What I Remember
"Armchair Quarterback" is a term often used in the USA to describe the person watching an American Football game criticising the quarterback (the leader of the team who calls the plays) from his living room as he watches the game. He's just a viewer, of course, not out there on the field, but he is always ready to comment on how another play should have been called when one fails.
It's easy to sit on the sidelines watching other people work, thinking you could do it better. It's a lot different when you, yourself are actually doing the work.
It's the same with horses. I remember a number of clinics I attended with my horses over the years where the trainer kept telling me what to do as I repeatedly had no success. These were, most of the time, highly rated international trainers. (I live on the East Coast of the USA, less than an hour from the US Equestrian Team Headquarters--not so much used now--and many international stars would frequent our area with clinics because of that.) Often, when things would not work out, I might hand the reins over to the trainer and simply say, "Show me."
The results were often not at all what the trainer would expect. My PJ, in particular, was a senstive fellow, very eager to please, but very quickly tense when he didn't understand something. Bully him around, and he would "freeze" up in his efforts. One German instructor insisted he could get him going "right" in a matter of minutes. It was a disaster as poor PJ just got more and more tense with his strong arm tactics. A Swedish trainer insisted she could accomplish something, got on and within a few minutes had PJ nicely on the bit--to her mind--but when I asked he if she had really intended to ride a sharp haunches in on the circle to do it, she gulped, tried to straighten him, and lost the program all together. One Danish trainer, for which I will never quite forgive myself, rode PJ into the ground in a rollkur horror during a clinic when I could not ride due to a broken wrist. (It took three chiropractic/acupunture treatments to get my Boy back to 100% afterwards.)
This is all one of the reasons I loved riding with New Zealand trainer, Lockie Richards. Lockie had been an international even rider, the coach of the national team and eventually a Grand Prix competitor. Due to financial restrictions, he often worked with more difficult horses during his career. (By the by, Aragon's horse in "Lord of the Rings," Brego, was Lockie's former Grand Prix mount.) Because of his experience with all kinds of horses, Lockie had a huge "bag of training tricks" to deal with nearly every kind of situation he might encounter in a lesson.
There was never one approach with Lockie. If one technique didn't work, he'd come up with another. Little "miracle" cures often solved big problems. I subtle ways I learned to shift weight to a seatbone by "dropping my knee," or, get this, "dropping my ear," on one side or the other to get my horse straighter. And if Lockie did get on my horse, you could always see the master at work. He'd try a dozen little exercises or changes to fix a problem, rarely, if ever, confronting the horse to the point of emotional upset.
But, above all, he was one of the best "armchair quarterbacks" I've ever met in the horse world. When he taught, I could tell he was riding along with me, not just observing and making decisions based on what he thought "might" be happening. He "knew" what was happening at that moment and addressed the issue just as if he were in the saddle along with me.
Whenever it comes time for me to teach or train, I try to keep that concept in mind. As well, when I comes time for me to comment on or critique someone else's training or riding--unless I see something I consider outright cruelty (rollkur for example)--I do try to bite my tongue. Unless I have been in the saddle on that particular horse, perhaps it's not my place to make a judgment about what's right and wrong.
It's something to think about.