Lately I’ve started thinking a bit about lesson formats, and what works for me as the student. Do I prefer group vs private lessons? It isn’t something I have consciously considered that often, but in an effort to sort myself out a bit, I have started thinking about this topic more often. Lots happened in my lesson on Sunday besides the falling off bit– that actually happened near the end of the ride.
Rio warmed up nicely and things were going fairly smoothly for most of the lesson. I was still feeling a bit “down” though during my ride (even before the fall, which if anything, made me lighten up a bit!). Not sure why exactly, I’m just feeling a bit hard on myself lately I think. Instead of focusing on the positive of each round, I find myself getting caught up in every small mistake.Lessons at my barn are typically in a group format, so we take turns doing the course. In general, I really like group lessons. I like that they give Rio and I time to catch our breath between rounds. I also really enjoy observing other riders and trying to learn from everyone’s mistakes, not just my own. It’s also really nice to have that social aspect, and sense of camaraderie that comes with group riding.
On the other hand, I sometimes feel frustrated with the group lesson format. When it’s my turn to jump and I make a mistake, even if it’s small, I feel like I’ve “blown” my round. Because I only get a chance at the course every 4th rider (If there are 4 riders in the group for example), I want it to go smoothly every time. When I make a mistake during my turn, I find myself dwelling on it until it’s my turn again, and I feel even more pressure not to “mess up” again. In this way, I am not sure that I always enjoy a group format.
In private lessons I feel that I am not as hard on myself, and I view mistakes as learning opportunities, because I get to do it again and again as many times as needed, in order to get it right. There are plenty of opportunities for re-dos in a private lesson versus a group. Where depending on the size, you may only get 5 or 6 chances to do the exercise.
In private lessons, even if I hit a rough spot, I usually feel that a lot of progress was made. We may have run into an issue, but we worked on it as much a necessary. Now I am not saying that you can work through every issue that arises in a private lesson, just that I usually have a very clear sense of what I did wrong, and what I need to do to work towards fixing it in the future. I feel that I have more time to work through issues, as I have the trainer’s undivided attention the entire lesson. She doesn’t have to shift focus to the next rider once I’m through the jumps, and we can stay focusing on my issues the entire time. I don’t have to feel greedy for her attention. I am not sure that I always leave group lessons with that same sense of clarity.
Does that make sense? It sounds a bit whiny while writing this, a bit “me, me, ME!”. I grew up with the same dressage trainer all through my junior years (12ish years), and she was the type to give constant instruction, every step of the way, and our lessons were always private. In this way, I think I am used to the undivided attention and constant focus of being in a private lesson.
It’s not like I haven’t done tons of group lessons, but now that that is essentially all I do. I feel like I don’t quite have the enthusiasm for lessons lately as I normallydo. I am beginning to think that always doing group lessons may be part of the problem. Lesson times are a bit tight now with the heat (not as many slots available!) but I think I am going to try to mix up the lesson format occasionally, and try to sprinkle some private lessons in to see how that works for me. After all, this should be FUN, at least most of the time!
What do you guys prefer, private or group? Do you do a mix? Why do you like one over the other? I’d love to hear your responses, to maybe help give some more clarity to my own feelings!