I got up this morning and thought about how I have two weeks that I don't have to go to work starting today and instead of feeling thrilled I felt kind of sad. Well, that's a new one! Could it be I'm actually starting to get a little attached to my students? I think I am. Especially now that most of them have been with me for about four months now and I'm really starting to see some big improvements. That's exciting! Especially because I still have a gnawing feeling that someone is going to come out of the woodwork and announce to the world that I don't know enough to be an instructor.
What I'm also really surprised about is that I thought this would be something I would do on the side while I'm learning equine massage and then it would end up falling away eventually as a transitional hobby. But I'm thinking it may end up being a half and half career and that I want to keep this up permanently. I'm finding that I want to study riding instruction and how to improve on that just as much as I want to study equine massage. And the two seem to compliment each other so that is nice. And there's nothing like seeing that lightbulb moment where you push a kid just a little past their comfort zone and suddenly they realize they can do something new you can see what a positive change that made for them.
One of my students has been really struggling getting one of our big horses, Bandit to listen to her. He's a sweetheart, but if you're not clear with your aids he will go and stand in the middle of the arena and take a nap, or follow me around like there are magnets attaching him to my back. We've been working on her balanced seat and her steering but I can't do that while he's following behind me so I've been leading him with a longe whip so that I can watch what she's doing and help her along - it's like a lesson on a longe line only without a longe line because Bandit listens to well to my commands and the movement of the longe whip it's just like having him on one even without it. Her balance has been improving and she's been breaking habits like letting her hands drift over the middle of his neck so when she asked why I didn't bring in the lunge whip I said I thought she was ready to start riding him alone and getting him to listen to her instead of me.
At first she was hesitant and said she was sure he wouldn't and I pulled out the old "if you don't believe you can do it, you won't be able to do it" (which is true). It started out pretty rough at first with Bandit continuing to follow right behind me and I had to coach her through how to make corrections and remind her to remember the balance and steering aids we'd been working on, and after a few minutes she was out walking him in a circle around the wall all by herself without me giving him commands and she was even able to take him through some of the obstacles! It was so cool to see how after just a couple months she went from him not understanding her at all to being able to ride him at a walk all by herself without my intervention! I think I got just as excited as she did.
A few days ago another instructor (not at the school - just some random guy) made a comment to me about how I only know formulaic riding and will never be a good rider until I break out of that. Since he's never taught me a lesson in my life and has never seen me teach anyone and barely knows anything about me or how I ride (except for I go to the same shows and clinics as him) I thought that was awfully presumptious and actually totally wrong. If anything I worry I am not following "the rules" enough. I'm all for constructive criticism but it'd be like someone coming up to me and saying, "You need to act more like your age of twenty-two" You know ... something that I am completely not. I wonder how many people's minds he's messed with by just assuming he has a monopoly on certain ideas and everyone else is an idiot. What if I actually valued his opinion? I'd be running around obsessed with how to not be "formulaic" when that is the last thing I am. Still a beginner instructor, still needing to learn a lot about theory and technique and all that, but definitely NOT formulaic. Thankfully, I know myself well enough to know when crackpots just don't know when to stop spouting off. Although twenty years ago I'd have been all sorts of worried and confused trying to figure out why all this time I thought was 46 years old when it turns out I'm really 22 years old.
I'll leave you with an interesting version of one our family's absolute favorite Christmas Carols (or just plain ole winter song really)