It is critical to ensure that a student and coach’s philosophies are aligned when it comes to the training of horse and rider. Have you ever asked your instructor or trainer why they decided to become a coach? Did they have a clear idea in their head of what career path they wanted, did they study and spend time on training themselves before they started or did they drift into it as a result of other people asking them for help and advice. It might seem an odd question to ask but it gives an indication of their underlying values and beliefs, i.e. their ‘coaching philosophy,’ which will allow you to decide if their training and coaching values are in tune with your own.
We act according to our beliefs every day, whether we are conscious of it or not. People may act as if their beliefs are set in stone, which will limit their range of responses. What are your beliefs? Are you aware of any beliefs you hold that act as a brake on your range of choices? Can you recognise beliefs in your coach that they consider irrefutable, for example ‘You must have an American Quarter Horse to be successful?’ How would this sort of belief affect that coach’s input and dedication to a rider on a Haflinger, Paint or an Appaloosa? They may wrongly assume that things aren’t improving because it’s the ‘wrong kind of horse’ rather than question their training and coaching methods.
What are the differences between beliefs and values? In simplest terms, beliefs are descriptions of cause and effect. ‘The end justifies the means’ is a belief that suggests that a person will do whatever they need in order to achieve their goal. Translate this into an equestrian situation and we open a whole can of worms about performance enhancing drugs (riders and horses), questionable training methods and competing on unfit or unsound horses. How far are you prepared to go to win a competition? Have you ever asked your trainer/coach what their thoughts are on these sorts of matters or do you always do what your trainer suggests because they should know best?
A value is something that is desirable for its own sake rather than the benefits it brings. Our values help to guide us when making difficult and ethical decisions. In previous articles we have discussed how people learn differently, preferring visual, kinesthetic or aural input from their coach. If a coach values good communication skills, for instance, they cannot adopt a ‘one size fits all’ attitude to their coaching but should strive to understand what coaching strategies will help a particular rider achieve their specific goals.
We’ve all heard the phrases: ‘Have another go;’ ‘Try that again;’ ‘You’ll get it in the end.’ When what we needed to see, hear or feel was something that we could use such as, ‘Tell me what happened during that halt?’ ‘How did that spin feel compared to the previous one?’ And, most important of all, ‘What other information do you need from me to help you achieve this?’ Training sessions do not always have to be spent on or with a horse. Time spent with your coach talking about their training methods and philosophies will always be beneficial to both coach and rider and will give both a much clearer insight into the other’s thoughts and ideas about riding and training a western horse.