Good Questions and Thoughtful Listening

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, read these coaching/motivation notes with your non-riding goals in mind.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

a partnership is good questions and thoughtful listening

a partnership is good questions and thoughtful listening,                      copyright C. Isgreen

book study

Part 4: “Coaching in Action” Chapter 11: “Coaching Yourself with Questions”

P 176  CHAPTER INTRO: Statements define and limit your response.  Open questions begin an internal search.

P 176-178 LEADING QUESTIONS: Don’t ask leading questions to which you know the answer.  ex: If the horse is falling into the circle because the rider’s weight is not centered, don’t ask, “Why did your horse fall in?”  In part 2, p44-45 the author advises us to avoid the question “why” because it leads to feelings of guilt and blame.  Instead ask “WHAT did you notice?” or “HOW can you help your horse to stay balanced on the circle?”  When coaching yourself, avoid WHY questions for the same reasons.  Form questions to:

  • sort through existing information
  • to seek information at the unconscious level
  • focus on specifics to indentify the key to what is/is not happening
  • to identify evidence of change or achiement

Questions take pressure off you and detail a problem into a prescription for improvement.  Begin questions with how, what, where, when, who; avoid why.  HOW is the best question.


  •  is the result of curiosity and questioning
  • reveals evidence, (internal & external), to inform how & what happens
  • moves you forward

P178  HOW is the best question to ask.

  • HOW models exemplars.
  • HOW pinpoints what to continue & what to improve.

P178  WHAT is another great coaching question.  Refine a WHAT question by asking:

  • what specifically tells me…….?
  • what next?
  • what else?

P179-180  QUESTIONING YOUR HORSE  Be tuned into your horse’s behavior.  You will learn what he knows, doesn’t know, and what he thinks you are asking.  If your horse gives the wrong answer, take the perspective of 3rd position, (outside yourself), to analyze your horse’s understanding.  Horses are incapable of lying.  Ask your horse:

  • how else can I explain?
  • what are the clearest signals I can give?
  • what range of signals do you understand?
  • what happens when I ask………..?
  • how do you let me know you find something difficult?  too difficult?  confusing?  easy?  fun?  scary?  etc

Besides behavior, pay attention to your horse’s facial expressions.  Refine your communication through processing your horse’s answers.

Good questioning and thoughtful listening will guide schooling, ensure relevance & purpose, and yield subtle & effective riding.


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