December 05, 2009

What kind of student are you?

I just love these discussions.
So many good thoughts and comments - thank you guys!

stillearning had an interesting comment on the last post which moves the topic from instructors to students.
I believe that is a good start of a separate post, and hope that my other blog friends also may comment...
She has no blog of her own (as yet) but I would very much like her to get one.

She wrote:

Here's another question: Are you a good student?

I know that I'm a royal pain to my instructors in many ways. Despite knowing the dressage is a lifelong pursuit I get impatient and discouraged when progress is slow. Despite having a strong commitment and desire to learn I am constantly short on funds to invest in lessons so I want each one to be wonderful. Despite seeking out lessons I sometimes think I know best (altho I USUALLY manage to keep that to myself...). Because I read constantly and audit whenever I can, I am full of ideas, and some are conflicting; this leads to mixed signals to my horse because if one thing doesn't work I'll quickly try another. Because of the same budget constraints, my horse projects are OTTBs or greenies or some other inappropriate learning partner. And worst of all: I'm so passionate about seeking perfection that my sympathetic teachers must cringe at times.

So...I'm now working with a good trainer on an occasional basis. I board at her barn, and can ask for help as needed. Her teaching style often frustrates me, but I also realize that it's a good one for me. She observes. She comments. Then she goes away and gives me time to work it out. Repeat. She doesn't often discuss things; more often she'll tell me the right way as she knows it. End of discussion. If I disagree with her idea/method to fix it (which is often drilling IMO), it's up to me to find another way to fix what she's observed (i.e., "your horse isn't using his hind end enough" or "he's not even in the contact" or "you're not staying straight on the line of travel"). I work on it, then ask her to watch again. She comments and goes away again.

It's a good system for me right now. If I had a bigger budget I'd be tempted to invest in a more traditional training program; I'm not sure I'd progress any faster.

So, what kind of student are you?

Now, I honestly must confess that I had to think quite a bit on that one.
I had not thought about it at all before, lol!

I am also impatient by nature, and my husband has wondered more than once about how come I am so hooked on dressage.
On the same time I have a large need for peace, quiet surroundings and balance, and that is what the riding gives me.
But it is the partnership with the horse that is driving me.
And I think that when you shift the focus from results to instead focus on the partnership with the horse, it is easier to be patient.
As long as my horse is sound, I am happy.
I know the work will take time.
This autumn, I have had to rearrange my plans because Fame has been tense.
Without relaxation, no real work can be done so ...the rest has had to wait.

Sometimes I think that (dressage) riding is close to eastern philosophies.
The more you learn, the more you see what you lack, and that you never, ever will be the rider in your dreams. At least not me. I want much more than I ever will be able to accomplish.
But I cannot let that stop me, or spoil the joy I have in the riding.
It is all about the road, and enjoing the scenery as you travel.
And the more I am working with horses, the more fascinated I get with them.
And the more I want to learn.
But I also see that to be able to do that I need a large portion of patience, to calm down and to try and listen to my horse in the process.

So I am the eternal student, with an insatiable need to learn more (I envy you your blog name, stillearning!)

As a student, I try to stay concentrated on the tasks.
I try to give it my best, but if I am totally done I ask for a breathe.
I ask if I do not understand, but I don't argue.
If I do not agree, I keep it to myself.
I try not to get impatient with my horse (I can tell you it has been a toll this autumn).
I try to praise her at an attempt to make it right, it doesn't have to be perfect.
If I am satisified with the help I get, I tell my instructor so. They also need to hear that they have done a good job.
I might be a bit reserved with new instructors, but once I get to know them I am very grateful if we can have a more ongoing talk during the lesson about what happens, and why.
I often stay on and watch others ride. I believe watching others train for a good instructor is a very good help to my own riding, and it doesn't cost me a thing (more than time).

So how about you?


stilllearning said...

Very well-stated. If I could express my thoughts as well as you do I WOULD start a blog!

Jayke said...

stilllearning - based on the comment you wrote that HorseofCourse posted, I would say you are pretty good at expressing yourself!

What kind of a student am I? As a whole, I am not sure, as I tend to be a different student depending on the instructor I'm with. But there are some common traits:
With most instructors I:
Don't refuse to use their methods, rather I take what I need and move on.
Will try anything they suggest once, unless I feel it is unsafe.
Ask for an explanation for every instruction given. (I don't just want to know how to fix something, I want to know why what I'm doing is fixing it)
Stand up for myself and my horse if I feel one of us are at our limits (physically or emotionally)

With my current instructor I:
Talk back (we get a witty banter going)
Threaten to run her over.
Try my heart out for her, until I am physically 'done'.
Occasionally I will do things I am not comfortable with, because I trust her to get me out of my comfort zone while keeping me safe.
Question why she does what she does (not too aggressively, more for conversation sake)

So does that make me a 'good' student or a 'bad' student? Perhaps I'll ask her what she thinks when I see her this weekend...

DQwannaB said...

I just love this thread. Just Saturday I was talking to my instructor about the kind of student I am. Actually the kind of learner. I am very visual. This makes it very hard for me when the teacher is trying to explain in words what the concept or movement entails. Luckily, my instructor is very creative with coming up with analogies and different ways of saying the same thing. I've been trying to learn dressage for over 35 The thing I find that works best for me is to own instructor ride her horses, videos (dozens!) of world class riders, clinics, etc. And then, whenever she asks for something new, I have a picture in my head to refer to. Saturday she was asking for an (almost)trot-on-the-spot and when I first tried, I got all the aids wrong, using my hands too much, etc. Then I pictured how it looked when the accomplished riders did it and, low and behold, it CAME. It ended as one of the best lessons I've ever had.
I bought my trainer a Pokey (of Gumbee and Pokey fame) so she could show me exactly how she wanted me to bend the horse when I was learning traver (sp?), ranver (sp?) and half-pass..ha, ha, ha. It worked for me, though.
I love what you said about the partnership with the horse. I had said on Saturday that I hate to use the words in the Collective Marks section of Submission and Obedience. I want it to feel (and it does) like a partnership. More of the feeling that we both want the same thing and can enjoy the results when they happen.
Thank you so much for posting regularly, again. I missed you and your followers. How is the new job going? Or can you say?

Claire said...

"Sometimes I think that (dressage) riding is close to eastern philosophies."

that reminds me of Paul Belasik

my view, patience is a major virtue

HorseOfCourse said...

DQwB - the new job is going very well, thanks for asking.
This week I am on a tour visiting the branch offices so right now I am at a hotel in Tromsø, north of the polar circle.
I will try and write a post when I get home...

Anonymous said...

I like the idea to consider both sides of this coin.

Okay, so my instructor spent most of the lesson building a jump course with the parents of the kids who were riding next...I was about to say something, when I carefully thought about it.

I was frustrated because I wanted to learn something in the short time that was left. Well, the time was short because I was almost a half-hour late, due to things beyond my control, but still...

I am a flake. I am sometimes late. I miss lessons, although I will pay anyway if I forgot to tell her I was away.

I struggle with some really simple things-posting, two-point. I disregard some of my teacher's advice (such as hitting my horse to 'wake her up' before I ask for a canter). I'll grin at her and say 'Not happening', and we will agree to disagree. She was right. My horse didn't take the canter. I do go away and read, think and try to solve the problem another way. I have worked with mares most of my life and I know.. Ask nice first. Then Not-so-nice.

I take in any clinics that are at my barn. One time a clinician lost it, when my reins continued to slip through my fingers. He threatened to duct tape my hands to the reins. In the end, he tied my reins in a knot so they couldn't slip. This is all recorded on tape, and gave me and my riding buddies great amusement on our public replay.

I never show. Never plan to show. I know I suck.

My horse, a 14 yo green percheron, is not a performance animal. She lumbers and trips over her own feet, especially when I let her run out the front end...

I am over weight and too tall. Most clothes don't fit and I cannot wear the ubiquitous english riding vest. My balance used to be good, but has gone with age. Where riders have abs, I have flabs.

Not every teacher could tolerate a student like me.

I admit it. I am an avid student, but truly a slow learner.
-in Alberta

Claire said...

completely OT, but

"the ubiquitous english riding vest"

what one of those? what we in UK would call a bodywarmer?

the english language is confusing sometimes :-)

mugwump said...

When I get the chance to work with a trainer I prepare myself mentally before I ever get on my horse.I put away everything I know or think I know.
I empty my mind of every thought and try to approach my lesson as a blank slate.
I ride my best horse, not the one with the biggest problems. I want the trainer I am riding with to improve my best work.
I absorb every amount of information I can.
If the trainer welcomes questions I ask about the skills I am learning, how to accomplish a task, how (not why) the trainer gets certain things done.
After the lesson I think about every aspect of what I learned.
After the lesson I bring back my own knowledge and opinion and compare.
Then I keep what works and toss what doesn't.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Hmm, what kind of a student am I? Well, I'd like to think I was near perfect but I know for a fact that I'm not.

When I take lessons I always try and listen and do what I'm told. That said I've also learned to ask questions, which I didn't do in the beginning, figuring I knew nothing and I better just pay attention to my instructor. I am open to new suggestions and I always try to learn something new each time I ride. There is always so much to learn but there is also much information out there that I think should be discarded. Basically, I think as a student we should be prepared to give and take during learning and if the instructor doesn't have an open mind we are not going to work well together. So I guess to sum it all up, I am a student who is willing to learn and try almost anything as long as it makes sense and isn't cruel.

Anonymous said...

Claire, yep, your bodywarmer is our vest. I think what you call a vest we would call an undershirt, or in the US a 'wifebeater'

stilllearning said...

This is getting interesting...more food for thought.

"I empty my mind of every thought and try to approach my lesson as a blank slate." Great approach, and much better than being so busy trying to impress the teacher with what I know that I miss what's being offered. I get nervous riding in front of people so sometimes waste precious lesson time. If my mind is a blank slate I can shift the focus back to the teacher.

"I ride my best horse, not the one with the biggest problems. I want the trainer I am riding with to improve my best work." Never thought of that...I tend to present my problems, which might limit what was offered.

"After the lesson I bring back my own knowledge and opinion and compare." I love this image, emptying my mind, then bringing back my own knowledge for comparison.

This is a new approach for me, turning it more into what I can take away from the lesson than what I bring to it. Can't wait to try it.

The next question in this series would have been "what kind of students do trainers seek?" but mugwump may have answered it already.

Claire said...

i think - assuming i had a choice of horses! - i'd take the less good horse as RI might have some insights into helping that horse.. what works on the better horse might not, after all, be the same things that the worse horse would need. JMHO

Anne i Hannover said...

I agree with all the others that this discussion really is interesting! Thanks to HoC for having this blog:)

I'm always grateful for the chance to have someone watch me riding, and I always try to express this to the instructor, also after a not-so-good lesson.
(I have some experience as an instructor, albeit not a lot, and I found it far more difficult than riding the horse myself!)
As long as someone has made an effort to learn me something, I think it deserves a thank you.
I think that's my best "student-feature"; I'm always interested and appreciative.
On the other hand:
One time I rode for an instructor and thought "I could do this better on my own" - I don't really know if this was true at the time! Maybe I would have learned from her if I had stuck around - I chose to find another after the first couple of lesson, so I'll never know. I see some student-teacher partnerships that really benefit from the discussion that arises whan they don't agree - I'm pretty conflict-shy by nature so I don't think I would have been happy with that kind of training.

I sometimes find it difficult to disregard the things I disagree with and take away what I found useful from a lesson. The last part I don't have a problem with, but in my view everything, or most parts, of a lesson builds on what came before - in a simlified way:
If I disagree with the trainer on 1a, or find it not to work, how can we proceed to 1b? (in a long term perpective, I don't mean details. That I can live with!)

I don't think I would be able to come to a lesson with my mind a blank slate - I always try to fit the new info in with the old, trying to patch up where my knowledge has holes - although I see that this may take my focus away from the lesson at hand.

As to which horse... There's never been a choice;) But interesting idea to bring the better one. My first instinct too would be to bring the more problematic one.

RuckusButt said...

I'm very late but I'll take advantage of HoC being away and party anyway! I have two posts to catch up on...

As a student, I try to laugh at myself. Not in a negative way but in a way where I'm accepting my short-comings yet not letting them make me frustrated. It helps me deal with it when I really AM feeling frustrated. I combine that with asking questions about what I didn't execute properly and how I should try to fix it. I also describe my experience of what happened to my instructor. I think this is important so that I can compare how things felt to me against how it looked to her but also so that my instructor has a better understanding of my experience. I've found this leads to a more in-depth understanding.

When I first started group lessons again (after a long break), the other students in the group lesson didn't know what to make of me. Now, I've noticed (almost) everyone else has changed their attitude. Not only are they more willing to have a little chuckle at their own mistakes but there is a much stronger learning orientation. It's neat, like I made it ok to make mistakes and try to learn from them because I was so willing to announce my own issues. But that's just my perspective!

I try really hard when I'm in lessons (currently one group and one private per week). I try to focus and put aside my tiredness, work, and anything else. I smell the horse a lot before the lesson - aromatherapy!

I really want to hear what I'm doing wrong and I don't mind nit-picky equitation corrections at all. BUT - I don't care for it to be a constant barrage of complaints. I prefer my instructors to have better skill with timing of corrections and to "pick their battles" so to speak. I want to learn and I don't want to feel intimidated. Impressed? Sure, but not intimidated. I also prefer an honest, direct approach. I had a lesson with someone about a year ago and she phrased everything so that you never knew whether it was a compliment or an insult! It was awful.

My current instructor manages the correction balance very well, although I know their are things I could do better that I wish she would correct. Sometimes I don't find out it was an issue until I've fixed it myself!

I like tough, but fair. I like to ask questions, make jokes, complain, high human. Hmm, I think I've realized I have it pretty good right now!

RuckusButt said...

I forgot to add that I love that photo of Fame. She really is a beautiful horse!

HorseOfCourse said...

Thanks for your comments all!
I really enjoy this :-)
It is so nice to hear from all of you, spread around the world...isn't internet a fantastic thing?

stillearning - you do, so please start one!

Jayke - to get an instructor you feel comfortable with is so important. It sounds like you have found one, and that you are having fun together too!

DQwB - visualizing things is a good help when riding, I agree with you. I also try to do that; trainings, seminars, videos.
What's a Pokey?

Claire - have to read Belasik, thanks for reminding me.
I have not gotten around to buy the books on Trudi's list yet, but now Xmas is coming up, so some presents to myself might do the trick?

Alberta - I just loved your comment - thank you! I got this biggest smile when reading, and when I came to your abs and flabs, that just made it!
Well, then we are two!
My flabs are a constant reminder that I don't use my abs enough - so I guess we just have to keep hanging in there!

Mugs - I like the black slate description. I try not to bring too much luggage in the back of my head when starting with a new instructor, but I think I will make an even more conscious effort to leave that at the door when starting up next time.

GHM - that sounds close to perfect to me!

stillearning - you did get some nice comments here, right?

Claire - Interesting point. I find that some instructors work best with one horse, while others work better with another. So if I had a choice, I believe that would depend on horse and instructor.

Anne - I think that if I start to get suspiscious (1a and 1b etc) I put the instructor "on hold". Then depending on what happens I decide whether I will continue to ride for him/her or not...

RB - I believe you are a very good student!
Not taking oneself too seriously, and allow oneself to make mistakes is a very good position to really learn a lot IMHO.

DQwannaB said...

Gumby and Pokey were two characters in a 1960's cartoon. Check it out on Google...

The little Pokey 'doll' is very bendable and looks like a little orange horse, but not a Dala horse...he, he.

Valerie said...

Great post! I will try my heart out for my instructor, but only after trust has been established. I have been burned in the past by brutal teaching strategies. Thankfully, I now have an extraordinary person as an instructor. She uses visual imagery and is not afraid to walk right beside me and arrange my building blocks from the ground. I tend to over-think and over-try, so sometimes she does not tell me the purpose of an exercise. Instead she waits for my horse to show me the difference. He is also a great teacher and together they are the ultimate team!