Article on a students responsibilty to dressage trainers

I read the article Our Responsibility to Dressage Trainers on “Dressage Different” website. By the way, interesting website. Check it out when you have time.

While I believe the author brings up some valid points that all students should know and understand, I still feel a bit angry over it.  There are decent examples for how students can help manage his/her own expectations, but I’m getting tired of the trainer centric view of the student/trainer relationship.

From “Our Responsibility to Dressage Trainers”:

There are a few responsibilities that the student has to the instructor. First and foremost you must come to the lesson ready to learn. You must listen with both ears and leave your ego on the mounting block.

If a student comes to a lesson late and pays for the full lesson anyway, who did that hurt? If a student didn’t want to learn, couldn’t set their ego aside for the ride, yet pays the trainer anyway… again, who did that hurt? It is not the student’s responsibility to make the instructor feel fulfilled in their job, or make them feel as though they make a difference.  Our only real responsibility to our trainer is to complete the contract (have a lesson then pay for the lesson).  Why anyone would choose to pay for lessons and then not pay attention is beyond my comprehension, but either way, the student has no obligation or responsibility to make sure that the trainer feels happy about teaching. Yes, there are frustrating students, but Mr. or Ms. Trainer, I hate to break it to you, but there are really nasty customers out there in the real world that scream and cuss at you for providing a service. If the worst you have to deal with is someone not listening to you so you can earn enough money to pay your mortgage, then count your blessings.

The article went on to state:

There is no such thing as the perfect dressage trainer and expecting an omnipotent god-like being with the answers to all questions will end with two very unhappy people.

The main thing that got me riled up is the assumption that it’s the students fault for not realizing the trainer doesn’t know everything. It is not the students job to patiently wait months or years to determine that their trainer (who hasn’t bothered to tell them before this point) doesn’t know how to teach something correctly. And then the author brushes aside this fact with the remark that trainers “aren’t omnipotent god-like” beings. If the trainer doesn’t know something, isn’t experienced with it, then TELL US UP FRONT!

Further down the article, it states:

And finally, there will be times when your dressage trainer will have to make hard calls.

Sometimes horses are not suitable for the rider and an unsafe environment is being created. There are times when the owner must be pulled from the horse for a period of time to ensure the success of the relationship.

Wait. What?!?

It is NOT the trainers job to make the “hard decisions” for their students. This goes back to “Why students believe their trainers are omnipotent god’s”. Trainer’s propagate this idea that it’s the trainers job to “make the hard decisions”. I pay for knowledge transfer, but under NO circumstance am I letting go of my freedom to decide what I do. It is my job to make the hard decisions based on all available information (a trainer’s opinion being part of that information). I am never, ever, going to be okay with a trainer making decisions for me. It’s my horse, my money, my time. I work too damn hard to give up my freedom. I will listen, and I will take it into consideration. But no one is going to make decisions for me. To top it off you want me to pay you money to take away my rights? It’s just not going to happen. Get over it.

Finally, it says:

Secondly, recognize what you want from dressage and do not force your instructor to be something they are not. Dressage trainer’s responsibilities can be split into four basic subsets: instructor, trainer, competitor and businessperson. Different trainers have different strengths, some are amazing teachers and business people but have no urge to compete.

Go back to the top: it’s NOT the students responsibility to be precognitive, without any verbal communication, of a trainers talents or expertise. It is the trainer’s responsibility to explain to a student what they can help the student with, and to allow the student to determine if it fits in with what they want. I rarely meet trainers that do this. A majority of trainers will be happy to omit telling a student that they are not a very good instructor and instead their strength lays with training the horse. They are happy to continue taking your money for as long as possible (until the student wises up), all while pushing training of the horse at exorbitant rates and claiming it’s due to your incompetence as a rider (I’ve seen that more times than I can count).  Apparently it’s the students fault for not understanding what’s happening.

So, to recap, I agree that a student is retarded if they pay money for a lesson that they refuse to listen to. You’re dumb if you do that. But you don’t owe the trainer anything other than the money for the lesson at that point. You probably won’t get a whole heck of a lot of extra effort from the trainer, but if the trainer is professional (i.e. not a scum bag) then they should still be attempting to give you an adequate lesson (even if your dumb butt won’t listen). However, the rest of the article seems to directly contradict itself, is either widely wrong, or would only be applicable with a small section of good trainers (luckily I’ve trained with good trainers, but they do seem to be pretty rare).

Moral of the story: Never read the interwebz when already upset. It leads to rambling diatribes like the above. 🙂



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