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Trainers, how close are you to your students?

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  • Trainers, how close are you to your students?

    Trainers, how involved are you in the lives of your students. I don't mean "as in dating", but do you take your students to school when the parents can't. Babysit? Go out on the town with them? What do you think is appropriate, keeping it on a clearly professional basis, or is it ok to become more friendly? Undoubtedly you have made friends among the ranks of your students, but where do you draw the line?

  • #2
    Keep it professional - always. Your time is worth something. You shouldnt be driving, picking up, babysitting etc.

    Friendly is great - dinners super. Driving them should be the exception, and the parents should realize that. With adult students, the odd event might be fun, but I would be careful.

    Having said that, every trainer is different, and has different levels of comfort.
    http://www.facebook.com/olddominionsaddlery Like us on Facebook!!


    • #3
      I think it is best to keep business and socializing/friendship separate. What if things go badly for a student in a lesson program, a horse purchase or some other thing? It could adversely affect the social interchange. Another thing is that when you become too friendly or chummy there's the tendency to not question the trainer or speak up when you are unsatisfied with the program.

      Holiday parties, end of show season get-togethers, that sort of stuff I think is totally fine, but if I were a trainer that's about the most I'd do.


      • #4
        Depends on the student, I have quite a few that come, take their lesson, and go home...which is perfectly okay with me...
        I also have a group of 3 girls who are all good friends with eachother and they've slept over (I live on the farm) on nights before a horse show when we have to leave at 4am and parents don't want to drive them over...they set up cots in my living room and camp out. I don't make a habit out of allowing it and it's only if necessary.
        I've gone to lunch with a few of my girls before, either after a horse show or if they're spending the day at the barn being slaves, I mean working students for the day.
        We've also done day trips to tack shops or horse searches.
        But, do I hook them up with guys to date and party with them on a friday night? Absolutely not.

        A line has to be drawn at some point but in the same breath they know that they can come to me if they need a non-judgemental adult to talk to about something...


        • #5
          My trainer and I are very close - but we're both adults and we both understand the boundaries between a friend and trainer. I don't know - when she gives me a lesson its more of a friend giving me tips and advice - and she tailors lessons based on my needs - I'm not too demanding/competetive, so its easier.


          • #6
            I don't train kids anymore because I wanted to get my amateur status (and life!) back but when I did, I taught a few to drive, I took one (at the asking of her mother) to college to sign up for her classes and I went through the parents' orientation. I drove one to her first dance and helped her get ready for it. I did another's hair for prom and loaned her foundations for under her dress. I've been to graduations, funerals, visited with one overseas and I'm sure some weddings will be coming soon. When one got hurt and had to be taken away in an amublance, the mother wanted me in the ambulance with the kid while she drove the car instead of me driving the car so she could be in the ambulance. I've taken one for major surgery.... the list goes on.

            "If you have the time, spend it. If you have a hand, lend it. If you have the money, give it. If you have a heart, share it." by me


            • #7
              Interesting topic! I was accused of being "too close" to my students when I taught. But I was close to them in the respect that in the barn, they told me things the wouldn't tell their parents. But i n the ring they were respectful and polite.

              I did have three students who I am still very close to. Mostly because they were on my show team and we spent many a long Sunday together at the shows, and many a lesson together getting ready.

              I think there is something about this business that makes people be closer to you than say soccer. Maybe it's the long days at shows and the barn, or maybe it's the nature of a somewhat dangerous sport. I've done everything from having one spend the night when her mom left her alone for the weekend to going to drinks with my adults.


              • #8
                As I am a younger trainer (in my 20's), my pre-teen and teenage students tend to open up to me more than they would a parental figure type trainer. However, there is still a distinct line of appropriate and inappropriate. Sometimes they try to push that line and I have to become less "friendly" and more "parental". I've also had to go to parents at times and let them know what their kids have said to me as I felt the students were potentially endangering themselves (i.e. drinking, boys, etc.). We will go out to lunch as a barn and sometimes they come to the barn to "hang out" and help on weekends but it is always during business hours and my personal life is never brought up around them.

                There is one exception to this. I have a student who also happens to be my best friend. We often get together outside of the barn but when she is at the barn the relationship is 100% professional.
                Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
                My equine soulmate
                Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding


                • #9
                  I'm not a trainer, but my trainer and I are very close. My friends and I have spent the night at the barn, he's come with me to Father-Daughter Dances (as my dad lives far away and usually doesnt want to come), and we've taken him out on his birthday to dinner, movies, etc.

                  My trainer has seriously been my dad. I've been at his barn since I was six and now I am seventeen. I can trust him with anything and he's a great person to talk to. He taught me how to drive, pull a trailer, and has been to my house for dinners. He's met my boyfriends and has come out to dinner and movies with us.

                  Some people might think this is weird that we're so close, but I love it. He knows just what to say to make me smile and would have been a great dad... when I was little I asked him to adopt me MANY times! Although we are so close, when he's teaching me, it's a whole different ballgame. I'm very focused and he's very strict. When we're in the arena, our relationship becomes professional.


                  • #10
                    I am also a young trainer, and I try to keep it as professional as possible. Most of my students are between the ages of 4 and 16, with a few adults.

                    There was one of my students whose house I literally passed on the way to the barn, who I would give a ride to occasionally, but now she can drive. I didn't mind helping her on occasion as she was helping me with summer camps etc.

                    I have also had students who felt more comfortable talking to me about things, but like a poster said above, if it was anything dangerous, Id always talk to the parents about it.

                    Ive never had the kids sleep in my house, but I did have a few camp out in the indoor during the summer before shows. It was great, they got up extra early and fed for me!

                    The barn has the occasional lunch/dinner after a show, holiday parties things like that.

                    As far as calling/texting hanging out at the mall, I do not. The line has to be drawn somewhere and the same for all students. I find it can quickly turn into a "well you like her better" type of thing if one talks to me more than the others.


                    • #11
                      In the past I made the mistake of becoming too friendly with coaches (like BFF type friendships), where I would go up just to talk and gossip with them more than I would ride. It got to the point where my lessons would consist of more talking than riding. Also when it came time to leave those barns the coaches took it way to personally. And I find if you leave those people I find you can never really leave on good terms with them, because they get offended. Also it came to the point where they would really cheap out on the services they offer, ie. I paid for my horses to be ridden, they never were ridden.

                      I have now made it a point to not become to close with my coaches and keep everything on a professional level, so if I ever have to leave there will not be a huge drama festival. Thankfully now we have our own place to ride so people will not get as offended if we leave.


                      • #12
                        My coach is one of my closest friends.

                        We have had our differences and have severed our professional relationship several times over the past 11 years, but have always remained friends.

                        We have an agreement that our friendship means more to us than a professional relationship.


                        • #13
                          The relationships between student and trainer I have seen really disintegrate seem to have ended up with one or both sides using the other to replace what may be missing intheir away from the barn lives.

                          Sometimes they get too clingy. Sometimes too involved in the others personal life-and about things best not shared. Get too nosey. Gets to be like BFFs with signifigant downside potential if they start feeling "left out" of the loop with personal issues.

                          In response to the specific issue of providing transportation, watch out you don't become that family's go to person. Nobody needs a client so bad they need to turn into a defacto nanny-it's fine to help occaisionally IF the trainer can leave her barn to play chauffer. But if the rest of the family is not committed to get the kid there? You risk being the only one providing that ride to the barn, shows and maybe social events-with little thanks from the rest of the family.

                          Never forget, all it takes is an insinuation or hollow promise from another trainer and they will be gone. possibly sharing tidbits you shared with them.

                          Keep it businesslike and professional, socialize when appropriate but don't think most of your clients are your BFF forever.
                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bazinga View Post
                            In the past I made the mistake of becoming too friendly with coaches (like BFF type friendships), where I would go up just to talk and gossip with them more than I would ride. It got to the point where my lessons would consist of more talking than riding. Also when it came time to leave those barns the coaches took it way to personally. And I find if you leave those people I find you can never really leave on good terms with them, because they get offended. Also it came to the point where they would really cheap out on the services they offer, ie. I paid for my horses to be ridden, they never were ridden.

                            I have now made it a point to not become to close with my coaches and keep everything on a professional level, so if I ever have to leave there will not be a huge drama festival. Thankfully now we have our own place to ride so people will not get as offended if we leave.
                            Conversely for me, this! ^

                            I have had a hard time between being the "friend' and being the paying student in the past. Something I"m working on! As a teacher, I always strive to make sure that there was minimal talking in the group and that everyone worked hard. So it's important for me as a student to get the same.

                            I did encourage all my students to seek instruction outside of just riding with me because I don't know it all and I would frequently tell them that. But now that I don't teach at all I get numerous calls/e-mails to ask if I'm back working again.


                            • #15
                              I tend to keep things on the professional side.

                              However, when invited to parties and gatherings hosted by clients, I accept and attend. As in instructor/barn owner/ trainer I feel that the invitation is an extension of the rapport we build in the ring, and feel honored to attend.

                              I also on occassion have meals/ cocktails with my adult clients at the end of a show.

                              I have had "special" lunch with a junior rider when we went saddle shopping and drove her, her parents wanted my judgement call and thought it would be a cool grown-up day for her.

                              I do not drive children home from lessons (unless there was an emergency, and say mom couldn't get here; then I might take Susie home at the end of the day.)
                              I do not share hotel rooms with students of any age.

                              I will on occasion will let students ride with the rig to a show.

                              If someone wants to share something personal, I will listen and give appropriate advice.


                              • Original Poster

                                There seems to be quite a range of responses. But I have the impression that more would rather it be a professional relationship than blur the lines by being den mother/bff. Of course, in between, there are relationships of true friendship and respect.

                                I have watched the two 20-something trainers at my barn and how they work. I personally think they cross some lines, but that's MHO. I can see and accept that riding is a sport that takes a lot of time commitment, and your barn buddies are special, and your trainer is special, and sometimes "God-like". And admit it, don't we tend to see our riding heroes that way, even as adults? So I think all that is pretty normal. Of course, how its handled is my quest to understand.

                                I do teach beginners, but I am older. What I see at my barn is that the pretty 20-something trainers are the preferred ones. They are closer in age and physical appearance, and they play with them in a flirty sort of way. They are like hip older sisters, and give their student's dads something to look at and flirt with. Even with the adult students, they have quite a following because they are more fun. Can't fight it at my age, lol.

                                But this summer, I was told I couldn't do summer camp,(which hurt my pocket), because the BO was concerned that students wouldn't show up unless their favorite trainer was there. One of the other trainers even told me that her students wouldn't come if she weren't there. Its like a cult following!

                                I like to help my students when I can, within reason. I have my own family to take care of, I'm older, so I don't come across as cuddly. But should one need a pair of half chaps, a helmet, I even bought a saddle that would fit smaller students because one of mine was struggling so much. I can use the saddle for other little ones also, so it wasn't a total gift to her, but it has helped her gain confidence, so no regrets there.

                                I also have a daughter who rides. She now rides at another barn, but when she was at my barn, and one of the trainers tried to "mother" her, I didn't like it. She changed barns for a lot of reasons, but one major one was because of the way the younger trainers behaved.

                                Now, this is one barn, so I don't mean to extend it to all others, or to the relationships that have developed between trainers and their students. I'm just trying to find a comfortable zone with my coworkers.


                                • #17
                                  Most of the kids I have taught come for lessons/shows, have a great time and go home. However there are always those few barn rats who want to hang around and help.

                                  I was one of those girls myself so I am always happy to let them work for extra rides or get pizza while they clean tack and do laundry. I also let them spend the night at my place before shows. It works out great for me (I have extra hands for those early mornings) and for their parents (no picking them up after evening schooling and then having to get up at the crack of dawn).

                                  It makes me happy to think that I made an impact on a young rider's life, just like someone once did for me.

                                  I agree that you shouldn't go overboard with it though. It is too easy to lose boundaries that way.


                                  • #18
                                    Most of my students come ride and go home. I do have one who we blur the lines with on a regular basis. Her daughter and my son are in the same 4th grade class. She'll pick my son up from school and bring him to the barn when she comes for lessons and I'll drive her daughter home when need be.

                                    Another we vacation together sometimes. Nothing major, normally just a night, but my hubby and their dad get along great so they have a good time. The "line" is talked about on a regular basis though to make sure it's not crossed.

                                    In the ring, it's always professional. The kids know I'm boss. period.

                                    It's hard not to get involved. When the kids are there 5 days a week and all day most weekends, it's hard to stay seperate.

                                    I love my clients and I understand the day will most likely come they move on. I accept it, I hope they do too. I've been burned before and understand it is likely to happen again. It's a risk I'm willing to take.
                                    Life is hard. After all, it kills you. - K. Hepburn


                                    • #19
                                      My former coaches would drive certain students to the barn, take them out to movies, and invite them to share their hotel room and so on...it created an atmosphere of favouritism and competition to be a chosen one. It also created some bitterness towards the kids that were the chosen ones.

                                      I talk to my students while they warm up/cool down and know about their lives, but that is not limited by age. I do not plan outside the barn activities that are not able to be open to everyone.
                                      Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                                      • #20
                                        I have a small lesson program. ABout 12 students altogether and about 7 are kids. They range from 6 yrs old to 18 yrs old and most of them have ridden with me for a number of years. Some of the parents also ride and one takes lessons with me. I am good friends with all of them. We have special occasions together, do a "rotating" Thanksgiving around our houses, have a huge fun Christmas party with my other clients and people that are "horsey". I do sometimes pick up a child at school to go to a show etc. I don't "mother" kids, but they are all important to me, especially since I develop long relationships teaching them year after year. We are a big "team" and "family" and everyone enjoys everyone elses company. I like it this way and noone has ever had any "issues" with it.