I think people often feel that if they question a professional, especially a big name trainer, that they somehow look stupid for not understanding. If your trainer (or any other professional) is making you feel stupid, patronised or just completely confused, that is on them and not you.
Everyone learns differently and at different paces, learning is messy. When you are paying someone to help you, it is their job to relay the information in a way you can understand and answer any questions you may have. I have seen professionals get very defensive when questioned and unfortunately this is because they really can’t explain the “why” of what they’re doing, because they don’t understand it or the science behind it themselves. They just know how to get horses to comply, that’s how they were taught to do it and they’ve never questioned it.
I’m that really annoying person who is always asking questions, I am hungry for knowledge and I also try to stay very open-minded to new information. If someone does something differently I want to know the why so I can decide for myself if its something I want to implement or if I want to dismiss it. I feel like I’m constantly saying “but what does that mean?/can you explain that?/why is that good?/what about xyz?”
An example that sticks in my head that I’m sure many of you can relate to, I was at a clinic with a top dressage trainer, the client was a lower level amateur was on a very young green horse. They were working on simple walk to trot transitions and the trainer said “you need to ride the transition almost like you’re asking for a piaffe”. Now there is no way this rider had ever ridden a piaffe and the horse could barely trot in a straight line. I saw the “rabbit-in-headlights” look on the client’s face as they said “yes okay”, even though they clearly had no clue what that meant and obviously felt they would look stupid if they questioned the trainer. Meanwhile in my head I’m already “what does that even mean?? I want a trot not a piaffe? What are the actual aids you want me to use and why will that help?”.
It is so easy to be intimidated by the language trainers use, not just in the competition world but in the “natural horsemanship” world too. I honestly think people make things so complicated and they almost want to create a mystique around it so people don’t question them too deeply, because then if the client is confused, they can just say they aren’t capable of understanding it on the level the guru trainer does. 🙄
I have absolutely no problem explaining why I do what I do and backing it up it with evidence and also no problem saying “I don’t know the answer to that”. I have clients that have come to me from different trainers who are almost torturing themselves in circles wondering about energy, collection, purity and connection and this and that when their horse can’t even walk in a straight line and stop reliably when they’re leading. Unless someone can explain it to you in a way you can truly understand they're just words!
It can honestly be so much more simple than a lot of people make it out to be. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or patronised by your trainer or if you feel they're defensive or dismissive without being able to explain why when you ask about other information you’ve read about, please look elsewhere. Don’t let yourself be used as a prop to boost someone else’s ego when you’re paying your hard-earned money to be coached and supported. They’re often not providing what they say they’re providing. 🐴
Photo of Eloise and her lovely pony Pablo building confidence, rhythm and balance when jumping in a way that sets them up to succeed rather than the spurs, strong bit and hope for the best approach they’d been pushed into by a previous trainer.