Frustrated with coach - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 12:44 AM Thread Starter
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Frustrated with coach

Hey there,

I've got a question to see if my instructor is insenstiive or it's me.

I'm an adult rider (37), started a few years ago and now do lessons at 2 barns - very casual hunter/jumper barn and the new one is a dressage barn. Since I've been going to the new dressage barn, I've really begun to feel like I can't do anything very well. It became apparent that I'd not learned much position-wise at my other lessons with the hunter/jumper barn (though I have achieved my Equine Canada level 3 through that barn so must have learned something), and while I knew I wanted to know more specifics, I didn't realize until the dressage barn that I had been doing a lot of things 'wrong', position wise (ie leg not far enough back, using my toes too much to post, etc.). I'm not doing dressage yet either - my coach keeps telling me I'm just doing 'basic English' and learning what I apparently had not been taught. Anyway, I'm happy to know to be a better rider, but it's caused a huge amount of frustration for me as my coach at the dressage barn seems to be a bit of a perfectionist and thinks she's really nice, but really can be very nitpicky and critical.

Today was an awful lesson there because I was on a super slow horse with a trot that is so crazily smooth that there is barely any impulsion at all. So I was venting a bit about it being hard to post as I'm used to a much bouncier, forward horse (thoroughbred) at my other barn, and my instructor started getting all defensive about the horse and saying other people can post fine on him, you just have to get used to different horses, etc. I agree with her, but it just seemed a bit ridiculous because he was seriously soooo slow and no impulsion whatsoever. I'm still learning or rather unlearning old bad habits, so it just seemed crazy to have to be posting on a horse like this where I was doing all the work myself and I just didn't see the point. I've also been told other times that he has to stay at a really slow trot because he goes lame off and on and is arthritic, etc., so they don't want him pushed, and so as far as I knew that was the best we were going to get for a trot, and then she was going on about me not pushing him forward enough and I was expecting him to do all the work. Hardly, I was doing all the work if you ask me! Argghh.... So then much to my dismay and totally out of character for me, I ended up getting teary-eyed and on the verge of crying as I had just gotten so frustrated with her going on about everything being my fault, so then she got upset too. It was just a nightmare. Here I am a 37 year-old adult with 2 children and I'm practically in tears on top of my old horse. I told her not to take it personally but I really am quite upset about it still now because she was really making me feel like I couldn't even post at all and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the horse.

To make matters worse, I clean paddocks 2 mornings a week there to pay for lessons (so I can ride more often and stay at both barns) and she is the barn manager that I work under. We get along fine in that regard, but she's a speed demon, of course because it's her job, but she is horrified at how 'slow' I am at everything. Thing is though I get paid the same no matter how long it takes me, and it doesn't effect the barn at all. I'm just a methodical, detail-oriented type person, plus I'm 37 and not in the best shape of my life to say the least. I'm not being slow in my mind at all, I'm working my butt off in fact, but she's just a total type A personality so I get comments like 'you're not done yet??' a lot, which I find a bit insulting. The barn owner comments regularly though on how great things look when I'm done. I'm just thorough I guess.

Anyway, what do you think? Is she being insensitive to maybe the issues of an 'older' rider (and 'older' working student ) or am I being too sensitive? I don't want to leave the barn as I do want to eventually do dressage and it's a great barn other than this issue, but I can't change instructors there, plus I don't really want to. Maybe I just need to not talk - if I hadn't complained at all about the slow, almost nonexistant trot, none of this would have happened. By the way, it sounds like we don't get along at all, but we actually do normally, but sometimes she just drives me nuts as she seems to have no understanding for other perspectives.... Funny though as it's mostly an adult barn, but I think most of the other adults there have been doing dressage for years and so while she's used to adults, she's probably not used to having to deal with someone who has to unlearn bad habits at a more beginner level...

Sorry for the very lengthy post. Thanks so much if you made it this far.
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post #2 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 12:59 AM
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My old dressage teacher used to really get under my skin. She would just say things that really made me feel like a total dunce sometimes. I always felt like I had to be so careful about what I said, and that I was just walking on eggshells. But, she was a really good instructor. A really difficult person to get along with, but a very good person to learn from. she insisted endlessly on HOW the horse was going, not how fast I could progress up the levels. She always had the horse's best interests at heart and would not let me continue a lesson if the horse was even slightly "off". So, I learned a lot, but eventually, I just couldn't hack it anymore and left of taking lessons with her. I haven't seen or heard from her in 7 years.

At the hunter jumper barn were you taking individual or group lessons? I find that when people take group lessons that a lot of minor postion faults get kind of overlooked by the instructor because they cannot take the time to get to the details and pursue it til it's really down pat.

It sounds like you may have to kind of swallow your pride and keep an emotional distance from this person to be able to make it there. If she has a lot to offer as an instructor, then it's worth it. If not, then work for money and buy lessons from the best instructor you can find.
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post #3 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 01:28 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks tinyliny,

Yes, it is group lessons at the hunter/jumper barn, so you're right about that - lots of stuff probably got missed and I didn't know what I didn't know. I'm also not used to the individualized attention of private lessons either, plus I'm probably sensitive to the fact that other riders are in the ring with the other coach (the owner) and sometimes they're pretty high level dressage riders, so I'm already maybe being overly sensitive about my 'beginner-ness'. ;)

Thanks for letting me know about your experience as well. I do think my coach is very good, very aware of the technical details, and very much with the horse's best intereat at heart so a little sensitive that way herself - so I think you're right and I just need to get over it and learn all I can. Thanks for pointing that out for me as I'd definitely lost sight of that while I've been whining. ;) I texted her as well and we both apologized to each other again, so at least the air is clear in that regard.
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post #4 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 02:02 AM
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That sounds like a very "adult" way of doing things. Private lessons are a lot more challenging . YOu will learn so much, though, you'll be astounded.
Don't worry about the others, they have been riding longer than you.
Do some reading if you can, on dressage, it will help you understand what she is talking about better. Dressage is much written about and there are many excellent books on it. I read Charled DeKunfy, Mary Wanless and Philippe Karl, amoungst others, when I started into dressage. I still pick up those books and reread them and always get something good out of them, something new.

That is what makes dressage so fascinateing; you can't learn it all at once , it takes many years. I am a real low level rider, but when I compare myself to where I started, well . . ., I've come a long way just to get to this low level.
If you have a chance, take a video of yourself now, before you make many changes in your riding style, then in a year, do it again and compare them. You will be amazed!
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post #5 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 02:33 PM
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If I could give you a hug, I totally would. I hate that feeling where you well-up and just want to smack yourself out of it. Makes me feel like that woman in "A league of Their Own." I think you're putting too much pressure on yourself, to be honest. As tinyliny said, dressage is a sport that is measured in years, not by lessons or weeks. Also, your position in dressage is very different from a hunt seat, so its not that you aren't a good rider from your previous training, you are learning something new. I moved to dressage in the last two years from low level eventing (which even has a dressage phase!!) and had a really tough time with the longer leg and sitting straight. I felt kind of silly after my first lesson with my dressage coach.

But regarding your coach, it sounds like you do get along and you do like her. If she yells at you and belittles you that is one thing, but nitpicking is kind of part of the game. Small changes can make a big difference.

As for your work ethic, I say as long as you are getting all of your responsibilities taken care of, she has no room to say anything. I would let her know that you can pick up the pace if thats what she really wants, but that the quality of your work product may suffer.

I get those e-mail thingys from Jane Savoie (which I love by the way, you should sign up if you haven't already), and one of her messages was about not feeling inferior to other "better" riders because they are working on their own problems, too. A grand prix rider can get just as frustrated and upset over their tempi canges as you can over your trot.

Don't let this one lesson get you down. =)
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post #6 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 02:54 PM
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Also keep in mind that every trainer is different. Your dressage trainer may look at your riding and think, "Gosh! This is basic English Riding!" But her Basic English riding is still just a little dressage based. And as Shasta said, it is very different than hunt seat.

I had a trainer a while back that I rode with for about 2 years. She was always a little critical and a little (looking back) demeaning. She would say to me in one breath that though I may feel I am regressing, she was just reinforcing the basics. And then in the next statement, tell me I was a basic rider and couldn't do more. She insisted I use a martingale for safety, and then was the first to bash my horse's neck when the underside developed funky from months of false frames. I spent a year jumping cross rails preparing for show season and when it rolled around, she told me I wasn't ready. She said there were still basic riding skills that I hadn't made second nature yet. I decided then, if I have been training with someone for a year and I am still not "ready" to even attempt a flat class for experience, I need a new trainer.

I am now working with a trainer I adore. And when she saw me do the basic riding skills that were supposed to be "second nature," she laughed. She couldn't understand where I had gotten those ideas.

I've cried in lessons before. Don't sweat it. If you feel you are learning and its worth the money, stick with it. Otherwise, there are other trainers I am sure would treat you better for your time.
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post #7 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 03:06 PM
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I only skimmed the responses, so I apologize if I am repeating something someone else has said...

As another returning adult rider, I can tell you that trying to do both hunt seat AND dressage is torture. If you really, really want to make the switch to dressage, you might have to commit to it 100%. I absolutely could not do both. Doing hunt seat reinforced my old habits, and undid any new dressage techniques that I was trying to learn.

Adults truly do have an uphill road to climb compared to the kids when learning new physical skills. Our brains simply don't have the fresh pathways for new motor skills that the kiddies have.

I've been in the situation you are in and the very best advice I can give is to make a choice and focus your attention on one or the other. Good luck!!

I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted.
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post #8 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Wancata View Post
Also keep in mind that every trainer is different. Your dressage trainer may look at your riding and think, "Gosh! This is basic English Riding!" But her Basic English riding is still just a little dressage based. And as Shasta said, it is very different than hunt seat.
Yes! You nailed it.

Kimj, you are not not not doing everything wrong before and this training is fixing you. You are simply doing things differently. I find it frustrating for you that your trainer is not able to address things to you in this manner. (I assume this trainer realizes you have been/are taking hunter lessons too.)

Can you sit down and talk to her about how frustrating it is for you to be told you are wrong all the time? Tell her you love it when she helps you learn new things to but the constant 'you are wrong' thing makes it so frustrating that you find it hard to learn.

If the barn owner is happy with your cleaning job I would let what she says go in one ear and out the other. Maybe make a joke of it. "Off to make sure every spec of manure is cleaned out of Dobbin's paddock, today I plan to do it record time, see you in three hours" followed by a laugh.

I would guess most of us adult females have had a tear welling up moment at a riding lesson before. Sometimes our bodies (hormones) make it next to impossible to not burst into tears over what seems to trivial to the rest of the world.
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post #9 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 07:19 PM Thread Starter
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Ahhhhh, thank you all!! What a nice set of comments to read today! Thank you for telling me I've not been doing it wrong all this time! Phew. That's what she's not getting - how frustrating it is to basically hear that all the time, so it's like telling me I've wasted the last two years worth of lessons. She doesn't seem to realize it's also been a lot of dealing with confidence issues on just being on/around the horses as well, since I didn't grow up with them at all. Often people who grow up working with horses don't realize what it takes for an adult to step into the horse world with no experience, both in terms of ground work and riding.

Yes, I think she thinks her 'basic English' is the only correct way and pretty much that my other coach hasn't been teaching the basics properly, if at all, so there is a lot of implication that I've been doing it wrong all this time. Funny thing is, my other coach's students win all the time at the shows so she must be doing something right. The dressage coach though says a lot that even in the hunter ring the basic English between fences should be the same whether it's hunter or dressage, which I get, but none of the students at my other barn go completely vertical the way she has me doing. I think she'd be horrified if she went to my other barn and saw the basic English seat there. So what do you think of that though - many of you mentioned how different the hunter and dressage seats are, but she's saying the basic flat seat should be the same so it shouldn't be an issue except for when going over fences...? That's why I thought it would be okay to stay at both places, at least while I'm not doing true dressage work...

I'm hoping I won't have to choose because there's so much more flexibilty at the other barn, but thank you, Zimpatico, for letting me know it may not be possible and it's not just me... I think I prefer dressage though because I don't have to deal with the whole fear issues of jumping past 2 feet (lol), plus I love all the technical details of dressage, but for now the dressage barn is a lot more expensive so I can't ride there nearly as much as I can the other place.

Anyway, thanks again. You've all made me feel much better and I appreciate the understanding and responses.
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post #10 of 23 Old 07-27-2011, 07:38 PM
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So what do you think of that though - many of you mentioned how different the hunter and dressage seats are, but she's saying the basic flat seat should be the same so it shouldn't be an issue except for when going over fences...?

Yes and no. I agree with her that jumping is dressage with fences, because during the 99% of your time that you aren't airborne you are working on balance and connection. Your jump saddle puts you in a totally different place than your dressage saddle does. In huntseat you need to be more forward to stay over your center of gravity, your stirrups are shorter, you use 2 pt and half seat often where in dressage you need to sit upright, long leg, deep in the seat and communicating with your seat. So the principles are the same but the delivery is very different.
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