Thursday, March 20, 2014

Well, I didn't make anyone cry ...

I happened to be messing around on Facebook and saw a post that Miss T. was down with the stomach flu today.  I texted her and asked who was filling in for her classes today and she said she was going to try and power through and come in because no one was available to sub.  I pointed out that none of the parents (including me) wanted her to bring her germs so stay home and the boss and I would figure something out.  That something was me taking her classes and rescheduling my private lessons.  Which is fine, although I really only teach private lessons and have only taught a handful of classes so it was a little nerve wracking.

It's a very different deal teaching a group riding lesson than a private.   And to add to that we usually have two instructors and three volunteers helping with the class (so one person per kid on a horse except for my daughter who can ride independently in class which is good because we have five staff and six kids on ponies).  Anyway, I'm usually the instructor in there helping Miss T. but with no Miss T. it was just me - and instead of just being there in case anyone needs me, I had to be the lead teacher.  And one of our volunteer teens was sick too.  So, it was a challenge for me.

Private lessons for kids takes a lot of parenting skills but leading group lessons takes a lot of entertainment "being on stage" skills.  Which I do have, but only in small increments.  Miss C.  does that all day long several days a week.  I'm not sure how she gets all that energy to keep that up for so long.   When our boss asked how it went today I really didn't know what to say except, "Well, none of the parents were glaring at me and I didn't make anyone cry."  And as one of the volunteers added, "And no one fell off!"  So I guess it was a success.

I am still really enjoying this being an instructor thing.  I can't believe I've only been doing it for seven months because it's starting to feel very comfortable and second-nature.  I'm finding it's a lot like my process of writing - which is I have a specific goal in mind when I go into it, then I just see what flows through me and where it takes me.  Its like somehow all the knowledge I've been hoarding over the last eight years (that I've been back into horses) comes out of dark little pockets of my brain and flows through my mouth without me totally knowing what to expect that I'm going to say.  Some stuff is even stuff I learned when I was a kid riding Hunter/Jumper and I realize I had completely forgotten about it until it came up in a lesson.

Something I've been thinking about recently is something someone said to me eight years ago that really had an effect on me, in a negative way at first and now in kind of a "screw you" motivational way.  I was volunteering at a horse rescue to ease my way back into horses and I'd forgotten everything from when I was a kid.  So, I had just signed up for riding lessons and was volunteering cleaning stalls in order to get back into the swing of things.  I mentioned to the head of the rescue that I would like to become a horse trainer and she said that would never happen because I didn't have enough horse experience and even she - who'd been riding her whole life - wasn't arrogant enough to think she'd ever be a trainer.  So, I should just be realistic and not plan to do that.

A couple weeks later at one of my riding lessons I off-handedly said to my instructor that I'd like to someday be a trainer but that was kind of a stupid goal for a 39 year old woman who hadn't been around horses in over two decades.  She said "Why in the world is that a stupid idea?" and told me to keep taking lessons, read everything I could and immerse myself in learning about horses and if I wanted to eventually be a trainer, I could learn enough to be a trainer.  Thankfully, I decided to listen to her instead of miss negative-pants back at the rescue.

Of course, in the process of immersing myself in learning (or re-learning in some cases) after a couple years I realized I did not want to be a trainer.  Much as I love working with horses, there is an element of perfect timing needed when training horses that I'm not completely sure I have the talent to ever master and the responsibility of mastering that timing on a completely instinctual and almost psychic level sounded too daunting.  And the other reason - dealing with the horse owners.

After a year of following Trainer K. around like a puppy and watching every move she made and studying everything she said and did with attention to every single little detail (obsessively like some sort of weird educational stalker ...) I realized that owners were probably the most annoying thing in the world because no matter what Trainer K did, they (or I in the case of her training my horses) would come along and inadvertently send the training two steps back because of their own amateur way of dealing with the horses.    That would drive me nuts! And it would drive me nuts even more if the owner was the type who would ruin all the work I'd done by their own ignorance and then get mad at me for "not doing a better job with their horse".  So, I wrote off the idea of being a trainer years ago.

But I had continued to dream about being an instructor and audited clinics and took lots of notes and listened (like an educational stalker) to the clinicians, and read as many books as I could and watched videos and debated different training techniques with my horse friends and on internet forums, and then when I was given the opportunity to learn about teaching and get a chance to do it at the pony school I jumped on it.  And now I think it's ok to say that I'm maybe kind of successful at what I'm doing right now and maybe some of my kids might kind of be actually learning something productive about riding.  But I have to admit that there are still times when I expect to run into that lady who used to run that horse rescue and she'll say to me "Who do you think you are being an *instructor*? Didn't I tell you you would never be good enough to do that sort of thing?"  I guess I would say back, "Well, I did just spend the last eight years completely immersing myself in learning to the point where I've gone to school for equine anatomy/physiology/kinesiology and I grill every horse professional I know about what they're doing and how they do it.  I even wrangled Gerd Heuschmann into having lunch with me to pick his brain.  I raised my hand in front of an auditorium full of people to ask Buck Brannaman his opinion on an issue (even though I'd rather die than speak in front of that many people).  I have dedicated most of my energy into learning as much as I possibly can about horses and how to handle, ride and care for them and how to teach others to.  So WTF makes you think I can't be an instructor?"

I think what is most baffling to me is why I feel more affected by what she said than what my first instructor (as an adult) said to me only a couple weeks later about how all I had to do was try to learn and I could do whatever I wanted.  So, I'm still amazed this instructor thing seems to be working out well.  I'm enjoying it even more than I imagined I would!

I was telling one of the tween volunteers she should google Spanish Riding School of Vienna because she said she'd like to be a riding instructor when she grows up and I said she was young enough she could go be an Eleve there and that would be an amazing education.  If I am ever reincarnated I would want to do that ... since I'm a little too old now to do that.



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