Through my riding career I have met some wonderful coaches and some not so wonderful coaches. I have suffered crisis’s of confidence on a regular basis and had to alter my whole way of riding to accommodate creaking joints, aching backs and lack of strength. My horse, Taylor has been trained to stand at the mounting block while I haul myself on and once on, I cannot get off again until we are finished riding – which these days is no more than forty-five minutes.
Through it all I have come to understand that riding horses is not just about sitting up straight with your heels down. It’s about adapting and working with what you’ve got. There is no one-size fits all. As long the horse and rider are safe and comfortable and they enjoy what they are doing then it works for me.
I’ve got a bit of reputation for using games and props when I coach. My riders all dread the words “Right then……” when they warm up for their lessons. I might hand them tubes of toothpaste, a ‘magic stick’ or a rubber band! They might be asked to cross their reins over so the left hand holds the right rein and vice versa!! We have ‘pole trains’ and follow the leader in our group lessons and the tea and conversation before and after our sessions is often as valuable as the lesson itself.
I like to be creative when I’m coaching to try and enable the rider to really comprehend the manoeuvre or sensation in a way that works for them. If they don’t know what I’m asking them to do, I might show them on foot, I might have to physically touch them to change the positioning of their legs or ask them to hold onto a tube of toothpaste or magic stick to develop a soft but steady hand position.
This sort of coaching is not learnt in a classroom or at a workshop – it is something organic that grows and develops through the years of experience, of trial and error, personal challenges and personal failures.
My focus these days is on the recreational adult rider with fun, enjoyment and a sense of achievement top of the list for both myself and the rider.