Tomorrow I will be sending out the third instalment in my series “On Being a Good Student”. This is going out to all of you that are subscribers to my newsletter (if you are not a subscriber you can sign up on the right hand side of this page — it is complimentary, as in free — no charge). Tomorrow’s lesson is about how we as students process our instructors’ input. While writing the tip I was reminded of a riding lesson I had — likely 20 years ago, so yes that would put me around 9 years old:).

Nearing the end of a lesson my coach told me to take a line (of jumps) down into the corner, change my horse’s lead going into the corner and then come back down a second line of jumps. During my first line, my foot came out of a stirrup. I quickly recovered, found the stirrup but was a stride late cuing my horse’s lead change as my coach had requested.

When I finished the short sequence I rode over to her feeling pretty proud at not only “nailing” the short exercise but also for recovering from my stirrup loss without a hitch to the performance. Here was our exchange, I still remember it with great clarity;

COACH: “Susan, when did I ask you to change your lead?”

SCG: “Yeah, I know, going into the corner but I lost my stirrup  and . . .”

COACH: “Oh you lost your stirrup, I didn’t know that. Okay come over here”

Feeling more than vindicated and thinking she was going to be so proud of how I regained that stirrup while I guided Spencer (my gelding) over that final line I guided my mount over to my coach as instructed. Sadly there was no big pat-on-the-back coming from from her — however there was a a “prize” coming my way.

Without saying anything to me, she push my legs out of the way, lifted the leather flap covering the port where the leathers attached to the saddle (holding the dangling stirrups) and removed both stirrups.

“Okay” she said. “Go and try that set up again without the worry of those pesky stirrups causing you not to change your lead when I ask.”

I turned the horse around and did the sequence again, without the benefit of stirrups.

Effective instructing or human cruelty? I guess it depends upon the student. For me it was effective, so much so I still remember the encounter today. I actually found it both hysterically funny and kind of a cool challenge to see how I would do over jumps without stirrups.

I learned several things from that session;

  1. Always change your horses lead at a specific points (kind of like front cross timing for agility people).
  2. There is never an excuse that will justify poor form or execution.
  3. My coach was very creative. The kind of creativity you  never wanted to inspire.

In tomorrow’s newsletter the “Good Student” series will continue with my thoughts on the subject.

Today I am grateful for those that have influenced my life as a coach.