There is no doubt that having a lot of regular lessons (a lot for me anyway) over the past few months has really helped me connect some dots with my riding and especially my confidence. Amazing how consistency and repetition work, eh? At the little jumper show this past weekend there was another person who has made tremendous strides with her own riding in the past 6 months or so. We got to talking about it and our general consensus was “Finding the right trainer and dedicating yourself to regular instruction makes all the difference.”. I thought she hit the two key things right on the head. Right trainer + consistency = improvement.
Granted, there are a couple other trainers I ride with on occasion (one of which I’ll be riding with again this summer when Trainer is busy having a kid) but over time I’ve gotten incredibly particular about who I’ll ride with. I’d rather have no lessons than ride with someone I don’t trust, or who doesn’t understand my horse or me, or who has no idea what I’m ultimately working toward. To me that seems pointless. I think as an eventer it’s especially important that the person at least have a good understanding of the sport and it’s demands, even if they don’t specialize in it. Let’s be honest, riding with a strictly hunter trainer would ultimately be pretty pointless for me, just as riding with an event trainer would likely be pretty pointless for a hunter rider. They might have a few helpful tips but overall the nuance isn’t there and it just doesn’t mesh.
Because I’m really particular, I don’t enter a clinic unless I know a lot about the person and how they teach, and know that their style would be complimentary to my regular instruction. Just because you’re famous or have an impressive resume doesn’t mean you’re the right fit for me and my horse. Not to mention that clinics are really expensive… I could literally have EIGHT lessons with my trainer for the cost of the average clinic. And I still walk away from her lessons having learned something every single time, plus she knows me and my horse and what we need to work on in every phase, and how it all ties together. I trust her to give me honest feedback and I especially trust her to keep me safe. There’s not a lot of appeal for me to spend a lot of money to ride with someone else at this point, although sometimes clinics are fun.
Granted, I also see the appeal of spicing it up every now and then and getting a different set of eyeballs on you. Sometimes that can help lead to big breakthroughs. But again, I’m really picky about which eyeballs. I want everyone I work with to at least be fairly like-minded and have a similar style. Otherwise I’ll end up with so many different opinions that it comes down to a “way too many cooks in the kitchen” situation and I won’t make any progress. Been there. Done that. For me it was worse than no lessons at all.
I know that dedicating myself to one person’s program and showing up as often as possible makes a big difference for me. It’s not always convenient (ok it’s rarely convenient these days, it’s a freaking 4 hour drive round trip) but I kinda feel like either you really want to get better and will put forth the effort to do so, or you don’t and won’t. Hopping constantly back and forth from one trainer to another, or doing what’s most convenient, or just meeting up with someone for coaching at shows doesn’t work for me. It’s important that the person I ride with regularly also sees me at shows, so they know how everything translates for me when I’m in the ring. That’s how I build and improve.
I’m curious about what everyone else’s approach is to training, trainers, and lessons. Do you prefer to stick with just one person, or a few people with a similar style? Or would you rather get as many different eyes on you as possible? Is being in a regular lesson program important to you or do you just take them as you can get them? Do you think it’s vital that the person you ride with have experience with your specific discipline? How important is The Right Trainer to you?