You go in and put in a mediocre round. There were some decent moments, but overall it was not your best riding and it showed. You come out of the ring and debrief with your trainer:
Scenario One: “Good use of your corners and I liked your controlled release going into those tighter turns. Next time remember that outside leg and push a bit harder for the striding and things will click into place more.”
Scenario Two: “I need you to focus and be more present, because this is not the kind of work I expect from you. Get it together and go do better. Here’s how we’re going to do that…”
You’re kinda nervous about tackling a bigger oxer. You pop over it, but knock the front rail. You land with a big smile. You look at your trainer for feedback:
Scenario One: “Great job! We’ll polish it up as we go.”
Scenario Two: “Again, and this time wait with your shoulders so he doesn’t knock the rail.”
Which scenario would you prefer? I promise I’m not setting anyone up to look bad here, because I can honestly tell you that I very much prefer Scenario Two.
This is what works for me. I need the fire lit. I hate being told I did a good job if I know it wasn’t good work.
For example: one time when I was about 11 I went to a horse show with some of the girls at my summer camp. I went in for my crossrails round and broke to trot in places, missed my leads, and generally flopped around the ring. I came out and my counselor said, “Great job Olivia!” I promptly asked to switch lesson groups because I no longer trusted her as a trainer.
Even as a child, I had no patience for that crap. Tell me how to get better or GTFO.
My trainer has other clients that are more uncertain. They are the ones that she congratulates for making it around the ring- because that’s what they need. They need to know that they can get the job done before they start working the kinks out. They are still unsure, so adding too much pressure would make it even more intimidating. These are the clients for whom she emphasizes the good parts and endlessly encourages.
But over the last two years, she has learned that I can take a little bit of heat. She knows I need some pressure in order to perform. She will always be constructive with her feedback and discuss how to improve, but she also won’t sugarcoat anything. She knows I have big dreams and she knows that I’m going to have to work my ass off to achieve them, so she makes me work my ass off. Because she believes that I can get there and she’s going to do everything she can to help me there.
Because another piece of the puzzle is that she wants us to achieve our goals, whatever those may be. If someone’s goal is to make it around a 2′ course of 8 jumps without wanting to vomit from nerves, she builds confidence slowly and surely with tons of positive feedback and sets them up to achieve that goal. If someone’s goal is to make it to the 1.10m classes (hmmm wonder who I’m talking about), she is going to demand precision, because misses start getting dangerous at that height. And at the end of the day, horse and rider safety is paramount.
So from my musings I think these different training approaches come down to two main components:
- What coaching style the client responds best to
- What type of goal the client is trying to reach
In my case, I respond best to someone pushing me hard and I have admittedly “reachy” goals. For the safety of my horse and for my own safety, we need to demand accuracy above anything else- including my ego.
Frankie heads to the showgrounds today and I’ll follow tomorrow, and I absolutely can’t wait for another weekend of learning and improving under her guidance.
But like I said- this coaching approach doesn’t work for everyone! So tell me:
What type of coaching style do you respond best to?