Guest Blog post # 101: "Roundly Critiqued" by Bill Woods

Roundly Critiqued

Lest you think I am disparaging the work of other instructors, be assured I am pure of heart. As Kim Carnes would say, “As pure as New York snow.”

That said, I’m surprised how many riders will tell me they went to a clinic and spent the whole time on a 20 meter circle. Usually this is less than ideal for a couple reasons. First of all, I think a horse and rider whom I’m not familiar with deserve a few minutes to “show me what they’ve got.” Assuming I don’t want to just teach the same lesson over and over, I want a few minutes to see how the rider works with her horse, how the horse responds, and even what the rider chooses to show me.

By now you know my vending machine analogy. Using other movements and figures beyond a continuous circle gives the rider an opportunity to ask the horse those revealing questions, to say nothing of avoiding boring each other to death!
It is true that a good trainer has so many tools at her disposal that there’s plenty to do on a circle. This is often less so with a student who needs to be put in a variety of circumstances to discover the tools and how to apply them. Sometimes if you are being kept on a circle – and it’s not just because you’ve signed on with a control freak – it’s because that teacher may not remember what it was like not having those tools.
On a somewhat related matter, now and then while doing a clinic, I have heard from within the audience, “He’s not teaching them all the same way!” Personally, I take this as a compliment, but I always try to take time to explain why that’s the case.
Obviously there has to be an over arching philosophy and methodology to any training system unless it’s you’re just pulling numbers out of a hat. In that case it would be no system at all. Sometimes I have to help the questioner step back a little farther to see the connecting threads. You know the phrase “There are many roads to Rome.” Though there may be only one direct route from where you happen to be located, the road to Rome from London is very different then the one from Vienna, Madrid, or Athens.
I get a little uneasy, in fact, if three clinic riders/horses in a row all require the same solution. While that may be true for them, I don’t want a watcher to draw an ironclad conclusion on my problem solving from too small a sample.

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