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what makes a good trainer

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  • what makes a good trainer

    I realized when I was writing my latest column (link below) that my dream would have never happened were it not for my encouraging and thoughtful trainer, Gordon Reistrup.

    Like most riders, I've had both good (Gordon, Peter Foley, Cindy Judkins) and bad (they will go unnamed) trainers. The good can inspire us to reach heights we didn't think we were capable of, the bad can strip away whatever confidence we have.

    I'm a teacher. I think I know what makes good ones and bad ones. I'm going to write about this for an upcoming column and I'd love to hear from my fellow riders and include your views. Here are the questions for you:

    What makes a good trainer? What makes a bad one? What's the best training experience you've had? And the worst? What do you think a trainer's job is?

    You can either post here, or email me: Jodybjaffe@aol.com.

    Here's my new column. And thank you to Gordon for making this happen:
    http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/...-road-recovery

  • #2
    Random thoughts from the boarding gate; I'm sure this will be *quite* the minority opinion:

    --someone who can take a horse from first saddling to finished (not that it would be SOP for an individual, but IMHO, anyone calling him/herself a "trainer" ought to have done so at least once in their career.)

    --someone who can work with a client and horse and bring them to a point where client can take horse to a show, care for, school, and turn in a creditable performance in the ring without the necessity of the trainer's presence.

    --someone who has the nerve to tell a client "no" when it is in the best interest of the horse...
    "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

    ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

    Comment


    • #3
      for myself,

      1) a college degree demonstating a broad life experience (unless you rode with the team)

      2) owns the facility (usually invested in making it work rather than sticking it to the clients and moving to another fertile patch)

      3) verbal ability ( you can know how to do it, but can you explain that to me?) .... disqualifier> a trainer who asks "why did you do that?" and doesn't really want an answer.

      4) good manners

      5) a broad based resume'


      not in any particular order.....

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't really know where to begin without writing way too much but to me a good trainer: *has a sense of the bio-mechanics of both horses and riders and how one affects the other. I think this can be learned, but some good trainers just have a natural feel and understanding.
        *is flexible in training approaches to suit different riders and horses. I don't think a trainer must be able to teach children and adults, but being able to switch gears like that is a talent.
        *can/does tailor their program to help the varying goals of their students. By this I don't think an A circuit trainer has to teach up-down lessons to 8 year olds, but rather a good trainer recognizes that the goals of a boarder with a made horse will be different than the goals of a boarder with a prospect, or horse (or rider!) coming back from injury.
        *furthers his or her education as well. Whether the trainer is one who rides, competes, or is no longer riding a good trainer is interested in attending clinics or symposia of the respected members of their disciplines. I also think a good trainer, perhaps a great one, is one who can answer why they do train a certain way... Even better, they can answer why they disagree with other training philosophies or approaches- and what they would do instead. This may have more to do with communication skills, but if the trainer is also teaching people in addition to the horses, i think it's important.

        Hope that helps!

        Comment


        • #5
          For me, I guess it comes down to a simple concept. I define a good trainer as someone who demonstrates true respect for both the horses and riders in their charge.

          There are many ways that that respect is manifested in a good trainer's program:

          The trainer has educated themselves sufficiently to effectively install/improve the skills of both horse and rider - and to know if/when they are simply not a good fit for either or both

          They have acquired the necessary knowledge about feeding, conditioning, and managing the horses in their care to achieve the optimum level of fitness and prevention of injury (mental or physical)

          They surround themselves with other knowledgeable professionals - vets, farriers, etc - to ensure that every horse in their charge is provided with the best care possible and they coordinate that care appropriately, with the best interests of the horse always foremost

          They have sufficient self esteem to reach out to other professionals to help solve difficult problems, create opportunities for clients (and horses) that for whatever reason are not a fit for their own program, and they maintain an attitude of lifelong learning and a willingness to freely share both their knowledge and their passion for the sport

          I'd also say that the really good trainers also love what they do, and inspire others accordingly
          **********
          We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
          -PaulaEdwina

          Comment


          • #6
            What Ghazzu and Lucassb said is a good start.

            My personal experience is:

            1. Someone who actually shows interest in me and my horse, and cares about our progress, no matter what level we happen to be riding at.

            2. Someone who isn't "just about the money." I had an instructor one time who freaked out because I didn't give her 24 hours notice to cancel my lesson because my horse ended up with a major injury that same morning as the lesson. I no longer took lessons with her after that because she cared more about her money/time than she did about whether or not my horse was going to be OK.

            3. Someone with a lot of patience who doesn't mind repeating things sometimes, because there are days when I need that constant reminder. After all, I'm trying to retrain my body and muscles to be correct, which isn't always easy! I have a lifetime of bad habits I'm trying to fix.

            4. Someone who is watchful, but who doesn't coddle and babysit me. They must be able to know how far to push me without overfacing me or my horse. This also includes those wonderful trainers who believe that their students should be solid on the flat before being allowed to ride over fences.

            5. Someone who is capable of explaining things in a way that I can relate to.

            6. Someone who can explain to me WHY I'm doing things if I'm not sure, but who will also test me and ask things like, "What are you feeling right now?", "Do you think he's using himself correctly? Why or why not?", and "Why do you think that downward transition wasn't as good as it could have been?" I want to learn how to think for myself.

            7. Someone who can help me to effectively teach me and my horse confidence and to help bring out the trust we have in each other.

            8. Someone who doesn't scream at me or berate me.
            "I was not expecting the park rangers to lead the resistance, none of the dystopian novels I read prepared me for this but cool."

            Comment


            • #7
              As a lesson student who doesn't have my own horse:

              1) Treating every student with respect/like they're important. I've been to too many barns where the trainer has their top showing riders and every other rider just goes around in a lesson and does the same thing and gets the same feedback because it seems they're not worth the trainer's energy.

              2) Listening to the client's goals. It's important that a trainer recognize what the owner/rider wants to (or their horse to) accomplish and tailor the work towards that. Maybe SuzyQ trail rider loves jumping cross rails but has no desire to jump bigger, then it's the trainer's responsibility to create lessons that challenge and improve the horse and rider without trying to make them 4' jumpers.

              3) Explaining things multiple ways and understanding different learning styles. If I don't understand it, then my trainer needs to find a better way to explain (or show me) it. I like explaining how I'm going to do something better because it helps cement it in my mind, but other people just want to be told then go do it. Everyone learns differently.

              4) Teaching good horsemanship. I cannot stand a trainer who allows riders to be mean to their horses. That is not how you train and that is not how you ride. Every client, from walk trotter to A show super star should be expected to handle every horse fairly and appropriately.

              5) Reward. I pay my trainer to make me better, so expect a lot of criticism from her. That's good. But I also need to hear when I've done it right and I appreciate some extra enthusiasm when I've done it really right!

              6) Understanding basic sports psychology. I don't mean they need a degree in this, but they do need to understand and have a respect for the effects of stress on riders (and horses). Then, they need to go out of their way to learn how each client handles stress and what that client needs in the moment to help them have a good ride.

              7) They obviously need to be a good horse trainer as well. But most of the above points can be directly applied to how they train horses: The trainer should focus on each horse in training, they should understand what the end goal is for that horse to accomplish, they should be able to "explain" new things to each horse differently, they should (and expect their clients to) treat all horses well, they should reward their horses, and they should understand the effects of stress on their horses. Really, we (humans and horses) all learn the same way.
              Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

              Comment


              • #8
                Qualities of a good trainer:

                1. They have have sufficient knowledge and experience to evaulate both a horse and a rider's strengths and weaknesses and know how to bring out the best in both.
                2. They have to be able to communicate both the mechanics and the concepts to their students.
                3. They need to be calm and supportive, and able to see just when and how far to push their students and horses.
                4. They have to command enough respect to ask for and receive obedience from both students and horses without creating fear or anxiety in either.
                5. They have to create enough knowledge and confidence in their students to give them the ability them to work correctly on their own.

                Luckily for me, I have this trainer!
                Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                Witherun Farm
                http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/

                Comment


                • #9
                  Work ethic, talent and honesty.

                  I'm an owner/client that doesn't need a lot of babying, hand-holding and being frequently told how wonderful I am. So I don't really care if a trainer's got the personality of Genghis Khan. I'd probably get along just fine with George Morris.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Lucassb View Post
                    For me, I guess it comes down to a simple concept. I define a good trainer as someone who demonstrates true respect for both the horses and riders in their charge.

                    There are many ways that that respect is manifested in a good trainer's program:

                    The trainer has educated themselves sufficiently to effectively install/improve the skills of both horse and rider - and to know if/when they are simply not a good fit for either or both

                    They have acquired the necessary knowledge about feeding, conditioning, and managing the horses in their care to achieve the optimum level of fitness and prevention of injury (mental or physical)

                    They surround themselves with other knowledgeable professionals - vets, farriers, etc - to ensure that every horse in their charge is provided with the best care possible and they coordinate that care appropriately, with the best interests of the horse always foremost

                    They have sufficient self esteem to reach out to other professionals to help solve difficult problems, create opportunities for clients (and horses) that for whatever reason are not a fit for their own program, and they maintain an attitude of lifelong learning and a willingness to freely share both their knowledge and their passion for the sport

                    I'd also say that the really good trainers also love what they do, and inspire others accordingly
                    This.

                    Plus the ability to transfer this knowledge to their students in such a way that the student can take it and run it. Also, instill confidence in their students to be able to learn (over time) how to solve their own problems and be able to sort out which training techniques work best for any animal they happen to be sitting on at the moment. In addition, teach them how to be independent - whether that be the ability to prep your horse yourself for the ring or manage to learn the course and ride a course should said trainer be busy with another customer.

                    PS. We were also lucky enough to have all of these attributes in our trainer

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      A MUST for me is...

                      I don't post often, but I'm compelled to get into this discussion. There have already been a ton of great points thus far, but there's one attribute that is an absolute must for me...

                      A GOOD trainer, in my definition, MUST seek the help of another rider/trainer/coach/instructor (even infrequently) as a part of her OWN personal growth as a rider/trainer/coach/instructor.

                      To me, the willingness of a trainer to further her OWN education shows me that she fully understands that we NEVER stop learning and can always use eyes on the ground as riders and teachers. It also shows me a bit of humility, the acceptance that no one is perfect, and hopefully guards against a trainer with a "there is no one better than me" attitude.

                      The Olympians do it, A circuit people do it, so a trainer I pick should do it too.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        i forgot to add: someone who doesn't use three paragraphs of descriptive mumbo jumbo to convey a simple concept. give me a task which will be a teaching experience, rather and talk me to death.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think a good trainer most importantly has exercises and practice strategies to develop and improve the horse and rider. If riding were as simple as a good explanation of how it should be done, we'd all be fabulous!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A good trainer is someone who can prepare me to step into a show ring at the appropriate level without having to be at the in-gate every single time.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The number one thing on my mind is someone who can talk the talk AND walk the walk. I see trainers who can't ride for anything telling clients what to do on horseback.
                              "A horse gallops with his lungs, perseveres with his heart, and wins with his character." - Tesio

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                A good trainer is someone who can meet whatever need you have at the time. One person's good trainer isn't necessarily someone else's definition of "good". Your good trainer this year isn't necessarily what you'll need in five years. If they are meeting your showing/riding needs, and you're happy w/the direction your riding is going, then they are a good trainer for you.

                                A bad trainer is someone who doesn't care about you, your needs, or your horse. Now, that doesn't mean that a bad trainer is someone who is hard on you or someone who makes you wish that maybe you'd taken up kayaking. <lol> If that's what you need to be your best, then they are being, for you and where you are at the moment, a good trainer. The "bad" comes in where they don't have your best riding interest at heart - instead it would be their pocket book or their own climb to the top.

                                imho
                                Never explain yourself to someone who is committed to misunderstanding you.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Best:
                                  Gone these 10 years now (RIP, George) taught me things that I still use today
                                  His advice to a student agonizing over which of her 2 horses to sell:
                                  "Keep the one that's fun to ride"

                                  Worst:
                                  The BN from Meredith Manor who taught a clinic where we all rode schoolies.
                                  His first comment:
                                  "So, these are not your show horses?"

                                  Why no, and thank you for pointing that out...Asshat
                                  *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                                  Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                                  Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                                  Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    After three years of horror stories with my former instructor, my main criteria is this: sanity.

                                    A good trainer is going to tell me exactly what I am doing wrong. I don't need anything sugar-coated, but I also do not to be yelled at, berated, or embarrassed. Clarity is a great thing too. There are some extremely knowledgeable people out there who can't convey that knowledge to a student in an understandable manner. You might know exactly what I'm doing wrong and what I should be doing, but if you can't communicate that to me in a way I'm going to understand its just not going to help.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I think it depends on the individual.

                                      1. I need someone who is going to explain explain explain. I'm a global learner, I need to understand context. It sucks being this way, but a trainer that just tells me what to do without explaining why this is different on this particular horse in this particular situation is NOT going to work for me. It's not how my brain works, nor my brain-body connection. Yelling "put your right hand down" 400 times will NOT make it stick. Wish it did...my life would have been much easier.

                                      2. I do need a trainer who will work with me and my goals.

                                      I am not a passive owner. I know how to give my own shots, clean my own sheaths, wrap my own wounds and ride my horse through his temper tantrums (most of the time).

                                      I don't want training rides unless I'm really stuck and can't get something to work and even then I want to be right there watching.

                                      At the same time, I harbor no illusions that I'll ever be in the Grand Prix ring or even anything serious any more. I'm past that age, and don't have that kind of moolah. I'm a serious rider who doesn't give two hoots about competition. I ride because I love it and because I love to progress with each horse that I've owned.

                                      That doesn't mean I want to *suck*, mind you. I would love to be able to jump that stuff at home...and sure, there's a little dream troll wayyy back in my head that says if I had the right horse and a miracle I could do it. I mostly try to shut her up, because she gets in the way of enjoying the moment.

                                      3. I also need a trainer who is patient.

                                      While I'm mentally very dedicated and serious, I'm an adult ammy who is...older, works more than 40 hours a week as a business owner and who has multiple children. Fitness is a long slow haul for those of us over 30. Consistency is difficult. Sometimes my homework doesn't get done. A trainer needs to understand that I'm doing my very best, and that if I could I would be at the barn every. stinking. minute.

                                      Alas, that's not how my life turned out and since I can't return the children, I didn't marry money and I can't drop the business...well, I guess a trainer is going to have to live with their 4th place status.

                                      4. I don't want to be pampered and perched. I don't need to be told I'm the best. I'm not one of those middle-aged barn biddies. I have a green horse. I do things myself. I've been riding for a long time and though I don't LOOK that good right now, well, it has more to do with old injuries, fears and extra padding creeping up on me than it does my original abilities.

                                      5. They need to believe in me and I need to believe them that that belief means something. I can see through the "You can do it" BS from someone that doesn't believe it. I have one gal who I ride with whose word means the world to me. If she says that I can do it, I believe it (and usually can). I know that she won't lead me astray. It's not often that I trust people like that

                                      It is different for everyone. The same trainer that I would have ridden with 20+ years ago would totally not be appropriate for me today. If my goals were different it would totally be a different person.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Ghazzu View Post
                                        Random thoughts from the boarding gate; I'm sure this will be *quite* the minority opinion:

                                        --someone who can take a horse from first saddling to finished (not that it would be SOP for an individual, but IMHO, anyone calling him/herself a "trainer" ought to have done so at least once in their career.)

                                        --someone who can work with a client and horse and bring them to a point where client can take horse to a show, care for, school, and turn in a creditable performance in the ring without the necessity of the trainer's presence.

                                        --someone who has the nerve to tell a client "no" when it is in the best interest of the horse...
                                        This, plus being easy to get in touch with & deal with.
                                        Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.

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