Your Turn: On teaching teaching

Knowing how to ride and knowing how to teach are two completely different skill sets. Caitrin O’Shea got thrown in the deep end and resurfaced with these tips.

From Caitrin:

Teaching horses is easy. Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. Expect little, praise often. I love the progression of teaching horses… even if its not always the lateral progression we hoped for! I absolutely live for the moment when you feel the horse underneath you “get it.”

Teaching people is a completely different ball of wax, and one that I have given a wide berth to all these years. Recently I’ve had occasion to trade a couple lessons for favors to a couple different victims and it has been an education for me! I rarely talk about riding–either I’m busy doing the riding, or I’m hanging out with friends or co-workers who haven’t the slightest idea so I try to talk about other things. So now to switch gears completely and to try and talk non-stop about riding is tough! I think many people get the introduction to teaching through Pony Club, but since I was never really involved in a Pony Club, I missed the gradual, regimented introduction, and just dove in head first!

So here are some initial lessons I learned while giving my first “lessons.”

1.) The easiest way to diagnose the problem is to watch the horse. Maybe the riders heels go up a bit over the fence, or she pinches with her knees a bit, but if the horse is flipping his head because she forgets to release, that’s where you should start. Working your way back to the rider is much easier after you have a happy horse.

2.) No exercise is too simple. Its easy to want to “go big or go home” with the exercises like the big time clinicians, but instead it is important to “teach the rider in front of you,” just like you must always “ride the horse underneath you.” You can teach a lot with just two poles on the ground!

3.) Imagining you are the one riding can help diagnose the problem, but it’s also a crutch. By imagining it’s you up there, you can imagine what you might do different, but by the time your brain has connected to your muscle memories and then back to your brain, the moment has probably passed when you need to tell the rider to do that thing that you would have done if it were you!

4.) So, knowing that, what do you do? Go with your gut instinct. But then make sure you explain your gut instinct as you go– as you’re articulating your idea, you might just say something worth saying!

5.) There’s an expression that I love in French, “l’esprit d’escalier.” Literally it means “the spirit of the stair,” but it is expressing that moment when you walk away from someone and come up with the perfect comeback as soon as you leave their presence. Similarly, there are many moments of “Ah ha!!” about 40 minutes after the lesson is over. Best thing to do is to write it down and plan to work on it next time. (There will be a next time, right?!)

6.) The more you do it, the better you get. Duh, right? …So, who wants a free lesson?

Photo: HN

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