Finding the right trainer is just like finding the right partner. You’ve heard about a fantastic new trainer, you’ve sounded them out about a potential lesson, and it’s now the big date has arrived. The initial contact has been friendly, you’ve heard lots of good things about them, and now you’re looking forward to your first meeting.
First lessons, just like first dates, are all about good first impressions. You take a bit of care picking out your outfit, you make sure your saddlecloth and brushing boots are newly washed and your tack is sparklingly clean, and you get to the barn extra early so you can groom your horse to perfection beforehand. Then there’s those first date butterflies: will they be nice? Will they like me? What if they push me out of my comfort zone? What if they think I’m absolutely useless?
Once they’ve arrived, and those awkward introductions are out of the way, it’s time to see if that elusive chemistry exists between you. Do they ask the right questions? Do they listen to what you’re saying, and take an interest in your challenges and ambitions? Do they just get you straight away?
When it comes to both dating and riding lessons, it helps if you know and understand your own personal likes and requirements. It would be somewhat awkward if we all liked the same type of person, and in the same way, different teaching styles suit different riders. Just because someone at your barn raves about their trainer, they may not be the right match for you (and hopefully you don’t fancy their husband either).
During each lesson, I want to be pushed but not overfaced.
I’d like to point out that I’ve had a LOT more lessons with different instructors than I have been on dates, so I’m a bit of an expert with the former if not the latter – thankfully, my dating years are far behind me. But I’ve seen so many varying teaching styles over the years that I’ve been able to work out exactly what I do and don’t like in my lessons, and this has undoubtedly helped me find ‘the one’.
During each lesson, I want to be pushed but not overfaced. I have a tendency to talk too much, but equally I don’t like standing around analysing stuff, I want to feel like my horse and I have both worked hard physically. I want someone I can relax and have a laugh with, but equally I don’t want them to hold back when it comes to criticism. I want to be told exactly where I’m going wrong and I only want praise when I’ve earned it, but I don’t want to be yelled at or belittled. I’m definitely talking lessons rather than dates now, but actually quite a few of the same rules still apply.
When they meet a new pupil, a good coach will be able to figure out their needs quite quickly, and adapt their teaching style to suit – some people like to be challenged, while others respond better to a gentler approach. If your coach, or your date for that matter, does something you really don’t like, you’re entitled to tell them, and if they don’t listen, well they can forget their chance of a second encounter. That isn’t to say you should flit around from person to person (hey, I’m not judging your personal life), and you should avoid having unreasonable expectations. But equally, you’re investing time, money and effort into your training, and if you’re really not enjoying yourself or making the progress you want to, or your trainer doesn’t understand you or have your best interests at heart, then you’re perfectly entitled to call it quits and start again with someone new.
Of course, there are some differences between dating and training. You don’t start every date immediately launching into a brief overview of your horse’s competition history, your current training goals and an extensive list of every single fault and issue you’ve got – well, at least I hope you don’t, and if you do, it might explain why you’re still single. Most people expect their partner to be monogamous, but you’ll have to learn to share your trainer. Nor is it appropriate for you to hand over cash to your date for the privilege of their company, though with an instructor, it’s kind of expected.
But both dating and finding the right trainer for you involve a degree of searching, a need for compatibility, and a warm glow inside when you meet someone you really like. And when it comes to trainers and to boyfriends, when you do find the right one, it’s worth holding on to them.