Monday, 18 February 2008

About how people learn and why do we ride and have horses......

I gave a private lesson today which made me think about a few things...Let's ramble (as I am not sure how orderly this post will be).

Teaching people to ride is a very unique sort of activity. You get to meet such variety of characters that you just have to stop and wonder sometimes what made them become interested in horses in the first place...
There are two types of people who seem to draw my attention the most: those who are extremely passionate about horses, focused on development of their riding and possibly of competitive nature (mostly because they are the closest to how I see myself) and those who have a horse/take lessons but appear secretively indifferent to everything the other group finds fascinating.
The most challenging element of my teaching quest at the moment is to learn how to understand that second group. How to motivate them (what motivates them??) to care about their horses properly and how to encourage them to improve their riding? How to teach them without somehow catching their somewhat contagious indifference?
When I first meet a rider (regardless whether it is a horse owner or a riding school rider) I like to ask a few questions. Apart from the usual ones about riding skills, experiences, ambitions etc I like to know what drew them to horses in the first place.
If I speak to a child I might ask about the colours of the favourite ponies (they usually have some!), about what they like the most about riding (the most genuine answer I got was from an 8 year old child who said: "I like riding because it makes me feel special") or whether they would like their own pony. An adult rider is a different story - here I like to ask various questions, from how often they have been riding to questions about anything at all, so I can define (at least preliminarily) the way each person might learn and how best to address them.
For example, some people use a lot of visual references and then I know they learn by actually seeing things being done or have them described in a way they can imagine them being done; some say 'I feel this', 'felt it that way' a lot of which often indicates they learn best by experiences and practise rather than lengthy explanations.

However, sometimes I get answers like: " I ride because my dad drove me here" (a child), "Gets me out of the house" (adult), "Because otherwise I would be sat at home getting fat" (teenager). There is not much of the love of horses involved as far as these people's motivation is concerned. See, I personally disagree with the use of horses as fitness machines...yes, it brings money to the sport but I really don't know how to deal/teach the kind of people such incentive attracts. If they treat horses as the way to get fit but they also really like them or are staring to like them then we will meet half-way at some point. If they just come and stand by the mounting block waiting for the 'treadmill' to be brought in then we will most likely be travelling in opposite directions hundred kilometers per hour.

Now, on one hand I know (or I presume) that ideally I should be doing what I can to wake that emotional bond with the horse, to actually teach how to fall in love in horses...On the other hand though I find it difficult. Why? Maybe because I don't remember how it feels not to be "into horses"? Maybe it's because when I first saw a horse, touched it, smelt it I felt so overwhelmed and all consumed by it that it's almost incredible to think that some people might be so indifferent...

Sure, on an intellectual level I do understand it, we all like different things, different sports, different pleasures. On an emotional level I don't get it at all ;)

Some interesting reading:

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School

The Power of Visual Learning

Learning In Sports

Psychology in Sports


Imagery, Visualisation and Other Mind Tools

A book: might be interesting: Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory, Practise
(can be bought from Amazon and you can Search Inside as well)

And this (although don't expect a scientific article here ;) as it shows how big can the difference be in people's opinions : Should the equestrian team exist? Yea or Neigh?
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