Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why America Is Producing Such Mediocre Instructors

This is a subject which I believe is not only resonating within the US but also within other countries. I see it happen on my own home ground in Australia.

You can find the full story here on The Riding Instructor. 

This is a subject which I see represent itself at every competition, local, national and international. We live in a world now where the ribbon, the prize is the the epitome of many riders careers. There are many riders who prefer the easy option. The push-button ride they know will come out on top. What is worse is that these riders most likely get into the teaching profession and this ties into number 1 below. You can only teach what you know. Our riders are not diversified with different styles of horse and a vast majority could not start a young horse or take a troubled off the tracker to stardom. Therein lies the problem.

George Morris once said "If riding were only blue ribbons and bright lights, I would have quit a long time ago." Sadly, that is what people strive for. More time is spent practicing movements or jumps than spent schooling horse and in turn schooling the rider. Riders should not be single disciplined, there should be a cross over. Cross training for horses and riders should be as common as cross training for other athletes. Versatility is important. It is vital to creating a great horse. Jumping goes hand in hand with dressage. Dressage can take pages from jumping. Why is there a lack of people taking the effort to train their horses, not just buy the best their bank balance can afford. Without the knowledge of other disciplines and riding styles how can you expect the quality of instructors to continue as it once did in decades past.

The following is an excerpt from the article: 

"1.  Too many Instructors are not learning and teaching foundations and basics
Instructors can only teach what they have learned, whether it be from their instructors, clinics, books or experience. If a system of basics isn’t taught to the first generation , the second generation will be weaker and so on down the line. This is a reason that so many of our current instructors lack depth.  They may have miles and miles of show ring experience, but they lack the fundamental foundation and do not understand how one principal depends on another to form a strong base of knowledge.
Students are not usually encouraged to read the classics and when they are, the classics are out of print and unavailable. A horseman can’t go into a tack or book store and purchase books by authors such as, Harry Chamberlin, Gordon Wright, Vladimir Littauer, Piero Santini, or Margaret Cabell Self.  In the January 11, 2002 Chronicle of the Horse article “Observations I’ve Made While Teaching”  George Morris wrote “Unless teachers review the classics of riding and jumping literature on a regular basis, they will become stale and fall prey to fashions and fads.”
Instructors can only teach what they know or what they see. We have a generation of copy cat instructors who see something but have no idea about the principles behind what they see.  They teach it to students, some who become instructors themselves, and their knowledge is more shallow than their predecessors. This has created a spiraling down cycle and a dilution of the quality of instruction in the U.S.
2.  Too many riding instructors in America are in the wrong profession.
A person is not automatically a teacher because he knows how to do something himself. There are many extremely talented, even Olympic level, riders who are naturally gifted. They ride like they really know riding, but as spectacular as they and their horses are, they can’t explain why they do what they do. The most important quality of a good instructor is that he or she is able to get you, the student, to understand the principle of what he or she is teaching.
A trainer of horses does not automatically have the tools to be a good teacher, either. A trainer communicates without words.  Many who are patient with their horses have no patience for human students and they lack good communication skills. She or he may be the best trainer, able to get their horses to do amazing things, but it is no indication that they will be a good teacher.
A coach is a motivator who is also a teacher in many ways, but a coach is concerned with competition. Frequently, equestrian coaches deal more with the psychology of winning than they do the art of horsemanship.  In a the July 7, 2006 Chronicle of the Horse article “Where Did We Come from? Where are We Going?” George Morris quotes former USET  3 day Coach, Jack LeGoff. Morris says, “When talking to Jack the other day about his new book, I asked him what was wrong. He hit the nail on the head, as usual: The young trainers are teaching their students to compete. They are not, necessarily, teaching them to ride.”
The ability to teach is a gift and a talent. Instructors who lack the gift of teaching also lack the passion and ability to understand their subject and are unable to give their students a thorough riding foundation. They are usurpers masquerading as instructors.
3. Too Many Riding Instructors Teach for the Wrong Reasons
In an October 10, 1997 Chronicle of the Horse article “Values- And Boys- Are Hard To Find On Our Horse Show Scene” George Morris wrote “Money and greed are the worst problems that have crept in to what I used to think of as my sport.  I’m afraid unless our society has a big shock, that money will be the eventual ruination of this sport as we once knew it.”
It takes lots of money to run a good barn and keep up the right appearance. Money is a driving force in today’s horse industry, even more than it was in 1997. A trainer’s lifestyle depends on clients and commissions. Many instructors and trainers strive to keep their students dependent on them so they can keep clients, and they teach “over their heads” in order not to lose their client to another barn.
The goal is wrong. Horse Shows used to be a “progress test” for riders, a way to see how you compared to other riders in order to improve yourself as a horseman. More often than not, today horse shows ARE the goal for riding.  The horse professional, be it trainer, instructor or coach, makes much of his money at and because of, horse shows. This causes trainers to find the fast track, the easy way, the short cut for their students, in order to get their student on the show circuit faster.  Students don’t learn how to work through problems.  They learn how to replace problems with a better horse. They don’t develop an eye for distances.  They count strides.  They don’t develop a base of support. They lay on their horses over fences.
Judges reward bad training techniques and short cuts because they are obligated to place classes.  And competitors do what it takes to win. If a slow canter placed this week, next week the horses will be cantering even slower.  If the winner’s horse had its face on the vertical this week, next week the horses will be slightly behind the vertical.  Trainers copy to win without knowing what they copied and they teach these short cuts to their students. Instead of giving students the tools that are required to train a horse and to ride well, our riders are becoming gimmick professionals. The crutches become the way to ride and copy cat riders and trainers turn them into fads. Fads, crutches, gimmicks, and short cuts lead to cruel training practices, over use of artificial training aids, quick fixes and disposable horses.
The Results
The result of not educating our future riders in classical principals,  of turning our sport into an industry that is motivated by money, and providing quick fixes and fast tracks, is that we have diluted U.S. Horsemanship.  U.S. Horsemanship is no longer the envy of other countries.  And our equestrian venues have become increasingly dangerous to the point that we are killing horses and their riders. Teachers and instructors are the people who have the most powerful influence over the upcoming generation of horsemen and women.  Unless instructors choose to develop depth in their own education and unless instructors are willing to slow down and teach the foundation to their students, U.S. Horsemanship will continue on it’s downward spiral."
This is the first article I've come upon that reflects how I feel on the current generation of riders and instructors. 

Stay tuned for more posts, one year without blogging is a bit ridiculous! 

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