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Trainer issues - Don't want to feel anxious for lessons anymore

This is my thought, too. I’m not sure I think that the issue is a learning disability. It may be a factor, but any trainer that would act like this is just a jerk:

“She mockingly laughed, and essentially said there was no excuse, and that I wasn’t so dumb that I couldn’t remember a few numbers for 45 seconds.”

It wouldn’t surprise me that the OP could remember the strides if she wasn’t so anxious about the trainer. And, if a trainer has a student that is struggling to remember all the things (whatever they are), it means that they need to do something differently - just as ParadoxFarm is describing. Mocking the student is unacceptable, period.


Listen, I want to be a big mature adult and tell you to have a sit-down conversation with your trainer.

But I’m older and have ridden a long time. I won’t tolerate emotional abuse from anybody, no matter what the circumstance…and certainly not in the hobby I do for fun. Trust me, it is not the norm for trainers to ridicule and belittle. I often tease my sweet young trainer that she’s 50% teacher, and 50% emotional support animal for the kids.

So me? I wouldn’t even bother. I’d just move on.


I do not disagree that this trainer was a jerk.
Only the OP knows if this trainer is just a jerk or if they had a jerk moment. We have all had jerk moments so I am willing to forgive a jerk moment if it is the exception for this person.


When trying out a horse many years ago, she finally had me sing jingle bells out loud to get a better trot rhythm.
it worked.
Try singing under your breath chorus lines that have the same number of beats as the jump requires, and then just remember that song for that fence, this song for this fence.

On the other hand, only you can make you feel stupid. So you aren’t stupid, your just learning and at the first step.
What anyone else thinks of you is their problem.
Congratulations on actually being willing to learn something new.

It may be difficult to find a place with more people your age. I was fortunate enough to ride as an amateur in my 20s, but a lot of people that age are either pros or have to drop out of riding due to the expense and time.
It sounds like it is a fairly good situation for you as you work there and it’s convenient. One option is to ask for a time when you can speak to her and explain that you know you’ve missed some time in the saddle that you want to address. Tell her that you googled why the strides are important and describe what happens when you forget and tell her you’d like to work on strategies for improvement together. Some people are responsive and some people are going to teach how they teach and want you to adjust.
You have to assess your situation and if this is worth it to you. Explore the options that you have. If you have better options, just go with that. If you don’t and you want to ride, you might have to find a way to work with the instructor in order to learn more. No one is perfect or the perfect instructor.
All of that said, I took lessons from a very good instructor for a long time. However, in lessons our personalities were not a good fit. She is a lovely person and taught me a lot over many years, but the approach that she used often clashed with my personality and while I liked her as a person, I didn’t like the person I became in our lessons. As a result, when I had other options, I found a new instructor and have gotten away from only taking lessons from one person. I’ve found that there are types of teachers that I just work better with. There are some approaches that just tend to make me more anxious of the horse and falling, and I think that since it is a hobby I might as well just work with the type of personality that I do best with. It isn’t any disrespect or criticism of other styles - I just have to do what is in my best interests.


If the trainer is unable to change her style a bit to accomodate you, see if you can continue working there and get the free ride time, but go elsewhere to take a paid weekly lesson elsewhere.

I just had to tell her that I had memory issues with numbers and that it was very difficult for me while I was trying to remember so many other things."

I have dyslexia. At 53 I can not tell my left from my right without thinking it over. Inside/outside makes all the sense in the world to me, easy peazy

i actually had an instructor a few years ago, after she was frustrated at my slow response to directions to go left or right… etaAETA yes imI appraised her of my dyslexia long ago, when I first started… “don’t you WANT to know your left from your right?” She asked.
As if it was simply desire or will holding me back.
Meanwhile she refused to use “inside/outside”.
eta and would test me randomly while I was doing barn work… Oy.

Someone like that will not ever get it.


Angela, yes! Inside/outside also makes complete sense to me. Maybe because it’s not so abstract - there’s an instant frame of reference. If aids weren’t taught primarily using this language I’d be screwed.

I have mild right/left dyslexia and also have trouble with trainers that use right/left instructions because they are arbitrary to me and I have to think a billion times harder to sort out which one is which, especially if I am doing something that occupies most of my brain (like riding!). I had a first lesson with a new dressage trainer last month and at one point I just had to stop because I couldn’t get my brain to operate on a right/left pattern rather than inside/outside. I really hope our next lesson she will be okay with switching her instruction cues the whole time. But if she told me I was stupid or mocked me, you bet I wouldn’t be riding with her again.


Just popped in to say that I too have dyscalculia and I totally sympathize. Unlike dyslexia (now anyway), it is very under-recognized, pooh poohed as “not concentrating” and virtually never treated. But it is oh so real. With a learning disorder like this, it is NOT a matter of trying harder. It’s all about figuring out workarounds. I am excellent with words and language so I use those where numbers would go, if I can. For example.

But certain kinds of practice helps. For example when I was young I spent a summer working on a farm where I had to move 20’ lengths of irrigation pipe. A lot. To this day I can pretty much tell how long twenty feet is.

When I trained herding dogs, which are worked by clockwise directions in relation to you, not the sheep (“Away to me!” means counter clockwise – away from the clock – and “Come bye!” means clockwise – come by the clock) it took me forever to get it down. I drew giant clocks with the words and arrows on them and pasted them all over the house, and whenever I drove my car I would say the commands whenever I made a turn. Eventually I mostly said the right thing.

You just will need far far far more practice at those things than other people. And learning tricks.

And a much more sympathetic teacher.


I just love this post from Scribbler and want to echo it. I think it is one of the biggest problems we have in the horse industry that our teachers and coaches almost never have any formal instruction in how people learn or how to develop athletes. Almost every other sport at least inadvertently gets some coaches who go through a college program that includes some of these topics. There is a real discipline to this and yelling DO BETTER at people is not it. The coaches I’ve worked with who have had access to this kind of training are amazing.

I think it’s important not just for teaching people to be better riders but for the long term success of our sport, when we wish it to grow. Especially give the expense and inconvenience, not to mention risk, people will not take up nor stick with our sport if the instruction isn’t leaving them feeling successful at the end of a lesson.


Actually, :), this is completely wrong. And I mean this in the nicest way back to OP.

“Thin-skinned” people are very easy to teach. They want to please. They want to please so much that they can be full of anxiety if they can’t do it right. They are only hard to teach if a teacher doesn’t know how to teach the task, only criticize its lack.

There are all kinds of strategies which I cannot do justice to since I am not myself properly trained. But they involve things like working on one element of the skill at a time, breaking down the skill into fundamentals, and always keeping your learner physically and emotionally safe from their mistakes. Because making mistakes is part of learning, and you can only learn if you can make mistakes safely. That’s why we teach rock climbing with safety harnesses and ropes instead of by having someone yell at you from the bottom while you are 20’ off the ground on your first ascent.


She probably has no idea OP has a learning disorder, and may have no idea dyscalculia even exists. OP tried to explain, in the moment, that she has trouble memorizing numbers when she’s already trying to memorize a bunch of other stuff - that’s hardly an explanation of a learning disorder or a request for specific accommodation.

Riding instructors aren’t school teachers. They themselves don’t get mandatory instruction on the various learning disorders and how they may manifest and how to adapt their teaching to work with a student with a specific disorder. They can be good people and even good teachers for the majority of students, and still completely ignorant of specific special challenges.

OP is taking the reasonable, non-kneejerk approach in having an actual conversation, outside the lesson with her trainer.

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I don’t know how to quote people in messages yet so sorry for not directly replying, but to poltroon I do think that is a logical stance to take. I didn’t mean to sound insulting at all, I hope it didn’t come across that way! I am actually quite sensitive and anxious, I’ve just learned over time (maybe in art school…) to take criticism and recognize it as a valuable tool instead of allowing myself to fall apart over it. So what I meant to say is that individuals (and I’m particularly talking about adults) who can’t, or don’t want to use constructive criticism to drive and push themselves to get better can be difficult to teach. Holding yourself to high standards and being sensitive are definitely not bad things.

fledermaus, though of course I’m sorry to hear you struggle as well, it’s so nice to hear from someone with the same condition! Thank you so much for the sympathy and the advice. Same to the_rook and everyone else who has shared their experiences.

To update those who have generously put in their two cents, I had a brief, pleasant conversation with her at work and she seems willing to make what accommodations she can. Since the problem only really rears its head in the last 20 minutes of the lesson — when we are jumping, which is somewhat individualized anyways — she doesn’t think it will be particularly disruptive to the group dynamic. We are going to try saying strides/jump descriptions out loud before and during the course, and letting me watch the other students jump the courses first. We will see how it goes in the ring this week!

Thanks again everyone. This is a wonderful community.


Good update; I hope it all sorts out.

can you use letters to count strides? I know this might sound strange, but I have a client that counts using random words because she can’t keep numbers straight (they get mixed up in their order). If a four stride becomes a D stride or a Lion stride, would that work for you?

I do appreciate when clients give me information that may affect how I teach them, such as ADD, anxiety, selective mutism and such. it helps when they do the research on how they best learn rather than make me do it.


I’m so glad this went well for you. I was wondering if building corses at home out of boards on the ground w walking steps as strides might help you.

It seems like you’ve gotten some great advice! The only thing I have to add is a suggestion on helping you learn striding. I had a trainer that had me sing “row, row, row your boat”. You know, “row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream”. I have an overthinking problem when I ride, so first of all this helped my brain think about something else and helped me stop overanalyzing and just ride. It also helped me with my striding. Each word is a stride. So like: “row” (canter stride), “row” (canter stride), “row” (canter stride), “your boat” (canter stride). For some reason, singing this song under my breath helped me see striding much better than numbers did. I don’t have a disability, but I did seem to struggle with the number aspect of strides, especially when I was starting out. The words accompanying the strides just made it flow better. Try that, and let me know if it helps!

In addition, if you are a visual person, you might keep a little dry erase board in your trunk. Go out before your lesson and draw where all the jumps are on your board and there set it somewhere in the ring you can grab it, or your trainer can hand it to you, easily.

Then when your trainer tells you the 1st course, draw the pattern over your map and write the strides. Show the person next to you for confirmation or if you miss something, mark it down when you watch the 1st rider go. Then you can look at your map with the strides and watch everyone else go, put down your board, and you’re off. When you’re finished, grab your board, wipe of the line, and start the next course.