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The Trainer Dilemma

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What is up with trainers? Sometimes supportive and helpful, sometimes grouchy and snarly as feral cats.

From an amateur’s point of view trainers have the good life. We charge a lot of money for what we do, and life must be good. Why wouldn’t we be in a good mood?

Here is a typical day as the business owner/trainer at my own barn. Let’s pretend that life is rainbows and unicorns, and the person who is supposed to feed the horses and clean stalls has shown up. On those days, I get up before dawn, do mindfulness training and yoga, eat a huge breakfast then answer emails and texts. On the perfect day, this puts me in the barn between 8:00 and 8:30.

Some days the help calls in and cancels. On those days, I do my mindfulness training, put on my clothes and head out the door by 6:30 to feed horses and clean stalls before starting my real job.

But this is the perfect day, I start riding my own horses and then client horses. Lessons usually start after noon. In between riding and teaching, I feed the horses lunch hay, switch around horses for turnout, and re-clean the stalls a couple of times. On a typical day, I have three lessons, on a long day, 8-10.

After lessons, I finish riding however many horses I have left. If I am lucky, someone is feeding in the evening, so I schedule more lessons, or call it a day at 4:30 or so. On a longer day, my husband and I feed and chore in the evening, and then I have another lesson. Some days end at 4:30, most end at 6:00 or after. Did I forget lunch? No. That’s because I packed it in the morning (or ideally the night before) and took about 10 minutes to sit down and eat at some point when the opportunity arose.

I take Mondays and Tuesdays off each week. On Mondays, although I am supposed to be undisturbed, I answer texts and emails from clients; I do accounting tasks, horse show entries, etc. I read. I work in our garden. I run. I switch the horses around at noon, re-clean stalls. On Tuesdays, I give at least one lesson, I schedule the vet or farrier if possible, I go to the grocery store. We usually chore in the evenings. My house is never clean.

Rain or shine, hot summer days or snowy, below zero winter days; the horses always require care.

Not relating this to whine. I am not atypical of any small business owner/trainer out there. Also, I am doing what I love, which is a non-essential hobby that people are willing to pay thousands of dollars a year to do. I am grateful.

I love my life.

Although the adult amateur owner feels like she pays through the nose for my services, I barely pay my bills. I’ve intentionally kept my prices low so that the average middle-class person can also afford to do this sport.

So, why do I feel like I needed therapy at the end of some days? I love my students. Their success and partnership with their horses is important to me. Some days I am magic. Lesson after lesson goes well. We accomplish so much for their confidence and their riding. I am communicating both during lessons and when I ride the horses. I end the day energized and alive.

But, some days, and I don’t know what universal law decrees that it all happens on the same day, I feel like everything is forced. The lessons don’t work. I either can’t help them with a problem they are facing, or they brought baggage into the lesson that clouds everything. They don’t get along with their horses. They play, “what about…” meaning, as we are making progress, they worry about the future show, judge, or whatever instead of being present for the lesson. Sometimes, they are distracted, and their brains are elsewhere.

Although I intend to be supportive and helpful, sometimes I must call things as I see them. Sometimes, I must help the student see that the problem lies with them. I approach this with humility, because I am not perfect, and I can create problems and obstacles for myself and my horse also.

Because of the nature of the sport, I continue to take lessons. When my faults are called out, I understand how embarrassing it can feel. I have been the whipping boy at a clinic, usually in front of clients, sometimes in front of strangers. Some clinicians are kind, some are not. But, all in all they have something valuable to teach me. Point being, sometimes instruction hurts. We must have the courage to be honest with ourselves and hear it. Being the cause of your horse’s problems is common.

Second, I love your horses. When I train them, I develop a relationship with them. I know their personalities and their likes and dislikes. I am their advocate. When my clients are having problems with their horse, and other people start blaming the horse. I get angry. The horse is usually the innocent in this story. But they get a bad rap. I am so invested in your partnership; I can get a little intense trying to coach you through a problem. You want to succeed, but you have got nothing on how badly I want you to succeed.

No competitive arena, no discipline exists without a coach to nag you. Coaches are people too. Trainers are very human with very many faults, so sometimes, the day has been long, our husband has been whiney, our sump pump quit working in the house, the barn help didn’t show up and we get cranky. But those of us who love our jobs and who love our clients and their horses are really on your side and really want you to succeed. Your success is our success. Let’s keep forgiving each other when we have bad days.

24 thoughts on “The Trainer Dilemma

  1. Superb

  2. Super cool

  3. The coach is the one who has to set the rules.

  4. Some good info on trainers and their personalities.

  5. Interesting information. Thanks

  6. Sounds like you are a great trainer. Thank you for giving us a peek into your life as a trainer.

  7. I’m sharing this with my daughters trainer. Thank you!

  8. I really like the personal approach. Hands on , lots of patience & time builds trust & love.

  9. i had no idea!
    interesting facts to know about life of horse trainer and horses too

  10. Thanks for the info

  11. I love reading articles about horses.

  12. “Horse is not the problem”, definitely! That can be a significant obstacle in the growth of a rider, trying to shift their faults externally instead of addressing it.

  13. I would love to have this job!

  14. I love how you love horses!!

  15. It shows your true love for these beautiful animals !!

  16. This is dope fr!

  17. Great info on trainers. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  18. thanks for this i learned something

  19. My sister in-laws is a trainer. I can guarantee that it’s no picnic. It is however rewarding in other ways. It takes a true passion to do this.

  20. Always treat animals with respect.

  21. You sound like an amazing person! Nice to hear from the other side and remind people to put themselves in others shoes.

  22. dedication at it’s finest

  23. Good to know your thoughts on this.

  24. Thanks for sharing your perspective….really valuable

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