To The Trainers Of A Lifetime

Mar 24, 2022 - 2:56 PM

If you’re like me, these past few years have exercised the cynical parts of your personality to an alarming degree. SafeSport suspensions are announced with depressing regularity, and there always seem to be rumblings of more to come. Questionable horsemanship gossip travels out of the barn aisle, and governance arguments flood Facebook and the forums. I’m pretty sure if my keyboard kept track of such things, “ugh” would be the No. 1 most frequently used word.

Couple all this with the reality of the world outside of horses, and I find I’ve become more of a doom-and-gloom person than I really want to be. Sometimes I even contend that having no expectations for people is easier than having crushed ones.

But then I hear the crisp Austrian accent of my trainer Anneliesa King simply saying, “Smile” as I canter past her on the rail mid-course. Immediately my shoulders lighten and the frown lines soften. The same effect happens when the second half of the Rosehill Farm duo, her husband Hunter King, says, “Pretend like you’re at Madison Square Garden” whenever I’m about to school over a course of jumps.

My heroes, Hunter and Anneliesa King.

There are a whole slew of King-isms that I’ve become accustomed to in the 20-plus years since my first up-down lesson with them at age 5. My soul gets a little bit restored every time I hear them utter those familiar phrases—phrases that have come to represent two individuals who have shaped my life so much for the better. From my first fall off trusted pony Teddy to training my first green horse to my biggest personal successes, both in and out of the show ring, they’ve imparted lessons on grit, fairness and humility.

We at the Chronicle have published a lot of blogs about leaving a barn or breaking up with a trainer. And we’ve written many iterations of our “Horse Of A Lifetime” feature. But what about the trainers of a lifetime?

The ones who you don’t even need to speak, because a simple glance can be enough to understand what they are thinking.

The ones who will listen to what you’re feeling—horse-related or not—and offer advice but not be overbearing.

The ones who are already out setting jumps before you even get to the ring because they feel the same amount of joy watching you ride as you do doing it.

The ones who will spend hours with your horse at a stream crossing until he learns that, yes, it’s OK to touch water, and no, water won’t bite you.

The ones who quietly leave a sandwich in the front seat of your car because you missed a meal to drive out to the barn.

Anneliesa (left), Hunter (right) and me: The things that change and the things that stay the same across a quarter-century.

The ones who literally will go the extra mile(s) for you and travel to a show they normally wouldn’t attend because they know how much it means to you.

The ones who will gently and gracefully tell you when your beloved old retiree is saying it’s time.

The ones who beam at your successes—regardless of how small or large they may be.

The ones who analyze the videos from a bad show over and over again, trying to figure out what they can do better to help you.

The ones who will be there for you even when you live far away and don’t train with them anymore.

And the ones who will open their arms when you ask if you can come home.

Despite all the ugliness of the world, these trainers of a lifetime offer a beacon of hope that perhaps most people are good. To them—my own and yours—I thank you. You make this horse world, and this whole world, a better place.

Category: Blog Entry
Tag: Blog

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