coaches and trainers want to be seen as professionals and very often lack what would be the lowest level of professionalism in any other vocation. There is always the possibility of a repeat customer, I guess that is my point. Not all students leave on bad terms and for the most part on this thread (particularly the OP) it seems as if the students would like to continue a cordial, if not friendly (note: not a friendship, just friendly) relationship.
It really is unique to this industry.
Isn't that the truth.
I would have liked to leave my last trainer on good terms and even return to her in the future if her program suited me again, but she made that impossible. In fact, she said such horrible things to me (whereas I thanked her profusely for all she had done and tried to be polite and respectful) that I hope I never see her again. Ridiculous.
It's a mindset, not a literal statement. hells bells, I'm a lawyer--I have to re-adjust expectations all the freakin' time. But at the end of the day, I know where my livelihood comes from--my clients!!
Absolutely - and that is where the fine line and the tact and diplomacy come in, because ultimately my responsibility is to deliver the customer the best project that I possibly can, by hook or by crook. Unfortunately, people often DO interpret “the customer is always right” to mean that they should not be restricted in what they feel to be their "right" to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of the results. As a licensed design/engineering professional (in several states) I have an obligation to the public health and life safety of the populations that are served by these facilities. In that regards I think horse professionals are similarly charged with the safety of their clients, even if it is against the clients' wishes. Want to overface your horse,your child, or yourself? Trainers are tasked with the responsibility to keep things safe.
None of what I have read surprises me. The horse industry seems to draw out the crazies like nobody's business. Although my husband, who has a brother who used to show dogs, says dog people are even crazier (he nearly fell off the couch he laughed so hard when we rented "Best in Show"). With that said, there are also wonderful people out there and I've been lucky enough to have some of them as trainers. Here are letters to the ones I spent the most time with:
Dear Former Trainer #1:
Thank you for giving me an incredibly solid start. I was the poorest kid at the barn, the only one who didn't have a fancy h/j pony. I just came out once a week to ride the sole school horse who only got ridden by the boarders once in a blue moon. I looked forward to every single lesson from the time I got in the car to drive home until I arrived the next week. I rode with you from age 10-16. You were sarcastic. You were merciless. But you sure did teach me to ride - and you did it even though I was the poor kid. I probably would not put up with you & all of your sarcasm now that I am an adult with a little more self respect, but I'm not a bit sorry I learned to ride with you. I hear you are out of the horse biz now and I'm sorry. I wish you the best always.
Dear Former Trainer #2:
Wow. I had no idea that jumping could be more than outside line, diagonal, outside line, diagonal. Nor that flat work was more than walking, trotting and cantering. You were an EVENTER. You took a horse crazy girl, now a horse crazy, super poor grad student and planted the seeds for the insane love of eventing that is still with me now. I didn't get to ride with you long, because of the crazy BO who fired you, but I sure did enjoy our weekly lessons.
Dear Former Trainer #3:
You were an eventer, too. And you had the most awesome lesson horses and lesson program I have ever seen. I still dream about it, 15 years later. Literally. I dream that your barn is suddenly 30 minutes from me and not 1000+ miles. I seriously considered imploding my professional career to take a job in the state where you train. I cried the day I pulled out of your barn driveway, knowing that I would relocate to a place far, far away the next week. I have never had so much fun as I did the summer I spent my student loan money to pay entry fees for beg novice and novice events with your barn's team. You rock!
Dear Current Trainer #1:
You were my first DRESSAGE trainer. Sure, you know about eventing, but dressage is your thing and you are the real deal. I have learned so much from you, and the more I have learned, the more I know I need to learn (and if that's not dressage, I don't know what is). No short cuts in your barn and nothing is ever done in any less than a fully professional way. I count myself lucky to be your student and your boarder.
Dear Current Trainer #2:
The eventing itch is too much for me. After a string of the worst luck ever with lame horses, I decided to wait for my horse to heal up and go back to weekly jumping lessons, after 10+ years of no riding or dressage only, with you and your school horses. You (and your school horses) have been oh-so-patient with my frustration at not being able to make faster progress. You are tough, but you are fair. I was heartbroken when you had a serious accident accident this year, and I am hoping with all my heart that you will recover soon and come back to your precious horses. They miss you and I miss you, too!
So ... in some cases, clients get (much) less than optimal treatment from trainers and in some cases, trainers get (much) less than optimal treatment from clients. Similar things happen in all businesses.
Years ago - I cut a store credit card to pieces and sent it to the President with a letter explaining the poor treatment I had received and why I was returning the credit card. To my surprise, I did not receive a response. They lost me as a customer permanently - there were simply other places I could do business. They also lost any chance of my referring them any business. Maybe they don't care. After all, I am just one customer/client.. (but their business is made up of lots of people like me). It would have been simple for them to keep me as a client - a simple acknowledgement would have been enough.
ON THE OTHER HAND, I do not go around bad mouthing the store (haven't mentioned the name here either) I simply quietly do NOT shop there EVER.
Could cite a number of other examples - the point is that professionals and adults follow the rules of common courtesy and are polite. It is not fake. It is not too much of an effort. And, it is not seeking a "friendship" where one is not justified. Its a small world, it takes just a much effort to ignore or bad motuh someone. Why not make it a little more pleasant.
Clients need to move on when and if the time comes without trashing where they have been. There must have been some positive things that attracted you in the first place - hold onto those. Aside from the fact that it is the right thing to do... don't you think the "new" trainer will hear about the way the client has treated the former trainer to remeber that that may some home to roost.
Trainers need to respect a client's decision to make a move - even if it makes no sense to them at all. Send them off with nest wishes for success in the future and acknowledge them when you run into them. Remember also - that you are likely at least partially responsible for those future sucesses. Remember the former client may be back as areturning client or may refer your next client.
Sorry for the cliche - but life is too short to carry around all the negative baggage.
Dear Former Client #1 -
Your daughter was like a daughter to me. It broke my heart when you left and forced your girls not to speak to me, my significant other, and my family. I will never know what the little birdies said to you that made you leave, but I am glad you finally learned that they were wrong and had their own agendas. I am immensely glad that we all get along very well now. You know I wish nothing but the best for my girl - she has the support, natural talent, and guts to go all the way. I hope she stays disciplined and gets there!!!
Dear Former Client #2 -
No one ever learns that people in this biz *talk* and that I really do know all. I did then, I do now. I'm glad we all get along now, but I know we are way better off NOT in a professional relationship. I would never take you back full-time....the money is so not worth it. But I only wish you all the best!
Dear Former Trainer #1 -
Please don't ever hug me again. Even now that I am a grown woman, I can still remember all the bad things. You taught me that people lie. You taught me that people steal. You taught me that people are only out for themselves. The one thing you didn't teach me was to ride. Your one daughter taught me diagonals because you didn't want me to beat your other daughter. Nice one. Where is she now? Yeah, I thought so.
Dear Former Trainer #2 -
I was young, and you were a god to me. I marveled over your eye. You taught me so much about riding, showing, and caring for my horses. I don't think you ever knew how much I looked up to you. I hated it when you would yell at me and told me I wasn't trying. I was always trying. Maybe not hard enough, maybe not at the right thing, but I was always trying. I've learned NEVER to say that to my students.... I wanted to learn *everything* for you and asked a lot of questions and it bothered me when my questions made you angry. I'm not sure you loved teaching. I wonder sometimes if you're happier now. I was too young to really understand what happened and why you did things you did when I left... I still don't really know now, but I'm ok with that. I'm glad we speak now, but it's just not the same - i think you know that too. I do really hope you're happy now though.
Dear Former Trainer #3 -
You were such a great trainer and you're still a great friend! I love seeing you at shows and wish I had more time to come visit. You took me everywhere with you and helped me afford a junior career that so many girls can't. You answered every question no matter how silly, odd, or confusing and you taught me to teach. You were a role model for me as a trainer and as a person and I find that I have such a similar style to yours with my kids. You will always be a great friend and confidant.
...for there are wings on these hooves, the speed and power of foam-capped waves...
Proud member of the artists clique
People thought you were crazy- did you know that? There were times I hated you, and times I'm sure you hated me. There were times you yelled at me, and times I cried. There were times you made me get off the horse, because I was "ruining it," and times when I probably was. But I knew what to expect from you. I knew your standards, and they never changed. And if there's one thing a 13 year old needs, it's consistency. And a safe place to run to, which you ALWAYS provided. I may have been inattentive through your endless WWII stories, but you know what? I can still recite every one of them. I may have rolled my eyes at your little pearls of ancient wisdom, but guess what I constantly repeat to my own classroom of 13 year olds today? I can't count the endless hours I spent being your slave, but neither can I count the endless hours of saddle time you gave me- because you always had a horse for me to ride... even if it meant taking a broodmare that had rarely been touched and working with her all on my own. And those hours I thought that I WAS all on my own, doing my own thing, riding my own way? I know you were sitting on your balcony watching me, you or your wife, just to make sure I was ok. I needed that. A 13 year old needs freedom, but not too much. Maybe you didn't have the most talented horses, and maybe you couldn't take me beyond the basic riding skills... but you taught me horsemanship. You taught me what it mean to really love your animals and be proud of them. You taught me breed history and bloodlines and loyalty. You taught me what it meant to work HARD at whatever you do, even if it's raking dirt or hacking weeds with a machete (yes, a 13 year old girl with a machete- you insisted I be tough), or cutting down 500 awful tallow trees that will just pop right back up tomorrow... because they were blocking your view of the beautiful creatures that you and I both loved. When my dad forgot about me and left me there all day, you brought me lunch and asked no questions. When I showed up on my bike at 6 a.m., you just set off to work early... and asked no questions. When I finally decided that it was time for me to move on, time for me to let go... you gave me a hug and asked no questions. Maybe that's why I came back to visit you, came back to bring the horses treats, came back to help you clean up when you finally sold the farm and had to let things go. Maybe that's why I cried at your wife's funeral, bawled like a baby, when I never even cried at my own grandparents' passings. Maybe that's why I make a point, on every trip home, to come sit by your side and relive those days, even if it means missing out on visiting friends or family. (And you're what- 88?- and I fear the day I CAN'T visit you any more.) You know what? I guess I've always thought of you as both friend and family anyway. Because ANY relationship between a 13 year old and an adult is a love-hate relationship. But for you, the hate was superficial, and the love still runs deep.
Your Favorite Student (Because that's STILL how you introduce me to people!)
Dear Second Trainer,
Yeah, you can yell- so what? I hated leaving you. I didn't get long enough with you before I headed off to college, and I never could come home as often as I wanted. And that summer that I DID attempt to come back home? Well, let's say that hanging out at the barn was what got me through! You always had something for me to ride, whether you knew I was stopping by or not. You trusted me. It was crazy. You trusted me with some AMAZING horses (and I got my screen name form one of them). And you inspired in me some kind of wild bravery that I haven't found since. I mean, 3 foot looks high to me now. Way high. I'll take 2'6" now, thank you. That was piddly stuff back then. But what an awesome experience! And what an awesome way for me to learn to respect myself, and trust myself, when I'm not sure I ever really did before. You recommended me for my first job, you took me to my first horse show (and you were proud when I took home all blues!), you even offered to fix my first car when it clunked out, and you grilled my first boyfriend when I brought him to a lesson. (I married him!) I think what I'll always remember the most was the time I ran into you at a horse show, after I'd been away for a few years. I was on my own, on a green horse that I'd only ridden a few times (I own her now!), and she refused every.single.jump. You were riding one in the same class, but you cheered for me anyway. You stood at the gate and helped me through the course, and you whooped and clapped when I finally made it over the last fence (when everyone else was gasping in horror at my ride). And you even complimented her jump, which took some imagination. But the best part? After it was over, I walked by your trailer, and you offered me a drink. I said I figured you'd be ashamed to be seen with me after that ride... but you patted me on the back and you said, "Bethany, you'll always be part of our team." And now that I'm all grown up and that crazy mare has turned into my dream horse, I can't wait to bring her down to a show or a hunt and show her to you. Because, even though I have a great trainer now, I still want your approval. But right now it's time for me to stop being all mushy and teary-eyed, because you've got a reputation to keep!
A Former Students
Dear Business-Like Trainers,
It's ok to run a business and be friendly too. You never know who's life you may be changing, and that's what life is all about.
A Teacher who tries every day NOT to draw the line between Teacher and Friend
Please, for all that is good in this world, stop calling me by a nickname that hasn't been used since I was a toddler every time you see me. Really, you didn't call me that when I rode with you, what about me turning 18 made you start using it?
Yes, I learned a lot from you; yes you gave me many opportunities that I couldn't afford; yes, you proven that George Morris doesn't have the patent on impaitence with inattentive riders. However, I stand by my claim that now that I am 32 years old the world does not need to know what I was called when I was three.
So I wish you all the best, and I love running in to you at events and horse shows, but could you please, please, please call me by my name? Or, failing that, could you just say "Hey, You", it would be less embarassing.
P.S. Could you pass that message on to the farrier? I haven't seen him in a while, but when I do, I know that he won't call be my name.