Coaching, reflections after more than 35 years of equestrian life.

by petros on September 29, 2017

Over many years of working and training with horses I have learned a lot from some great riders but I have also learned a lot about how not to be as a coach by some pretty bad coaching practices I have experienced. I think as an individual we have to be open to new ideas and to be receptive to guidance by others while at the same time have the maturity to be selective and critical in our appraisal of particular methods or approaches to horse/rider training.

Undoubtably there are many ‘roads to Rome’ so an inquisitive attitude, exploring methodologies based on sound equestrian principles would be a good way to develop a depth of knowledge and experience. I always ask of myself and others the question, ‘why?’. Knowing the reasoning behind and action or the will to do or not do something by either the horse or the rider will better inform us about the value of the action, its purpose and also guide us in our decision to encourage it or modify it if necessary.

From an early age I have been a sporty person participating in team games, football, basketball, volleyball and also had the chance to be coached in table-tennis and tennis as a young athlete. My earliest memories of being coached though are from a swimming club in Athens. A highly competitive club keen to produce champion swimmers, one problem they sadly overlooked was that in order to become a great swimmer you need to first want to get in the water and enjoy the experience. If something is experienced as fun and pleasurable then you might want to spend more time doing it and so little by little you become adept, developing expertise. ‘Hot-housing’ people or for that matter horses in pressurised training which is prematurely demanding on the physical and mental development is one sure way of putting them off and creating resentment rather than enthusiastic participants that fulfil their potential of success. 

At the other end of the spectrum I have also experienced the ‘disinterested’ coach, one that is bored of delivering their session, not engaging in the process of ‘proximal development’  that good coaches enable so that the student can explore and discover new ways of doing and develop the skills towards expertise. As a coach one has to be prepared to give generously of oneself, willing to impart our wealth of experience whilst also allowing room for the student to discover by exploration and by making their own mistakes.

Somewhere in between, can be argued, you can find perhaps the ‘boring’ coach/trainer that while perhaps sound in technical knowledge lacks the personality and ‘feel’ for ‘reading’ the horse and rider in front of them, failing to tune in to the situation so that they can better enthuse and engage them in the learning process. A coach can be thought of as a ‘catalyst’ that enables the ‘chemical reaction’ , needing to be the thing that creates the right conditions for learning to occur.

Some key attributes: Depth of knowledge/experience, patience, clarity of intention, passion for their sporting discipline, enthusiasm for enabling others, love and respect for the horse.

Some key concepts in the triadic relationship between horse-rider-coach: mutual trust and respect.

Petros Eventing training: “Go for it!” Share

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