5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Become a More Effective Trainer: Olympians Lendon Gray and Ali Brock Launch Training4Teaching Initiative

Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 11, 2020 – Trainers and aspiring professionals from across the country gathered at Wellington Community High School in January for the launch of a new educational program, Training4Teaching. Designed by Olympians Lendon Gray and Ali Brock, the Dressage4Kids program is designed to help professionals at all levels become better educators and more effective trainers by providing insight on effective communication.

Photo by Alex Stark.

The free program’s first session took place in Wellington on Jan. 12 and focused on a variety of questions trainers should consider in order to present information effectively to their students. It is common in the equestrian industry that trainers are responsible for both teaching students new theories and exercises, while also coaching them on how to further develop their skills.

“Teaching is helping learners learn — the focus is learning,” Brock explained to the participants. “Coaching is refining and developing a skill someone has learned. There is a focus on development.”

Photo by Alex Stark.

Laying out goals and developing a training pathway to accomplish that goal with regular students is paramount in advancing the education of the rider and/or the horse. This being said, Gray, from the very start, emphasized, “I have such respect for the horse. [As a trainer] I never ever lose sight of the welfare of the horse when teaching.”

Questions to Consider About Teaching

“Do you have a progressive system that makes sense?”
Understanding how to train a horse is one thing, and understanding how to train a rider is another. Many times trainers have to do both; train a rider to train a horse. In any case, it is paramount to have a base system of training to follow to bring horses and riders up the levels with correctness and understanding. Are you able to describe your system? If you had to write a mission statement, could you? Also consider that a progessive system means that there is progression. There needs to be realistic challenges and praise when appropriate for both equine and human.

“Does the student know the aids and the purpose for the exercise?”
Often instructors say commands, such as “shoulder-fore” without thought that the rider may not understand the exercise, how it benefits the horse, and/or the purpose. Being certain students know these details is the job of the trainer, especially when it is apparent the student is unsure.

“Are you flexible while teaching?”
Being able to adapt to different riders, horses and situations is a key part of the job. It has to be taken into account that riders, along with their horses, learn differently. Being flexible in the approach but sticking to the principle is the way to success. Other things to consider may be the fitness of the horse or rider. Another area to approach with creativity, possibly with a walk lesson or frequent walk breaks improve the session.

“Are you helping students have their own thoughts?”
Most have had a lesson where they are merely a puppet to an instructor who is continuously prompting them. But what happens when the trainer is gone? It is crucial that the student can ride independently, even when the instructor is present. If they never have a moment to process information, it will be hard for the rider to develop their own set of decision making skills.

Photo by Alex Stark.

“Do you have self-awareness, patience, an open mind, and a sense of humor?”
An awareness of emotions before beginning to teach is very important. Neither students, nor horses need the stress of a trainer who reflects their personal frustrations into a lesson or training session. Obviously patience is necessary when teaching new skills to anyone, especially horses, and an open mind and sense of humor make the job easier and enjoyable. Remember, horses also have emotional intelligence.

Want to find out more about the Training4Teaching Program? Click here. The program will be held throughout the winter season in Wellington, Florida. If you would like to support these events, please contact Lendon Gray.

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