Friday, May. 24, 2024

Trainers: We Have To Do Better For Our Horses And Riders

Too many trainers are afraid to tell parents what they need to hear because they are worried they might lose them as a client.
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After a fantastic winter circuit, I have to comment on something that I’m not completely sure how to fix, but it needs to be discussed. I don’t have clients, so I can write about this without some client feeling like I am talking about them.

Too many trainers are afraid to tell parents what they need to hear, because they are worried they might lose them as a client. Most trainers now fear their clients to the point of becoming yes men, and others just don’t care about the clients and have found the easiest way to survive in this business is to keep saying yes and taking their clients’ money.

Clients and trainers are both to blame for this problem, but the ones who suffer because of it are the horses. One day when I was multitasking on a conference call, I sat and watched the entire 1.20-meter junior/amateur jumpers then the 1.40-meter high junior/amateur jumpers class. The 1.20 was terrifying. Most kids just ran around with heels up, no connection.

And because I was watching from the in-gate, I can tell you only one in five were counting strides, at most. I saw so many amazing horses save their kids’ lives when they tried to leave strides out into a combination, in the combination, and everywhere else in between.

Longtime trainer and judge Hope Glynn is concerned about a permissive culture among trainers that allows junior riders to move up before they are ready. Julia B Photography Photo

People can knock the equitation, but the kids who ride eq learn how to count and navigate bending lines. They learn how to adjust pace seamlessly, if they do it at the top levels.

Even if you never rode equitation, you need to be able to breathe enough and think clearly enough to count, if you should be allowed to compete in the 1.20-meter. The price of hunters and equitation horses is sky high, and more people are riding jumpers. Perhaps trainers stick these students in the 1.20-meter ring so parents can tell their friends, or kids can post a photo over a bigger jump. Regardless, you still need to learn how to ride.

Trainers, stop moving kids up if they aren’t ready—save the horse! Trainers are supposed to be an advocate for these animals that allow us to be in this sport and make our living because of them.

Parents, the best thing you can do is find a trainer that tells you NO! Your kid should not jump more at home. Your horse does not need to jump big jumps very often. Your kid needs to come hack on their own sometimes, and they need to take their horses out of the stall and spend time with them.

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There is not one great horseman at the top levels who doesn’t know his or her horse in and out of the stall. Yes, the lesson will be over poles and without your irons. If Kimmie’s friends at the barn next door are posting a photo on Instagram of themselves jumping out of a grid at 4’3” when your kid is doing bending lines over cavaletti, don’t be upset: Your child is actually learning skills that will teach him or her how to ride, and how to get themselves and their horses out of trouble.

I have to say the 1.40-meter class was full of truly amazing horseflesh and some great riders. But there were still far too many people who came out of the ring and, when their trainer asked how many strides they got up the outside line to the double (it was a six-stride line), had no idea.

My daughter Avery commented that one of the girls walking the course with her said something to the effect of, “I just get too nervous to count when the jumps are this big.” What?!

Another rider who shows the highs and the high-performance hunters and is extremely well-mounted and in what I would have thought is a top training barn was being told she needed to engage her horses haunch through the rollback turns. Her response was, “Is the haunch the front or the back of the horse?”

I realize I’m old school; I did Pony Club, and my horses lived at home. Avery still had to learn the parts of the horse as a young child. My students in clinics and when I teach still have to answer horse trivia questions in order to get their irons back in flat lessons, like, “What is the temperature of a horse?” “How many inches in a hand?” and “Where is the coffin joint located?” Avery had to know these things when she was in the 10 & under division. Often when I teach clinics, many of the most advanced riders don’t know the answers.

The direction of the sport is pushing us toward more and more money spent on horses, and less and less time spent on horsemanship, and even less consideration of what is best for the horse.

Parents, when was the last time you told your trainer that your goal was to have your child develop into a better rider and a better horseman? Juniors, when was the last time you asked your trainer if you could be there when the vet comes, or asked if you could take your horse out for an extra graze or groom him?

Don’t post a photo of yourself jumping a big fence—when you chipped every other jump on course—to make yourself feel special.

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I know this is long, and I really could go on forever, but the short if it is this: As trainers we have to do better; we have to teach kids how to ride better.

It’s easy to set a course of jumps; it’s hard to teach an advanced flat lesson with cavaletti. It’s easy and more lucrative to buy a top horse and watch it take a joke over and over until either the horse or rider is hurt, or the horse begins to stop. Then you go buy another one and make more money.

Parents, ask the right questions and make sure you are actually doing this sport for the right reason. Find a trainer that is great for both horse and rider, and when they tell you, no, your child or horse isn’t ready, then respect them and thank them for their expertise. Don’t do this sport so you can tell your friends at the next dinner party that your kid does the high juniors when they have no business being there.

Remember, these horses give us their trust and heart. Learn to take care of that!


Hope Hobday Glynn has been a licensed ‘R’ judge for more than 25 years. She currently owns and operates Hope LLC, a successful sales barn in California, and is a busy horsewoman and horse show mom to her daughter Avery Glynn. She gives about 15 clinics a year across the United States and Canada. 

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