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Some years on the renowned judge and trainer (and my inspiration in terms of taking on judge training), Inger Bryant, had the same sympathetic approach to dressage training and would put me and my horses into situations where we could learn. Sessions rarely stopped except to rest the horse but by riding exercises that flowed from one to another it became easier to find the balance (and lose it!) and gradually create a store of different feelings that ultimately lead to a better understanding of balance.
Living in a fairly remote area of France in a hopelessly non-
I have continued to watch, read, ride and develop so that today, in spite of my faults and bad habits, I can train my horses without frustration and with total honesty. The icing on the cake and the biggest, fattest cherry were still out there though. Finding positive reinforcement training has, for the time being, completed the puzzle. The way an animal learns is hugely important, even the old masters in their own way understood the importance of fairness and respect when dealing with horses. Whilst their ways (or the modern day concept of natural horsemanship) are not positive reinforcement it does show an acceptance that force was not the answer.
I am a facilitator rather than dictator; I fail to learn under a harsh regime even though I'm aware that lessons in humility are important I do not wish to be belittled or find that it makes me stronger or better as a rider. I look for situations that will set you up to succeed; there are no wrong answers, no stupid questions. Through gymnastic exercises, thoughtful discussion and supported debate I can help you become a thoughtful, perceptive trainer.
Learning is good, it is essential for progress. We learn in many ways, through repetition, practice, watching, copying, coaching…the list goes on and is different for each individual. It is tough enough taking on new information when it's just us but add in the equine element and it gets a whole lot tougher.
I've had many teachers over the years but only a few of them have given me the tools I required to learn, lit the touch paper as it were. Sister Philomena my convent Maths teacher was the most quiet, gentle teacher who coaxed out the best of me without ever raising her voice or eyebrows at the improbability of an answer.
Other teachers had spoken of invisible aids, keeping the horse 'round' and riding 'back to front'; then had me ride in draw reins to achieve it!
In truth you can't know what you don't know. I was, for years, oblivious to what was wrong (except to know that draw reins were very wrong) but in Inger I got a taste for the truth.
The arrival of the World Wide Web and a move to France changed my course in equal measure.
The internet provided me with new avenues to explore, my gospels up to this point had been Seunig and Oliveira but I was confused with the discrepancy between their photographs of correctness compared to what I was seeing in the competition arena. I now found others to admire with Karl, Beran, Branderup et al; trainers advocating true lightness that allowed for that back to front connection coupled with an elegance and poise reminiscent of a previous era.
How does any of this impact on my own skill as a teacher?