Are you being trained or instructed?…

Terminology varies when referring to riding instructors, or coaches, or trainers, or teachers and we all probably believe that they (whatever you call them) do the same thing, but I’ve come to realise that this isn’t the case.

For years and years before I found my current trainer I would seemingly make progress in my lessons and feel like I’d ‘got it’, then as I was left to my own devices to practise what I had been told (not taught, told) I could feel the sense of confidence and understanding in what I was supposed to be doing and why slowly ebb away as each post lesson day passed. This then resulted in the need to have another lesson in order to re-gain that progress that we had lost. It felt like I was stuck in a cycle of 1 step forwards and 2 steps back.

dustry4Things came to a head when I was competing Soap, and trying to progress from Intro to Pre Novice. Our dressage and XC was not an issue and we regularly scored fair dressage marks and sailed round the XC penalty free. Show jumping was our major downfall and the increased demands it placed on us at Pre Novice level quickly exposed the holes in our training.

In search of a solution I sent Soap away to a show jumper for a boot camp and had a series of follow up lessons. Believing that if I specialised I could improve our performance I also sought out 3 specialist trainers, one for each phase of eventing to have lessons with. Needless to say having instruction from 3 different people is mind boggling as they all have differing approaches and advice – I won’t be doing that again in a hurry, my brain cells were fried!!!

I was at my wits end with my own riding ability and results when a chance recommendation from former GB eventer Melanie Gurdon led me to my current trainer Amanda Brewer.

MVI_6745-1Initially I went for my first lesson with Amanda fully intending to have just the one lesson because she charged much more than I had been used to paying (which was £20-£30 per lesson). Having spoken to her on the phone beforehand she had gone to great lengths to explain how and why she could help us and that we weren’t a hopeless case, so I felt it would be rude not to go ‘just this once’. That was 4 years ago, and I’m still having lessons with her!

That first lesson was quite frankly a revelation. I had never had training like it, and I came away feeling so positive and informed, like I had gone through some sort of epiphany!

That was when I realised the difference between being trained and receiving instruction. The best way I can think of explaining it is as follows….


If the pilot of the aircraft I was in disappeared and I had to land the plane, air traffic control could talk me through the landing process and instruct me on how to land the plane.

This doesn’t mean that I can now fly, this doesn’t even mean that I can now land, this just means that in that moment under that instruction I can do what’s asked of me.


If I join the RAF they can train me to fly, educate me and inform me so that I understand, develop the skills to fly and land my plane, and other planes too

and this applies to riding too. There are many instructors out there who can improve you in your lessons, and I had years of instruction from a wide range of riders all of whom had the personal results to prove they were top of their game as riders, but none of them provided the real, correct, useful and educational training that I was looking for so they were all effectively only offering instruction. Being instructed wasn’t giving me what I needed so that I could advance my skills, my knowledge and my capability not just on my own horse, but on horses in general.

dustryfaceI look back at videos of me competing in the past and I see them with fresh eyes thanks to my training. At the time I was proud of them and believed myself to be a good amateur rider, now I watch them and cringe. I can see that I’m not really riding at all, and I can see my faults clear as day, but that’s not a bad thing.

My aim with my riding is always to try and progress and improve, I don’t go out to beat the competition I go out to beat my best result to date, and that’s why being trained rather than instructed is so important and enjoyable for me. Being of a competitive nature I always want to try and improve. The nerd in me likes structure, learning, data, and progression and that’s why I simply can’t get enough of training! I think this quote sums up rather nicely the perspective that I feel training can provide compared to instruction

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Albert Einsten.




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