Have a student I can't stand, vent and plea for advice
Ugh I need to vent. Maybe I need to be told suck it up and stop being such a B----... You decide.
Let's call my student Joe. I have been teaching Joe for years, that's one thing I'll give Joe credit for, he's very loyal to me. I really wish he was loyal to someone else. I can't stand Joe. Joe whines and complains. Joe has a negative outlook on everything. Joe is always crabby and disappointed. Joe likes to argue and debate instead of lesson. Let me set the stage:
Joe has issues holding his reins the appropriate length. Me: "shorten your reins" (for the 1000th time in a year), Joe: "I CAN'T, my arms are too short to hold the reins that length, see, see if I do that, I have to lean forward like THIS. SEE? It doesn't work." (Joe proceeds to adopt the fetal curl)
Joe cannot hold a crop in his left hand. Me" "you really need to hold the crop in the left hand as your horse has developed a left drift", Joe: "I CAN'T do that because then I can't concentrate on anything else, I refuse. How about I just not hold the crop at all."
Joe cannot sit up, even when his horse is trying to buck him off (we'll come back to that later). Me: "sit up Joe, SIT UP, shoulders back, eyes up, chin up, leg on, LIFT", Joe: "I AM sitting up!!" (no, Joe isn't sitting up, Joe would rather snap at me).
Joe does not progress. Joe does not allow himself to progress. When he completes an exercise and there is a small inkling of improvement and I say "That's it Joe, you've done it, good for you", Joe shakes his head and sighs. I say "what's wrong?" Joe says "that wasn't good, that was awful". Me: "but you have improved here, here, and here", Joe: "It sure felt awful to me".
Joe likes to blame his horse for everything. If Joe can't get horse to bend it is horses fault. If Joe can't get his horse to canter it's horses fault. Joe takes no responsibility for anything.
I cannot stand Joe. Did I mention that?
Joe's horse, I believe, hates him. Joe's horse is lovely. I get along with it great. Everyone else who rides Joe's horse gets along with it great. Joe's horse tries to buck Joe off regularily. Joe refuses to pay for training. Joe is a cheap ass. Joe has the money, Joe is just under the impression that he needs to spend the money on lessons instead. Unfortunatly, if Joe cannot stay on his horse I cannot teach Joe to improve. Joe has been injured in the past getting bucked off. That has been the only time I have been allowed to ride his horse. The horse goes beautifully for me. I finally get the horse going very nicely and then Joe is healed and insists the rides are done because now it is time for Joe to lesson again.
So then Joe rides the horse, and every ride is nervous, afraid, and worried he is going to get bucked off again. Yet I am not allowed to ride it. Joe is on a budget you know. I suggest that Joe sell this horse and get a different one, one that Joe gets along with better that can go without training or regular rides by me. Joe refuses, he LOVES his horse. OK, so drop some lessons and have me ride it regularily, keep you on the right track Joe. Nope. That's not in the BUDGET. Joe must lesson 2x a week and there is simply no room in the BUDGET for training rides.
Joe nickle and dimes me to death. Joe wants me to handle all his horses vet and farrier work, making appointments, holding for the vet/shoer, etc etc. Yet then Joe acts surprised that he gets charged for that (it's clearly stated on our farm litterature which every client gets a copy of and signs). Joe believes it's just part of my job (because I teach Joe lessons I must also be his horses personal conceirge). So then Joe decides he will handle all the vet/shoer arrangements himself. Fine. Oops, Joe has to be at work when these professionals can come out. So now I get the last minute phone calls for me to handle it. Now I have to drop everything to make room in my day. And then look forward to the end of the month when Joe will argue about the bill. Because you know, the vet was coming anyway for x, y, and z, so I might as well handle Joe's horse too right?
I am likely a spoiled brat. Go ahead, tell me I am at fault and should be treating Joe better. Because at this point I really can't stand him and may likely be enflaming the situation with my subconscious attitude. So what do I do? How does one either A) fire a long term client, or B) suck it up and try to get along with someone you hate and make pennies a month off of?
I'm guessing you're a trainer and not the BO as well? And Joe is an adult perfectly capable of doing things the way you ask? Either way, make rules (or use the barn's rules... ie. if you can't be there for the farrier you have to pay the barn X) and stick to them. Don't do it for free. Say "No". He'll either have to come out himself, reschedule, or pay. Pretty simple. Why would you do favors, for free, for someone who makes your life difficult, who you don't like?
Tell Joe you can't teach him if he won't listen to you, and or on his horse because of (insert your reason here ). Offer to teach him if he puts the horse in training X days a week or month, or tell him to find someone else to lesson with.
I'm not a trainer-dependent person at all... but this guy is paying for your opinion, then not taking it... ever. And not having income from him isn't going to break the bank for you? Make some rules and stick by them (and have him abide by them), or cut him loose. Life's too short.
Do you have another instructor friend who could observe one of your lessons with Joe? Tell Joe anything you like,- observer is instructor in training etc. Then see if said person agrees that Joe is hopeless. Maybe have friend give Joe a lesson with you observing and see if that makes a difference. Maybe you can painlessly and tactfully pass on Joe to friend if they click. But it seems clear that for whatever reason you and Joe are not clicking. Maybe it's more due to misunderstanding of what you are saying on Joe's part, rather than always just stuborness. Anyway- in answer to your question- yes you can fire the client.
Nope doesn't sound like you're being unreasonable here. Definitely stick by your rules. Some folks just want to see what they can make others do for them... like a control thing. Sounds like Joe just likes the center of attention... if Joe is constantly doing something wrong then Joe will get attention.
I like the suggestion of having him let you do X number of training rides along with the lessons. Tell Joe you don't feel that you can adequately work with him and his horse without working with the horse. If he doesn't like it, he'll leave (and you might not mind). Otherwise, I'd just tell him you don't feel like the two of you are working well together and you'd like to discontinue the lessons.
"Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." --Dwight D Eisenhower
to tell you the truth, i would ask him to leave. well first i would sit down and explain everything to him. and say, i like you as a person, cough cough, but you don't want to fit into my program, so maybe you would be happier elsewhere. i need clients that try hard in lessons or i am not motivated. i need clients to follow the boarding agreement which states pay for services like holding for the farrier. etc etc. we can try one more time if you want or we can make arrangements to find you a better fit. and i would insist for the time being on one training ride per week so its not dangerous. he can cut out a lesson to pay for this.
i am all about sticking with the budget. but i also follow the trainer's program and his advice. and if i need to have him ride my horse, then i will even if it digs into my friday night expenses! and no matter how uncomfortable i am about doing something, i am with a trainer i fully trust, so if he says do it i will!
I have seen people like that at the barns I have been at. I hope to heaven that I don't ever act that way.....but it is fairly easy for an adult with confidence issues to lean that way.
We don't know Joe's side of it, and leaving the tightwad issue alone, here are some explanations of the rest of his behavior....not actually that uncommon among first time or returning adult riders....
He really does love the horse, it's the only one he has let himself get near on a daily basis and once he stopped being afraid of it he labelled his relief 'love.'
He is super critical of himself, watches better riders, wants to be better but nothing ever feels right....his frustration spills out thru his mouth, bad mouthing himself and his horse.
He can't carry the crop in that hand....or do the gymnastic or whatever because the horse reacted to it and his heart stopped for a minute in fear.
He doesn't want you to do training rides because he's not a baby for god's sake and he can ride his own horse.
He is sitting up straight or at least it feels like it or at least it feels like he won't fall off in this position. He doesn't have the body awareness, core strength or confidence to really sit up and ride and so he does what feels safe....fetal position.
You can do a couple of things......
you can suggest that another trainer might suit him better and even make a recommedation. Expect him to reject this because he is not interested in making a fool of himself in front of a stranger.....he knows you.
Remember that making a fool of himself and his frustration level is driving most of this behavior.......we are leaving the money and services issue out of this.......have a sit down talk with him about his goals and your goals for him and SHOW HIM ON PAPER a plan that includes training rides and lessons, maybe even a plan to start over with sitting correctly at the walk and moving on from there.
You also need to develop a literal hands on approach, tell him you are going to and reposition his body, legs, hands etc repeatedly during lessons so he can develop a better position and the confidence that goes with it. He may be enthusiastic about starting over if you can show him a progression to look forward too.
You may also find that he is perfectly happy with the way things are going, just talks negative all the time and wouldn't change anything for the moon.
The money issue is actually the simple part of it. Here is list of your services and here are the prices. Bill him consistently and don't back down.
well, i'm sure you will get many suggestions but one off the top is raise board to cover your holding horse for vet/farrier. joe will probably argue but you stick to your guns and say if you don't like it, leave. make it reasonable and apply it to everyone. that way you get a bit of secure extra income and you get to have your own schedule.
also, re lessons....have him video'd and then watch the video together so he can see what he's doing. particularly with the "sit UP"..."i AM sitting up" dialogue. and maybe video another student to demonstrate what "sitting up" is.
and if he likes to blame the horse...do you have access to another horse he could take one lesson on to see if maybe THAT makes a difference? if other horse goes better for joe, maybe joe will take the hint and find one more suited his "talents". and if it doesn't, then YOU have the ammunition to say...look joe, try harder or find another trainer more suited to you.
why suck it up if it adds stress to your life. i have many friends and aquaintances that stick with trainers FOREVER where that relationship got so toxic on both sides. do some research and find joe a "better" trainer and then figure out a plan to get joe to take a lesson then YOU go on a long vacation and have other trainer take over joe for a bit and maybe joe will take THAT hint.
good luck. with a bit of planning i would think you could reshape joe to your liking a bit or find him a more suitable place. at any rate, status quo is not good for any of you (including poor horsie)!
ps...maybe he needs a new saddle!!!! tell joe you can't teach him unless he gets a new custom saddle!!! preferably french (or whatever is priciest these days). for the horse you understand. if nothing else, THAT might chase him away (or horse will get a custom saddle!!).
Ohmigoodness... you just described the male counterpart of one of my fellow boarders. The difference is, she is convinced she knows how to ride, so instead of taking lessons, she pays for the horse's training and bitches about the worthlessness of the trainer after she undoes all his good work. The solution? She bought a baby. It's all horrifying and entertaining at the same time.
Anyway, you don't sound like a spoiled brat or a b****. Can you offer Joe an ultimatum? Something like, one lesson and one training ride per week or he's fired as a client? I don't expect anything you could say or do would awaken Joe to the reality that he's a high maintenance whiney-butt, but for the sake of your sanity, it might be worth a try.
Can you video one of his lessons, then watch it with him and point things out? Such as, *pause tape* and, "Joe, if you'll look here, when you try to shorten the reins, it looks like your lower leg is coming back, which is why it feels like you're coming forward." (or whatever.) This would also be a chance for him to hopefully see what a whiny brat he's being without you having to point it out. I would also get on his horse during a lesson, so you can demonstrate particular things, and how your effective aids can make the horse perform. "See Joe, I'm going to use my inside rein to ask for a slight bend, then bring my outside leg back, and boom, there's the canter. Now let me see you try."
If that doesn't work, it could be Serious Talk Time. You may have to straight up tell him that his improvment as a rider will depend on his attitude and dedication. If he doesn't like that and wants to leave, fine, or he might actually watch his mouth a little better.
And this my friends...is why I was not cut out for the horse business
justagirl...I feel your pain. I had a couple of PITA clients that drove me up the wall and every other week I was contemplating kicking their rearends to the curb.
To be honest, I have very little advice to offer. I never could figure it out myself so I just stopped teaching - I wasn't really cut out for the people side of the business. It's practically more about the people than the horses which is unfortunate, b/c I liked the horse part better
Joe sounds like an idiot...my mom teaches a girl who is similar but thank the good lord she is only a once-a-weeker so I can just plan my ride around when she comes for a lesson. I mean, it's not even me teaching, and I feel like slapping the girl upside the head! She complains that the horse is doing this and doing that and maybe you could get on him and "Did you see that?!" in a whiny tone when horse *apparently* leaps sideways (though no one has yet seen this phenomenon).
Anyway, my first impulse would be to kick Joe out but again, every client will tick you off at sometime or another (it goes both ways too) and you can't go around kicking everyone out
I used to try and tell myself that I just wouldn't care and I would just take their money and try not to lose it. But I did care...I had a program b/c I believed it worked and had had success implementing it - I wasn't interested in changing the program to fit "Joe".
TSWJB's post was right on the money - if Joe doesn't want to take your advice...the relationship is going nowhere. Sounds like he has some respect issues.
You could try and talk it out but IME, if you have already decided you hate Joe, no amount of talking will solve that. I tried with a particular client for over a year but eventually I stuck up for myself and they chose to leave. What a relief and I don't regret it. However, it is hard to lose clients even if you hate them so tread carefully and don't let your temper get the best of you. Things said in the heat of the moment, whether justified or not, will always come back to bite you.
\"Don\'t go throwing effort after foolishness\" >>>Spur, Man From Snowy River
Nobody likes to say "goodbye" to a client in any business -however.....unless you ABSOLUTELY cannot afford to have him leave.....then say "bye bye"......it sounds like every aspect of this person is making you crazy - and you sound like you have gone the extra mile every time to and really do want him to succeed. I'm not a horse trainer - but do run my own business - and sometimes I've had to make the same tough decisions about my clients - when I needed the money, but was just pushed beyond the breaking point. I'm sure most barns have that "bad apple" person who is always negative, never sees the good, always complains, and happens to nickle and dime (we have one in our barn) - but when it's occupying that much time and focus for you.......maybe it's time to just cut the cord nicely and say that you feel that unless he can allow you to train his horse and ride it consistently on the schedule that YOU as the trainer perscribe - you feel that you can't do anything else for him - and it might be better for him to look for another trainer. It's harsh......however.....nobody deserves to give their best efforts to people who kick them back in the dirt. Not to mention that having a person not succeeding on a regular basis brings you down emotionally, looks bad to others who see you train and don't realize all that you've put into the situation.......and usually - there is somebody out there with the desire and will to learn and advance who could have that spot with you. You sound like you really care about your clients and their advancement - and their horses. That's a great thing for any appreciative client to have. I know I continually thank my trainer for all her heart, wisdom, patience......I know that she cares about my horses and me on a level that is unusual and I would never take that for granted. However - Joe sounds like he needs a little attitude adjustment. Sometimes giving someone the "bottom line" is what will either blow up the whole thing - or force them to finally examine their own behavior and how it's affecting everyone around them. Hope it works out for you whatever you wind up deciding to do
Well, If you say you can't stand him, you should probably let him go to someone who might be able to stand him. If you go that route, I would be honest about it. "Joe, I'm no longer going to be able to train you. I feel that you are unable to listen to any instruction from me, so I think it would be better for you and your riding to move on to another trainer. I wish you well."
If you think you could stand him, if he changed, then I suggest looking at BarbB's post of possible reasons for his behaviour as well as taking the suggestion of video taping. If he can SEE that he isn't doing what your asking, instead of just FEELING like he is, you may get somewhere.
As for the money: the price list and consistent billing are your key.
Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"
And really - is it your responsibility to try and psychoanalyze this idiot and try to understand why he is what he is? Heck no and who cares why anyway - life is too short to try to worry about that crap.