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May 31, 2014

What Trainers Really Think

A trainer is a unique breed of equestrian. Trainers are long-suffering individuals who act as teachers, cheerleaders, therapists, guides and mentors. They coach us tirelessly through our ups, our downs, our fears and our shortcomings, share the joy of our accomplishments and help us shoulder our disappointments.

Trainers are almost unnervingly patient. Their dogged determination to point out the positive can turn a bad lesson into a useful learning experience. No matter how awfully something goes—even when we make the same mistakes over and over again—our trainers always seem to find encouraging words.

I’m not sure I buy it, though. No normal human being can possibly see that much good, that much of the time. I often wondered what my trainer was REALLY thinking.

What would he really have liked to say when somebody was laying on the ground after making the same boneheaded move that got them dumped last week?

Or cut the corner and missed the distance to the same fence five times in a row? Or managed to forget everything they worked on in the warm-up the second they stepped into the ring for their round? I know what I would have said.

And I wouldn’t have complimented them on how good their leg position was while they were leveling the triple combination or how quiet their hands were when they plowed down the gate person.

Either trainers have discovered the Holy Grail of happy pills, or they’re just very, very good at shielding us from the truth. I don’t think what they’re saying can possibly be what they’re really thinking.

Mostly, I think they’re just trying not to frighten us with the facts—I mean, could we really trot into the ring with confidence if we heard them whisper “Don’t go anywhere,” to the medic as they closed the gate?

I believe that if we were able to hear what they were really thinking, we would have a very different picture of reality. In my mind, it goes something like this:

What trainers say: “I think you have potential”
What they are thinking: Somewhere else. Not in this sport. Ever.

WTS: “This horse is a bit green for you”
WTAT: You’re going to need private lessons for the next 50 years.

WTS: “Don’t worry about that combination at the end of the course”
WTAT: …you’ll have used up all your refusals long before you get there.

“You’ll need extra leg in the first line”
…Because when he gets an eyeful of that second fence, you’re screwed.

“That wasn’t too bad for your first round.”
Unless the next six riders fall off, don’t hang around for the jog.

“That was a good solid schooling round.”
Too bad this is your Stake class.

“You’re doing very clean lead changes now.”
Yep, all five of them you did down the outside line right in front of the judge were textbook.

“You’ll be fine.”
Clean up on aisle six.

“It’s all right, everybody has days like this.”
We can never come back here.

“Your horse really took care of you.”
You should be dead.

“Don’t worry, it’ll get better tomorrow.”
You couldn’t possibly ride any worse than you did today.

“Let’s enter a warm-up class.”
We’re banned from the schooling area.

“Just relax and have fun.”
That’s the best you can hope to achieve.

“I think your horse will be very useful.”
I hope I like him. Cuz I sure won’t be able to sell him.

“Remember what we worked on at home.”
Try not to ride like you usually do.

“I might need to school him a bit.”
It’s going to take me three months to undo what you just did.

“That was really a challenging course.”
I hope nobody saw that.

“I’m not sure this horse will take you where you want to go.”
Unless where you want to go is the emergency room.

“What a shame you had that last rail down.”
Realistically, though, you would never have survived the jump-off.

“Go over there and stand in the shade until it’s your turn to go.”
Let’s pretend we don’t know each other.

“I sure like the way you jumped that first fence.”
Particularly since it’s the only one you actually got over.

“We don’t need to rush him. Let’s just take it slow.”
Thank God I get paid by the hour.

“Under different circumstances you would have gotten a ribbon.”
Like, if nobody else had showed up for the class.

“I think you could use a break.”
I think I could use a vacation.

“Let’s try it again later.”
I give up.

“I need a drink.”
I need a drink.

After years of trying to fit in with corporate America, Jody Lynne Werner decided to pursue her true passion as a career rather than a hobby. So now, she's an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, cartoonist, web designer, writer and humorist. You can find her work on her Misfit Designs Cafepress site. Jody is one of the winners of the Chronicle's first writing competition. Her work also appears in the Dec. 2, 2013, Amateur Issue print edition of The Chronicle of the Horse

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