Would you make a student do something against her will?

 As an instructor have you ever (or should you ever) make a student do something against his or her will?

BILL— An essential element of successful teaching/learning is the bond established between teacher and pupil—mutual trust and the rider’s confidence in her instructor’s advice. Put it this way: If you don’t believe in what your instructor wants you or your horse to do, get a different teacher. You’ll both be happier in the long run.

That said, one of my jobs is to expand your confidence and skill envelope. This includes cajoling, persuading, or even tricking a rider out of her comfort zone. Most of the time this needs to be accomplished in very small increments. It is certainly not an instructor’s role to coerce or force a rider into doing something she is not secure with.

About 20 years ago I broke this rule. It was a woman I had only taught once or twice. Her horse was a dozen years old, very quiet and laid back. She had no steering problems. She could keep the horse round, and she had no difficulties with walk/trot trot/halt transitions. I invited her to canter and she demurred. We went back and did other exercises including leg yields. Everything worked. I tried again and, perhaps too stridently, got her to try it. The first circle was fine, but then he pitched a fit and bucked her off. Of course, I was horrified. It was entirely my fault. I should have cantered him myself first. I should’ve watched someone else do it on him. I should have gotten to know him much better before I asked her to do it. Lesson learned!

Whether it is on the flat or teaching jumping, knowing how much to ask and not to over face a horse or rider is an important part of the job and sometimes one you have to learn the hard way.