In equestrian sport and most other sports a good coach is a tremendous asset. For equestrians the coach is coaching a team of two; the horse and the rider. I believe that no matter how talented the horse or the rider a coach is needed to make any kind of real progress and is absolutely essential if you want to compete. Having eyes on the ground is how the rider can find out if what they are doing is effective. But although having a coach is necessary there are good ones, not so good ones and some are downright bad.
THE INDIFFERENT COACH.
The indifferent coach may not damage you but he or she will not help you. They do not really get after you when you make an error or help when you are just not grasping some essential concept. “That’s super Darling,” is the kind of thing they chirp at you during lessons. The rider may develop a false sense of accomplishment which will be crushed once they enter the competition ring especially in a judged sport like dressage. I have no idea why indifferent coaches are coaching as they seem to have little genuine enthusiasm for the work. With one of these coaches you cannot make real progress . But you can feel comfortable.
THE BAD COACH
I’m sorry to say there really are BAD coaches out there. These are people who are frustrated with some aspect of their lives, people who are control freaks, people who resent any success or perceived advantage in life that any of their students have and finally there are people who seem to get some sort of enjoyment out of knocking their students down. I know these coaches exist. I have had a couple of them in the past and I knew I had to get out before my confidence was destroyed. These coaches can destroy a student’s confidence and self esteem. Avoid them no matter how famous they may be.
Good coaches are those who have followed the route of getting qualified in their national federations programs that allows a prospective student know what levels they are qualified to teach. This can also include getting recognized qualification as a judge in a judged discipline. The good coaches are the ones who go the extra mile, who really care about how their students are progressing, who wait anxiously on the rail while their students are in the competition arena. They meet the student when they come out of the ring for a quick debrief.
In the warm up ring they are there, giving last minute encouragement and tips. They are there in the cold or in the heat and still there at the end of a long day.
The good coaches are there for the older riders and the youngest riders, going over the course and reminding the rider of important details of the ride.
The good coaches are not always easy going. Sometimes they push you on relentlessly. And that is how you move up the levels. They give you the confidence to do it. When you get it wrong you hear about it but when you get it right they are as excited about it as you are. So don’t settle for the indifferent coach and do not stay with the bad coach. There are good coaches out there so look around for them; watch them coaching at shows, if possible watch them teach other riders and decide if they might be a good fit for you.
I am extraordinarily lucky to have two very good coaches: Belinda Trussell at home in Canada and Lou Denizard in Florida in the winter. They push me on and support me and I am very grateful to have both of them on my side. I would not be riding at the level I am now without them. It is as simple as that.