A Contradictory Clinician

I have a past middle-aged novice student with physical insecurities and a passion for over-reading and over-thinking about her riding. She has been progressing nicely – appropriately — but she recently rode in a clinic where both she and her horse were overfaced and overstressed well beyond their abilities. Roweled spurs, a lot of driving and struggling. Two unhappy campers. What should I do or say?

BILL— Without being too much of a control freak about it, knowing that you have your student’s best interest at heart and what they are capable of, there’s no worse feeling than when you sense a situation like that is tumbling out of control.

In my work I find myself on both sides of this fence. In my role as a clinician, I try to expand the student’s understanding or feel, but I try to do it in the context of where she is coming from and what she is familiar with. I’m happy when her regular instructor comes along so I can be sure that we are all on the same page.

Some of my own regular students go off to ride in occasional clinics, not always with my foreknowledge. With advanced notice I can pre-brief them on what to expect or even rehearse what I think they should tell the clinician before the session starts.

When they come back from a clinic, we debrief, finding points of commonality or of different impressions or solutions which they may have been exposed to. Lots of times there are ways to integrate the new ideas and explain how they fit together with what we’ve been doing. Once in a while I find I must simply say, “Well, I think they misread the situation and blew it that time. Just disregard and we will continue on!

I have often said it’s not my job to teach someone everything I know – at least not at a given moment. I need to teach them what I perceive they need most to know and to explain to them why that is.
In this specific case it sounds like you need to do some nurturing and healing. The complication is it for political reasons if the same clinician comes back to that barn and your student must ride with her again, she has to be brave enough to voice her unhappiness and ask that the lesson be toned down to her level. An overabundance of hubris in an instructor can lead to bad decision making. It would be interesting to know if after the fact the instructor realized she had made a mistake.