Five qualities of ‘coachable’ riders

meBy April Clay, Psychologist

All instructors have dream students. They often refer to them as “coachable”, but what does this really mean?

Are you open to receiving feedback, even if it’s difficult to listen to or are you more likely to shut down to save face? Fear can lock us all up from changing. Some riders can get too invested in playing a certain role in lessons, and in essence taking themselves too seriously. Strive to be loose rather than rigid with your expectations. A dash of humour about your weaknesses can really open the door to increased relaxation and progress.

The Zen tradition states that the best student is one with “beginner’s mind.” That is to say that the notion of “expert” is tossed in favour of the attitude of a “perpetual learner.” Sometimes riders can get too caught up in what they know, or think they know. Suspension of judgement and openness to experimentation can lead to important insights. Try clearing your mind of preconceived notions the next time you head out on a ride. Be a beginner again and see where it leads.

This quality makes itself known in myriad ways. Most importantly though, desire shows itself in commitment. Are you consistent with your commitments to your riding and your coach? Are you on time for lessons? Do you know the “why” behind your riding — what drives your motivation?

Think of it this way: would you rather ride a horse that’s difficult to get through to, or one that is willing to listen? The willing horse saves your energy and learns at a faster rate. It is the same with students. A rider who is for some reason closed to the idea of being guided or directed creates extra work for a coach. This tendency also wears a relationship thin. You may not always agree with what you are being asked to do, but as long as you trust in the knowledge of your trainer as a whole you should be willing to try.

Discipline is another way of saying you have the skill of self-control. You can apply order to your daily tasks, even make yourself do things you really don’t want to do. One or two hours a week with a coach will not turn you into an effective rider. Coaches love students who come back for the next lesson having applied some of their learning on their own time. This is perhaps the hallmark of a coachable student, one who is able to coach themselves.