Last week I gave a lesson to a student of mine whom is very critical of herself.
She rode a horse she was unfamiliar with and felt quite uncomfortable in the beginning.
I gave her some time to familiarize herself with the horse and then we proceeded to work on the things that we wanted to improve.
During the lesson, she gave me a clear description of the information she was getting from the horse, and what she felt needed improvement. Her connection with the horse improved during her ride and she managed to get the horse to move forward without experiencing too much resistance along the way. Knowing this horse, I thought she did quite a good job of motivating him.
At the end of the lesson, I asked her how she felt and what she thought went well.
She could not think of one thing that she was happy with!
When I pressed on, she grudgingly admitted to a few things that were perhaps better at the end. However, in her mind they were canceled out by the enormous gap between her expectations of herself and her feelings as to how she had actually performed.
When I pointed out in detail a number of things I thought had improved, and mentioned that there were quite a few of them, She said: “You are just being nice”.
“Well”, I said, I take “being nice” very seriously!!
Someone once told me that he was sure that my students stayed with me because I was nice. It was clearly implied that I was using unfair tactics that had nothing to do with professional training.
Being positive and acknowledging the things that a rider does well, is very serious business indeed. It is probably the most important and professional thing you can do for them and will set the stage in the best possible way for improvement.
This does not mean that I don’t give my students a realistic appraisal of what needs to be improved; it simply means that I am using their competence to do so, and not strengthening their incompetence instead.
More on these thoughts in my upcoming blogs.