A Trainer's Manifesto

Jan 30, 2015 - 12:43 AM
A good trainer, above all else, wants to see you succeed. Photo by Jeff Counterman.

1. Above all else, know this: we want you to be successful. We want this for you because that’s our job, of course—to produce successful students, at whatever “success” means to you. Whether winning the Olympics or just cantering two circles around without being afraid, we want you to Win at It. And if you doubt that we want you to win simply because its in our natures, consider this: happy clients are more likely to keep paying us, and more likely to tell others they should pay us. Happy clients = good business.

2. We do not do this for the money. While, yes, it is very possible to have a successful and profitable horse business, it involves 18 hour days, getting very dirty and sweaty, and getting on 1,200 pound toddlers that can maim and kill us simply by tripping and falling down, or by doing as their prey-animal natures intend and shying away from something. If profit was our driving motivation, we’d do something else.

3. When we make a suggestion to you—to have the vet see your horse, to keep your horse in training with us instead of just seeing you for lessons, to invest in a different saddle or different bit—it is because we want you to succeed, not because we are out to get your money. See #1 and #2. We will make way more money off you by keeping you happy and trucking along, and if we think your horse is uncomfortable with his tack, would benefit from more time with a professional rider on his back, or is unsound, we would like to remedy those situations so that you will stay happy and successful.

4. We are respectful of your financial and life situations, and will help you achieve your goals with your lives and all they entail in mind. If your goal is a little nuts—to train a chronically-unsound, conformationably-unsuitable horse to Grand Prix in six months taking one lesson a week in badly fitting tack, and the like—we will help you identify a new goal. We want to get you as far as you can on what you’ve got, even if what-you’ve-got is a limited horse, or a limited amount of time to focus on riding and not on your kids/spouse/job/parents/life, or a limited budget on which to do it all. We will help you make the most of it, and spend your time, money and resources on what is wisest.

5. Your horse is your own. Maybe you’re one of those rare clients who owns your horse for us to ride and train and show, and you want to be a part of that team, with us calling most—if not all—of the shots. But more likely you want to ride and show your own horse, and it’s our job to help you do that. That means that even if we think your horse has Big Time Potential, that it could have a career beyond what you would like to do with him, then that’s too dang bad, because he’s your horse. His potential for “Greatness” is irrelevant—our job is to help him reach whatever greatness YOU want to achieve. If you own a fabulous young warmblood horse that could get to Grand Prix but you want to learn to sit the trot and maybe show First Level someday, then that is what we will help you do, because that’s our job.

6. There are some things we cannot control. Horses get hurt in spite of great care. Horses will spook, stumble or otherwise get into trouble no matter how good their natures or training. And sometimes judges see things very differently from the way we do. We will do our best to control what we can, and we ask your patience and help in accepting the things that we cannot.

7. Sometimes, we’re wrong. Sometimes, in spite of diligent accumulation of knowledge and experience over a long period of time, we will screw up. We ask your understanding, and to remember that we’re only human, doing the best job we can.

8. We love you and want you to succeed, but we are entitled to our own lives. We will occasionally take days off, or have to cancel lessons last-minute because we ate a bad breakfast sandwich (which, trust us, we really, really wish we hadn’t), or not answer the phone when we’re with our families or our friends. We will give you everything to help you succeed, but we do not belong to you. 

9. The training of horses and riders is a marathon, not a sprint. We ask your patience and understanding when we need to spend a few months on turning to the right, or self-carriage, or bend. We ask your patience and understanding when we tell you that we cannot get you working on flying changes or piaffe when you cannot yet sit the trot. We ask your patience and understanding when we think your goals are a little lofty, and we suggest waiting to advance a level, or waiting until the horse is a little fitter to take it to a show or clinic, or waiting until it is all just a little easier before we put you in the tack, or, or, or. We would love for everyone to advance a level a year, all on one perfect horse that never goes lame. We ask you to, please, let us help you in seeing the Bigger Picture, which may take many years, several horses, and a not-so-linear progression on your way up.

10. We do this for love. We do this for the love of horses, of course. But we also do this because we love people. This job has way more to do with humans than it does with animals, and humans are complicated, with emotions and goals and families and dreams and lives, that can all help or hinder. We desperately, desperately want to help. Please let us!



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