Bill Belichick, successful head coach of the New England Patriots, gets his players to the Super Bowl time after time with a clear and distinct mantra: “Do your job.” Every individual on the field has his own set of responsibilities. If everyone does their job, the team will succeed as a unit.
USPC coach, U.S. Modern Pentathlon Team coach, USEA ICP Level III Instructor and respected show jumping course designer Richard Lamb applies the same philosophy to his riding students. If the rider does their job, the horse can do theirs.
Richard emphasizes that the rider has two responsibilities. The first is to maintain balance, which then allows the horse to be balanced.
“I focus initially on the rider — their balance and alignment,” he explains. “When riders have more self carriage, the horses’ self carriage is much more consistent on the flat and over fences.”
We must take care of our “job” so that our horses are able to work independently to do their job. Horses do not want to be out of balance any more than — and probably less than — we do.”
After balance, the rider’s next responsibility is communication. The rider must ask the question in terms his or her mount can process.
“I think riders and horses must figure each other out to develop a better relationship, with respectful two-way communication,” Richard says. “I don’t believe any rider — or horse for that matter — wakes up and says, ‘I want to ride badly, or be bad, today.’”
When he teaches, Richard tries to improve communication between horse and rider. He frequently sees himself as the interpreter, helping to create the understanding that makes for successful partnerships.
“In a successful lesson, the translation process helps the horse and rider to develop a common language. When we listen with our bodies, as much as with our ears, our horses can hear us more clearly.”
Richard enjoys the clinic setting because it encourages riders to be open to new techniques and tackle more challenging questions.
“The best thing about teaching clinics is that most everyone wants to be there — they are ‘invested’ in the process. Clinic riders typically want to be challenged to take the next step in this ‘dance’ we perform with our horses,” he says.
Richard’s teaching style applies to riders across all levels and disciplines. He served as the coach for the U.S. Modern Pentathlon Team at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, for example, at at the 2012 Olympic Games in Rio. His extensive involvement with the USPC includes coaching the 2014 USPC Pony Jumper Team to win both team and individual gold medals at the USEF National Pony Jumper Championships and serving as the 2002 USPC Chef D’Equipe.
“As a trainer, clinician and instructor, my favorite moments are when I see a rider and their horse merge together, even if only temporarily,” he says. “I consider it my job to have the riders I teach take away at least one ‘aha’ moment or exercise to help get them to a new awareness level …something they can to hold onto until the next time.”