'Fighting' with your horse or finding a way to work together.

KP nut

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Dec 22, 2008
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I had a lesson a couple of weeks ago with a new RI - new to the RS, not specifically chosen by me. Cally had recently developed a habit of bending to the outside and falling in through her shoulder so I was looking forward to a lesson to help me sort it out.

The lesson felt awful. The RI said she was being 'lazy' and relying on me holding her up. She got me keeping the inside rein very short and down by her wither, and pulling the outside rein out wide and using loads of leg, and keeping lots of pressure on the inside hand until Cally softened, and then to soften to her. Cally was head tossing, snorting. My arms were aching! It felt very adversarial and not how I like to ride but the RI said sometimes with young horses you just had to 'get through' these little paddies and she would learn.

Things weren't a lot better by the end of the lesson and I just felt really unhappy, not just that Cally was not staying straight but that we had fought each other.

Today I had a private lesson with my usual RI and it was 1000X better. Cally was bending to the outside and falling in again so I started doing what the other RI had suggested, but my normal RI told me to let go of her head, ride her on a long rein and focus on forward. Immediately she was straighter but still flexing to the outside. She said horses naturally look to the outside, so Cally was not doing anything 'wrong' but was just doing what felt natural to her. So she put some poles just inside the corners and said I should trot round and at each pole just give a little feel down the inside rein to encourage her to look at the pole. She became very curious about these poles and suddenly I had a pony who was trotting straight then glancing to the inside to nosy at the pole. From that glance we could build on getting some inside bend.

By the end of the lesson we were doing trot/canter transitions all the way round the arena with correct bend.

My RI said 'it's always better if you can find a way to make doing the right thing the horse's idea!' That totally sums up how I want to ride, but I don;t know if it is always possible? Can you train a young horse without ever 'fighting'? And what do I do if I have the new RI again? You can select your RI for privates but if you join a group lesson - as I do every Sunday - you just get whoever is on the rota so I may not be able to avoid the new RI again.

Should I just tell her I don't want to pull on Cally anymore as it does not suit her or me? I would worry she thinks I'm criticising her but Cally is my pony so I should be able to ride in a style that I like and I don't want another lesson like that again.
 

Trewsers

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Oct 13, 2004
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If you enjoy a group lesson as well as a private one, and don't want to miss out on it then if it were me I'd say I didn't want to do what she asked in the last lesson and that you prefer the other way of doing it. Not sure how much one to one attention you get during a group lesson? I would definitely speak up though, she is your horse and it's up to you if you don't feel comfortable with something a trainer suggests.
 

squidsin

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Feb 16, 2013
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I have one trainer who always wants me to smack Roxy more than I am prepared to do, and I just don't smack Roxy when she tells me to! Probably very annoying for her and perhaps it does mean that Roxy and I are never going to be Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro (!) but it's my horse and I am paying for the lesson. She is a fantastic teacher but a more adversarial rider than I am - some people just are, I am not saying that's right or wrong, but I am never going to ride like that.
 

squidsin

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Just to add, Cally is a young horse and may have found that uncomfortable because she's not developed the right muscles to maintain that position yet. In which case there's no point 'punishing' her.
 

joosie

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Oct 28, 2004
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The only person I've ever been taught by properly is my boss. She's a great rider and an even better instructor and I have learned and improved so much under her tuition. But there have still been times when she's told me to deal with something in a certain way and I have disagreed. We've never had an argument about a difference of opinion - there's no need for it to be confrontational, it's not an ego contest! - and my boss likes the fact that (a) I've got to a level where I can think or feel that something isn't working, even if I've been told it will or should, and (b) I'm confident enough to discuss it with her. At the end of the day we both accept that she and I are a different "type" of rider with VERY different riding backgrounds and our approach to certain things is often going to be a little different. And interestingly I know that if she rode Annie she wouldn't get the same out of her that I do, nothing to do with experience but because my style of riding suits Annie and my boss's most likely would not. But she has been taught by a lot of different people in her time and ridden a lot of different horses so she is aware and accepting of the fact that what works for one horse / rider will not work for another. There is no ego there at all.

I'm not going to criticise the RI as she was just telling you what she thought was right for that situation - and probably the reason she thought it was right is because it has worked for her before. But I do think you were right to go with your instincts and try a different method. I do think it's good to try out different things and get advice from more than one instructor, just remember you don't HAVE to follow their advice if you don't think it's right or find that it isn't working. A really good instructor can adapt their advice to suit the horse and rider they see in front of them, and not just rely on doing the same thing with everyone all the time. Unfortunately those seem to be very few and far between.
 
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Mary Poppins

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Oct 10, 2004
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When I have lessons I never just do what the instructor tells me to. It probably drives my instructors crazy, but I always need to talk it through and understand the rationale behind what I am being asked. If I am asked to do something I am not comfortable with I stop and tell the instructor why I don't want to do it.

I think that there are hundreds of different methods that you can turn to get the same result and I would stop and think if there is anything at all you can take away from the lesson. If not then that's fine, but be careful that you don't get stuck in your ways and not open to new ideas or alternative ways of riding.

I am going down a new route of riding at the moment and it's got me questioning everything that I do and analysing the riding styles of people around me. It has made me realise that I haven't been as adaptable as I could have been in the past, and that alternative approaches can work. At the end of the day you have to take what you wish from various instructors and then go and work it out yourself.

As for the instructor, I wouldn't be paying for lessons with anyone that I was not happy with. Can't you find out the rota beforehand and just book in with lessons with the instructor that you like?
 

newforest

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Mar 15, 2008
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My instructor has the view as do I that you ask the horse to do something, if they don't understand or can't, look for an alternative way.
She actually said do not get into an argument with mine because she will "win" I know it's not about winning that's just a term she used to mean I would make everything a lot worse. My lass will not be the one to back down if you are the type that wants to make her do something.

Mine can lack bend, and it was a simple solution of just lowering my inside hand and putting my leg there. Had that not helped we would have looked at something else. I was also given some homework in order to work on this further and it's been a great help and I do notice her developing a little softness.

With regards to lessons this would be simple for me, I wouldn't want weekly. Mine gets schooled in what I enjoy /she enjoys / needs to do once a week. So to take her in the school again to be schooled would be unnecessary.
 

Skib

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Dec 21, 2003
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KPnut - I havent read the whole thread but may be one of the arts of learning to ride, is sorting out which teachers are right for one personally? My younger RI is perfect for me but her best friend uses much more rein contact and pressure - completely correct and BHS but wrong for me. And I have been honest about it - that she thinks I cant ride and indeed she is right as I cant ride in lessons with her.
I think of it like handwriting - each person has their own style.
If I ever get dream lesson horse back for a lesson, I will try that pole solution for her when on the right rein. Thank you for the tip.
 

KP nut

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Thanks for replies.

@newforest my usual RI said the opposite in a way to yours - she said Cally was so good natured that she would tolerate being given a hard time when another horse wouldn't, and that it would be easy to take advantage of that and be a little too hard on her.

@Mary Poppins I try to learn from lots of different people but I guess there are some things I feel quite strongly about and building a partnership rather than imposing my will is one of my top priorities. I just don't always know how!

@Trewsers, @squidsin @joosie : I should speak up but my problem is I lack confidence to challenge an RI there and then and also I lack confidence in my ability to sort out schooling issues so when I was told that all young horses will 'act up' and need firm riding, I went with that. But I am relieved to hear from another RI that I can stay soft and focus on communication and there is no need to 'fight'.

@Jane&Ziggy - Thanks!

@Skib - the poles worked so well. I love those simple, thoughtful solutions to problems!
 

newforest

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@KP nut mine has an opinion which she isn't backwards in sharing. I like her for her honesty as she won't put up with things.
Her temperament is mellowing but she is no one's fool.
That said to back and ride she was a poppet, if you didn't want trot ;) I am still surprised to get "obedient" comments on my test. As she is behind my leg I don't see her as obedient.

I think with Cally it might be easy to do too much or over ask because she is likely to oblige, whereas mine will let you know she has had enough. I was able to keep going for another five minutes so we finished when I said we were.

I get on well with my instructor I see her here and there. As a rider / owner you do need to deal with things when they aren't there. I would like her to run her eyes over my new saddle, but I am confident that the cob goes nice in it. (she wouldn't lie ;))
 
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eml

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I think it takes a great deal of courage and experience to say 'not for me or this horse' to an instructor but I think that is the right of every rider ( even with RS horses) and good instructors will deal with it! Having said that both daughter and I have had a few training sessions with different trainers that we would never repeat and she is far braver than I ever was at telling them what works for her and her horses.

One very wise trainer said 'you have to create disorder to progress to order' he was right at that moment we were trying to be so quiet and not upset the horse we acheived much more by asking more.

The one thing that works for both of us in trainers is one who corrects and pushes the rider and in so doing improves both the horse and riders performance. What doesn't work is someone who doesn't understand the rider feedback or who trys to change a horses existing effective way of going to comply with theory. I suspect your conflict fell into the latter issue!
 

LindaAd

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This is a really tricky one - it's difficult to ask questions in a group lesson without seeming confrontational (although I used to do it when I was riding regularly at a school - it was easier because I was generally very happy with the instructor, just sometimes I'd have to ask why, or say I can't do that, I don't feel ready). The two easier options seem to me either to ignore the instruction (it depends how much individual attention is given to each member of the group), or to arrange your lessons as Mary Poppins suggested, to avoid that instructor.
 

newforest

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I also think that when the pupil is ready, what you are are being told might sink in.
I was my old RI worst nightmare. Only because of what I was riding, what we enjoyed as a team and where I was in my understanding. I didn't "get it"
Now I have a totally different horse, who rides totally different. I am now open to what the previous RI was trying to teach. I just wasn't ready, but I am now.
 

KP nut

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There are different styles of riding and I will always look for the cooperative partnership option. But sometimes the horse isn't offering that! So I need to be willing to 'fight' if I have to. But I don't want to pick fights unnecessarily which is what I think RI 1 did. The solution to what was essentially a problem of Cally's understanding was just to shout louder at her whereas RI 2 found a thoughtful way of helping Cally do the right thing. Today there were no poles out but Cally stayed pretty much straight anyway.
 

KP nut

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ETA I have decided to just have private lessons with Cally for now and to ride Xavier in the group lesson on Sunday. I like that lesson because we are all good friends so I want to keep going.
 

newforest

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Strangely enough with the falling in or our case, cutting off the school-I found that ovals helped. I forgot about trying to keep her out because she always came in :)
So I asked for nothing but ovals, it's in my dressage book, we are good at these ;)
When I asked her to go large and stay out she could and was quite happy.
Just because the school is rectangular doesn't mean you need to ride rectangular.
 
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