End-of-year training with Chrissie Johnson!

Most coaches would agree: we are all a product of not only our own personal experience, but the words, philosophies and training systems of those coaches whom we have followed, had lessons with and have mentored us through the years. And so it is with myself and Christine Johnson.

I first met Chrissie in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia back in 1998 when she was invited several times by the Malaysian Equine Council as Coach Educator for groups participating in the EA Level 1 programme there. Due to her influence in the beginnings of my coaching career, I am pleased to say I still embody many of the same concepts and styles as Chrissie in my teaching methods.

Since moving back to Australia (Brisbane) at the beginning of 2009, I have made it a priority to continue my own professional development by training regularly with coaches to improve my teaching, riding and horse training. So far I’ve travelled to Portugal to ride Lusitanos and train with the classical masters who have studied under Nuno Olivera and at the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art; to Florida, USA to Ms Anne Gribbons, a FEI5* dressage judge and accomplished Grand Prix rider and coach to train PSG on a lovely Swedish warmblood gelding she found for me to ride. And now I’ve experienced a just-as- valuable experience with EA Level 2 Showjumping Specialist and Coach Educator Ms Christine Johnson, whose training centre is conveniently located at Nelson, just an hour north west of Sydney. Her son George also works and trains there, with his string of show jumpers and loyal following of students keeping him busy.

Our priority for the week was refreshing my coaching. I teach full time in Brisbane and like any job (even one you love and is your life!) it’s easy to become stale and lose focus. And as a free-lance coach, there are few opportunities for co-working: sharing ideas, discussing issues and lesson processes as they happen. Working with Chrissie this week, observing her and George teach their regular students and noting the things they prioritised in those lessons has been enormously valuable. I loved to hear the words, explanation styles and timing they used; witness the various exercises they put their riders through and why they used them. Chrissie gave expert critiques of my lessons (thanks to all the enthusiastic “guinea pigs” who were my students for their sessions!). I was reminded of the importance of the basics of good riding; helping the rider understand the movement of the horse so they’re able to follow with a softer body, hand and balance; taking care of the little things so the bigger things are already taken care of; using various and specific exercises to develop the confidence of horse and rider together.

We were also very lucky to observe show jumping master Albert Voorn at his clinic at Mt White. His concepts of comfort of the horse and rider throughout the work at every level made so much sense, and we immediately found how we could fold those ideas into our own styles of teaching. Another personal coaching evolution and opportunity to expand the “tool box”!

So I go back home - refreshed with plenty to think about! As a result of my week with Chrissie, I know I will bring to my students a new understanding of their own riding technique and new ways to express and expand the natural abilities of their horses. Thanks Chrissie and see you again soon!  www.teamj.com.au