We all need that special someone who can guide us through the minefield, help us focus, work with us to achieve our dreams but there’s no getting away from it, dressage lessons with instructors are not cheap. Of course, it’s all worth it for that rosy glow we get at the end and the injection of enthusiasm we experience as a result of doing something right, (or wrong and working through it) on our way to achieving our ambitions.
I’d like to share with you my view of how to get the very best out of your dressage lessons because as someone who spent a long time in search of the right mentor and therefore, wasted a great deal of time, effort and money on the wrong training, I have learnt that there are a number of things you can do to get the absolute best from the precious and not inexpensive time you spend with your instructor.
I am guilty of all of these ‘faux pas’ and I’m sharing so that you don’t have to be.
1. Share your vision.
The first thing you need to do is ensure that both you and your instructor are absolutely clear about your riding ambitions. It’s no good being disappointed with the lesson outcomes if you have not communicated and agreed what it is that you need/want to work on and agreed some medium and long term goals that are achievable.
It is right that you should expect to have somewhere to warm up and do your usual routine before you even begin to engage in your instructor’s time. That way you won’t be spending your hard earned having him/her watch you warming up!
3. Show some respect
Every equestrian has a certain level of knowledge but there is nothing more tedious than a pupil who thinks they know how to do everything. You may not agree in that moment with what you are being asked to do, but at least do your instructor the courtesy of listening and trying out their ideas, you have to trust that they are there to get the best out of you, and have your best interests in mind.
4. Clock In-Clock Out
As you enter the arena you are working. Clock In. Put every ounce of your energy and focus on your aids and your horse whilst in the lesson, do as instructed and try not to think too much. As you leave the arena – Clock Off. There’s plenty of time after the lesson for discussion, whilst riding, empty your mind, concentrate solely on what is happening in the ‘here and now’ and forget what might happen if!
5. Up your work ethic
All too often you see riders who stop to ponder what is being asked. The horse who has been putting in all its efforts to abide by the aids is all of a sudden let down and is now standing whilst the rider gets his/her head round things. Then its pick back up and expect to do better. Do your very best to ride through the instruction and feel what you need to do. My mentor’s favourite saying is “show me what you’ve got when you’ve got nothing left”. It is in these moments that you can produce brilliance, just at the point where you think you can’t do it anymore, one more push of effort ‘et voila’ it all becomes worth it.
6. Shut up!
When your instructor is with you in the arena resist the urge to talk. If you want to natter with them, take them to the pub. In the arena they are working and you should be too.
7. Have Fun
Try not to take it all too seriously. Enjoy the learning process and smile.
Since adopting these strategies I have had more fun with my learning. I’ve come out of sessions absolutely beaming and unable to sleep at night because my little horse has given me so much and I can’t stop thinking about it. But it’s not me who benefits the most, it’s my horse and that feels good.
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster