Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confessions of a Slightly Frustrated Instructor

Today, I come to you as a frustrated instructor-to-be, and yes, I am fully aware that I am TOTALLY out of my comfort zone. Teaching a student like myself with her complex horse is NOT easy. And yes, by the way, Katie is well aware that i'm posting this...she actually helped me write it! This entry is actually taken from an email to a higher-up, in request for help. I will, for sure, post my BFOs after recieving response.

So, a bit of background, Lady (Katie's mare) is an off-track TB mare, who is pretty similar to Allure, very LBE, but with the tell tale signs of race track emotional damage, that sends her explosively RBI if she gets stressed enough, which really doesn't take much sometimes.

Today's session started out with Lady acting very bi-polar, swinging from hard-to-keep-on-the-ground playful to grinding her teeth in stress, and it really wasn't a pleasant situation (was VERY glad I was the one doing the playing). I did a lot (that's ANOTHER whole email, by the way, but I can ask Farrah those questions) and was pretty challenged, but, after about 45 minutes, she was LB and doing great, and I asked Katie to come in and play, since Lady was doing well. Mind you, Katie had been watching me play with her bi-polar, goof ball of a horse for the past 45 min, and she was anything but in the state of mind that her horse was in, but I didn't realize/read that (blooper number one). Katie's like me in the sense that she internalizes her fears until they become obvious without intention.

Anyway, she started to play around with Lady, and long story short, horse goes ballistic, (feeding off of Katie's lack of confidence/emotions) and of course, I can't figure out why (blooper number two) until Katie finally turns to me after one particularly large explosion and says "Fran...WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING WITH THIS HORSE?!" Of course her mind wasn't on the horse I had passed off to her, it was on the horse she had seen me start with! (Cue the flinging of large, heavy objects in my general direction) UGH!!

So, we essentially put the action part of the session on hold, and broke the mental aspect down step by step; what is scaring her (specifically), what she's worried will happen, what she feels she can or cannot do, and how to be in the moment, and do her thinking afterward. And thats when I hit a problem.

Blooper number 3. I have NO IDEA how to convey HOW to do that! Or why the hell she SHOULD do it for that matter! I feel like I'm back in Intro to Psychology and am giving an example of what "Tip of the Tongue" syndrome is! Anyway, I garbled something that sounded like an intelligent answer out (GOD I'm too good at BSing stuff like that!) and walked off to the barrel I had been sitting on, to pout...and DO MY THINKING WHILE WITH MY STUDENT! ARGH!

One of the things that has always bothered me about watching Pat teach, (and please forgive me for this) is how he repeats himself so much. I realize that chances are, the reason for that is because he's SO GOOD and SO ENTHUSIASTIC, and he wants EVERYONE to GET IT, that he may not even realize how hard it is mentally to have someone repeating what you're already trying to do at you. So, how does this tie into my dilemma? Well, I don't want to do that! And I KNOW that i have a tendency to do it at the worst possible time when my student's brain is ALREADY jammed. This mare is LEAPING in the air, running through the meager Phase 2/Phase 3 that's thrown at her, and all I can keep saying is "Shake the rope! Shake the rope! Shake the rope! HARDER! INTERRUPT THE PATTERN!" over and over and over. Which is the LAST thing someone who's already confused and scared needs. Talk about instigating RB behavior on my part!

So really, it all breaks down to this: I'm not sure how to explain how to stay in the moment (when I have trouble doing it myself!), and also, how to HELP a student in a situation where all I really want to do is scream the same directions repeatedly.

And see, Linda is BRILLIANT in situations like this. I NEVER get frustrated learning with her because she knows HOW to read people, and how to respond appropriately.

I would call myself an L3ish people reader, and i respond fairly well to about 90% of the teaching situations that are thrown at me. But that's not good enough for me. More and more, I'm getting people and horses, and situations in that 10% that I'm not sure how to handle,(guess that's a reflection of myself somehow) and instead of being discouraged, of course I want to know what to do (How's THAT for a change since last year?!) I need to gain that savvy, because honestly, what's scary to me is that I've built this reputation as an EXCELLENT instructor, and more and more I'm being challenged in that image, and want to help EVERYONE.

So, with all that mind, I will be anxiously awaiting a response to that email. I've had some thoughts and BFOs already, but will definitely be writing a follow up post in a few days. I just LOVE this never-ending journey of self-improvement...

Off to go try again :)


Renee said...

Bummer of a situation, Fran. I hope you, Katie, and Lady have better sessions later. Maybe have Katie simulate going from extreme-LBE to extreme-RBI herself to get the horses' perspective? Like, insane jumping around "yay" to catatonic in a second. That helped me with Royal, except I went from jumping around "yay" to running around scared in a second.

Good luck. Keep us updated. :)

Katie Oostman said...

Fran, I've noticed in my experiences that reading people is x1000000000 harder than reading a horse. I used to be a RBI myself and used that time to get extremely intune with people around me and sensetive to the environment. I've also noticed when your an extrovert sometimes it can be a tad bit harder to see the smaller signs, especially in people. DO NOT WORRY! I am absolutley sure you'll get it. My advice (meager as it is) is to give KAtie and Lady one specific task, be very encouraging and slow for the horse and the person. Stand close to Katie so if Lady gets to be too much you can quickly interupt the pattern. Sometimes it's better to feel sucess so you know what it is than feeling failure all the time (like you mentioned about trying to interrupt the pattern) Try to help Katie go up her phases slower so it doesn't GET to the point where Lady is running. At first you don't have to give her the psycology behind it, just have her do it, get the feeling, then tell her why when she is more mentally and emotionally ready. Good luck Fran and Katie and I hope this helps.