...
Obviously the point of a lesson is to learn and improve, and yes, I want to learn and improve. But that doesn't account for the "happy drug" effect. When I really think about it, when I'm uncomfortably honest with myself, learning isn't the only motivation. There are others...

The other motives
There are other motivations behind lesson-ing, and well, they're all kind of embarrassing. There are the three that I isolated in my hyperanalytical mode...

  1. I'm looking for praise. There. I said it. In my defense, I'll say that my riding does not inspire instructors to gush with praise, and I don't hold it against them. "Not too-too bad" was the phrase of praise used by one long-time instructor. Any little tidbit is accepted gratefully.
  2. I'm looking for undivided attention. Again in my defense, I think this motivates a lot more adult behavior than most people realize--hence the concept of the inner child. Some people have a life coach; I have a dressage coach.
But I'm saving the worst for last. It applies mostly to new instructors or clinicians.
  1. Maybe my new coach will recognize my riding genius! Okay, I'm being facetious. But still, hope springs eternal, and there's always a tiny kernel of hope that a new instructor will see potential in my riding that others have missed. And they'll have the key to unlock my inner Anky (or Guenter, or Isabel).
Personally, I'm hoping for Guenter. That guy's heels are always down.

A riding lesson always carries the hope that there will be a breakthrough moment that changes your whole approach to riding. It's never happened, at least not in the transformational way I'm looking for. But maybe next time...


  1. You're so right. Some people have life coaches, we have riding instructors. I love the honesty of this post, I can relate to it 100%! Glad we are finally admitting our real motives!

  2. I have had that transformational moment in a lesson that has forever changed the way I ride. So don't give up! It might still happen!

  3. Love this post and so understand. I haven't had the pleasure yet of owning my own horse. But your reasons for a trainer were my same reasons for hiring a personal trainer. I need someone to encourage me along, I like undivided attention (and expect it when I am paying for it), and hoping they would help me find the inner athlete hidden deep deep inside.

  4. I'm completely with you on that!! Totally agree! I loved taking lessons for those reasons (especially the undivided attention as I'm a twin who had to share everything including a room). I enjoyed reading this and think you have nothing at all to be embarrassed about. :)

  5. never thought about the motives that make me enjoy my lessons so much - but now I can definitely identify with the three motives in your post...thanks for the honesty

  6. “My head is spinning... I know I liked the end result... But I’m pretty confused and not entirely sure how I arrived at this result. It’s that ‘positive’ type of confused though: You know you’ve touched on something pretty special, know you’ve learned something significant, but can’t quite figure out how it all pieces together. I’m already looking forward to the next [] lesson...” Emma Mason after a lesson with Stefan Wolff (from The Horse Magazine Feb09) – I concur! That really is an after lesson feeling! It takes me about 2 weeks to recover from really good lessons... the highs and the lows! For me it's the adrenaline rush of being push beyond my boundries/limits... there's not many other time in life that this really does happen.

  7. I think good instructors look for SOMEthing to give positive feedback on. That is nice, wish my boss at work was the same way!

  8. Are riding instructors are our life coaches. What's a life without horses and riding? ^_^


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