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I need some diplomatic help!!!

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  • I need some diplomatic help!!!

    Ok I need to know how to approach this scenario.

    This fall I had a young rider ( beginner jump) who is a bit of a drama queen come from another barn. The other trainer didn't know how to or want to handle her and basically this issue escalated. Any time you tried to get her to do anything she would shut down. Hyperventilate etc.

    Parents brought her to me as I had taught the young lady a time or two at the other barn as a favor. I am tough when I have to be but in general I am very encouraging. I in no way take crap, if you're going to cry you can excuse your self from my class but if you try life is grand.

    Daughter and I have made some great advances in her riding. Made her leg more stable and her more confident at her canter etc. I did however back her off of jumping. She flat out said she didn't want to jump. That's fine. We have been working really hard. She has her melt downs but we work through them.

    So a few weeks ago Dad brought her and saw one of my other students cruising around the jump course on the same pony daughter rides. Bluntly asks ( in front of SEVERAL other riders, parents, and daughters lesson mates) why his daughter isn't doing that. Aside from the panic attacks daughter doesn't WANT to jump AND this rider rides 4-5 days a week as opposed to daughters 2. I simple told him that his daughter doesn't want to jump. the parents of the young girl who ride with the daughter were appaled and panicked telling me if I needed to move their kid to a different spot let them know because they did not want their daughter pushed to fast.
    He then goes out and spends an hour on the phone yelling at his wife for letting the daughter be a whimp and cry baby. I let it go, I talked to mom, daughter went to a schooling show and got Grand Champion in Walk Trot Canter which was a real accomplishment for her.

    We come home and the lesson this week he was telling my customers that I don't push the girls hard enough and that the problem was that they were GIRLS and if it was BOYS out there there would be no problems and BOYS would be such better riders and so much braver ( mind you this man is terrified of horses).

    So NOW I have clients up set because he is acting like a chauvinistic pig AND being pushy and rude about my program. Not to mention there have been several sexual remarks that I just ignore. ( talking about lunch with the "boys" from work at a restaurant where the waitress only wear bikini tops etc and one direct ed at me personally)

    So hears my question. I enjoy teaching the kid and I enjoy the mother but how do I handle THIS . He is making my OTHER clients VERY uncomfortable. My reaction would be to talk to him and wife, explain that his daughter has to ride MORE to get better like the other girls and there is nothing wrong with NOT jumping. Then add that if he continues with the rude and piggish behavior that I will ask them to leave. I will not tolerate it I don't care how much money they pay me.

    However I think that is me being mad and not the way to go....HELP !!!!

  • #2
    Hate to say it, but you probably need to fire him as a client, or it will put your business with your other clients at risk.
    Inner Bay Equestrian


    • #3
      Wow - that sucks. I think that you do, indeed, need to speak with the family in question. Perhaps mom alone at first - tell her what happens when daddy's there and see if she comes to the realization that he can't jeopardize your business like that. Tell her you'd like to meet with him and her (I wouldn't bring the kid into this mess - you & she are obviously doing FINE) to discuss the situation.

      When I have to confront someone, I often spend quite a bit of time 'scripting' in my head - sometimes even writing notes - an outline of points I need to make and/or 'good phrases' to remember to use. Non-confrontational, objective. I'm working through this phase now - a local restaurant which has been displaying several of my fine art pieces has been sold. I knew it was for sale, even before the owner died, but I wasn't contacted that a sale/closing was imminent. Well, new owner is of the opinion that he bought the place and everything in it. Son of previous owner told me there was an "artists' exclusion" term. I need to call new owner and discuss, but know he's been unpleasant with one other artist who has work there. So...scripting. Haven't come up with a 'final' yet.

      Back to your issue (sorry for diversion) - what this father is doing is inexcusable. Would hate to see it come to asking them to take the daughter out of your program, but you don't want to be left with only them as clients. You may also need to have a clients' meeting where you go over your program. But I'm sure that all the other parents have seen the 'Little League fathers' in action before. That's such a disservice to that organization that taught so many so much before parents went competition crazy.

      Best of luck to you. Please keep us updated. This is definitely a good exercise for all of us. Handling confrontation is probably #1 on most folks' "dont' want to" list.
      Equine Photography in the Northeast


      • #4
        you have a rich frat boy who likes to yell at his women in your barn....

        if he were not paying you for lessons would you be around him?
        if that answer is no then you need to send him on his way...

        Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
        I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


        • #5
          Originally posted by M. O'Connor View Post
          Hate to say it, but you probably need to fire him as a client, or it will put your business with your other clients at risk.
          This, but I would be really diplomatic to the point where he thinks he's firing you.

          Dad, I hear you that you don't think Buffy is progressing with me as her trainer, and I would hate to hold her back. Here are some suggestions for other trainers in the area where Buffy might want to continue with her riding.

          When Buffy has a fit and Dad comes back to you, you can say, okay, but here's how it's going to be...
          A helmet saved my life.

          2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!


          • #6
            Is the daughter interested in dressage....if she doesn't want to jump....

            As for the father, he sounds like a real piece of work. Personally I'd fire them.....but if you want a creative solution....have a parent's day, and require all the fathers to have a riding lesson. It could change his tune......
            ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


            • #7
              Wow, you've got a couple of problems going on here. Sounds like you're handling the daughter just fine; if the father wants her to progress further, perhaps you can mention dressage as an option, and then farm them out to a dressage trainer.

              I think you need to have a conference with Mom and Dad. I would call it a "progress check" or "check in meeting" and set a time and date in your office for them to come in.

              Then I would take this tack: (1) Be super-gracious and friendly, and set them at ease. Tell them you've called the meeting to discuss a couple of things. Then, address (to Dad) the concern about daughter's jumping. Ask him what his concern is. Ask him if daughter is happy. Discuss dressage, etc. Ask him what his goals for his daughter are, and if she shares these goals. Set your boundaries that you will not push daughter to do beyond what she is comfortable with; that this is setting up recipe for disaster. (2) Once that is settled, say "Ok, I'm glad we talked about that. That brings us to the second item we need to discuss: your behavior at my barn." Then just lay it all out----you've already discussed whatever his frustrations are, so he has nothing more to add on that. Simply say that he is making your other clients very uncomfortable---and be clear how that is happening. Explain that you can't allow that kind of behavior, but that you are happy to have quarterly meetings to address any concerns. Tell him that he is welcome to watch, but that you will expect him to behave professionally and pleasantly, or that otherwise you will have to ask him to wait in the car. I would not at this time suggest that they go to another trainer, as you don't want daughter to get wind of that. He may say that they will leave, at which point you can simply say "Well, that is certainly your choice. I would hate to see that happen to your daughter, but I'm sure you understand my position." That way you place the responsibility for his behavior, and his choice, firmly on him.


              • #8
                If he is spouting off in front of your other clients, he is putting your entire business at risk. He sounds like the type of parent that will continually interfere with whatever sport or hobby his child decides to do until she completely shuts down and quits.

                Let's be honest here, is it worth losing other clients? Clients that may eventually buy horses, board and show with you?

                I know you like the student and have worked hard with her but 1 student will not pay your bills. Sadly the kids are the ones who always suffer in these situations. At the end of the day, you need to take control and watch out for your best interests. No one else will.
                I don't always feel up to arguing with your ignorance


                • #9
                  I feel for you in this situation and I think your initial instinct is correct. Trainers are often more than trainers - they become our psychiatrist/therapists, godparent. if this is how he behaves in front of you and your clients, its not hard to imagine what it might be like for the mother and child at home. It sounds like you are doing great by this child and have struck off on good relationship. If you could somehow have a sane discussion w the parents about what you will and will not tolerate in your lesson programs that would be great. I know of one riding school where parents are not allowed to watch the lessons and for the most part can only drop off/pick up the kids from their lessons (partly because of it qualifying for day care). Hopefully your other clients will understand that the man is a boor and an oaf & shouldn't blame you for his outbursts and behavior. if you can have some conversation w/ the parents explain to them that his manner is not good for your program, you enjoy having their child as a client but you are not going to risk your business because of him. Give them a timeframe and warning of some sort and you'll not be teaching his child - if he wants to behave like that tell him to enroll the kid in Abbey Lee Millers Dance Studio and he can be a "dance dad".. Best of luck to you and this child. It says a lot about you as a trainer and person that you've taken such an interest in her.


                  • #10
                    I would politely tell the Dad that you will only teach his daughter if he stays in his car while he is on your property. Chances are he will not agree, then the decision will be his to fire you! Problem solved. Did I mention that you should never get so attached to a kid that you tolerate rude parents? Someone better will take her place.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sparky View Post
                      I would politely tell the Dad that you will only teach his daughter if he stays in his car while he is on your property. Chances are he will not agree, then the decision will be his to fire you! Problem solved. Did I mention that you should never get so attached to a kid that you tolerate rude parents? Someone better will take her place.
                      If you make it about HIM, you are adding righteous indignation to his bag of tricks. He will bad mouth you and hurt your business even more.

                      Make it about YOU wanting to have happy clients and wanting him and his daughter to be happy. He can say nothing that would hurt you.

                      If they come back, you have stuffed a sock in it because they wouldn't be there if they weren't satisfied. If they don't, the worst he can say about you is that you are a stand-up gal.
                      A helmet saved my life.

                      2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!


                      • #12
                        I think you need to take control of this situation and not let it ruin your business.

                        You have blinders on - you are trying to keep his daughter in training. That makes her a favorite & your other students will leave because you are playing favorites (and their daughter isn't "the one"), because the parents are not comfortable in the company of the noxious father, because the noxious father has made them doubt your abilities. They probably won't tell you why they left, but they're not coming back because you've proven yourself unable to keep a professional barn.

                        Since the father isn't going to change his behavior, you literally need to decide if this ONE student is worth losing everything you have built in your business.

                        Your options are to meet with him individually, tell him his daughter is making great strides in confidence, she does not want to jump, there are excellent opportunities in non-jumping disciplines and you will not be requiring her to jump. You will miss her if he moves her, but her safety and confidence are more important than his desire for her to jump.

                        Or you can call a barn meeting, distribute a set of 'house rules' and remind everyone that you can & will ban them if they can't act like reasonable adults and be good role models for the kids. And if they treat every person and beast with respect and kindness, they are welcome to stay.

                        The guy probably will take her elsewhere, but if you move quickly, you can hopefully save your business.
                        Hidden Echo Farm, Carlisle, PA -- home of JC palomino sire Canadian Kid (1990 - 2013) & AQHA sire Lark's Favorite, son of Rugged Lark.


                        • #13
                          I don't know if you need diplomatic help as much as you need a bouncer....
                          Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                          • Original Poster

                            Thank you all for your responses. My first instinct is always to be the strong take no BS type of person that I am in real life. However I didn't want to react BEFORE I thought things through.

                            With everyone's opinions it has helped me realize that my first instinct was correct I try to remain professional at all times ( even when it can be VERY difficult..did I mention I come from German and Irish stock...)

                            I'm going to come up with a game plan and I promise to let everyone know what I did and how it went!!!

                            Thank you so much!


                            • #15
                              I think you have some terrific insight into your pupil now that you have met her father!

                              In any case, though I'm not a trainer, I don't allow anyone to disrupt my business. Also, if someone is more hassle than is worth the income I am making off of them, I let them go as a client--my time and energy are valuable and my business does not benefit from me overextending myself for one client to the detriment of others.

                              Using tact and professionalism is the first step in handling these types of situations. You have every right to speak to the father and let him know politely but firmly that while you encourage him to discuss his concerns about his daughter with you, it is inappropriate for him to involve himself in ANY way in other students' training plans. Taking an educational perspective and trying to educate clients/parents about your program and why you make the decisions you make can also be helpful, such as explaining that the sport of riding is far more about skill than bravery and jump height is not a marker of success or skill.

                              I think it falls well within the realm of professionalism to let clients know that certain types of behaviors--gossip, sexual comments, rudeness, or publicly negatively verbally analyzing the ability/progress of other riders, etc. are not tolerated at your place of business.

                              You did have a giant red flag with this client since she had been let go from another training barn, and I think you may find that you have to let this client go lest they spoil the atmosphere and positive energy of your program.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by nlk View Post
                                So a few weeks ago Dad brought her and saw one of my other students cruising around the jump course on the same pony daughter rides. Bluntly asks ( in front of SEVERAL other riders, parents, and daughters lesson mates) why his daughter isn't doing that. I simple told him that his daughter doesn't want to jump. the parents of the young girl who ride with the daughter were appaled and panicked telling me if I needed to move their kid to a different spot let them know because they did not want their daughter pushed to fast.
                                His question to you never should have been answered in front of other parents, students, etc. A simple "We'll talk about it later" or move him off to the side and discuss it privately.

                                Your response, while truthful, embarassed him in front of other parents. He took it personally, that there was something lacking in his daughter.

                                Now the door has opened to other behavior as he tries to make up (in his mind) for the failing of his daughter to measure up.

                                He's both competitive and insecure. Keep him marginalized, deal with the mother, and encourage and support the daughter. Don't fail her by sending them to another trainer. She won't understand it, and she'll think it's because she wasn't good enough to stay with you.

                                The idea of having a dad's day is a good one. Let the other men handle him while you run the event. They'll take care of him, I guarantee it.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by M. O'Connor View Post
                                  Hate to say it, but you probably need to fire him as a client, or it will put your business with your other clients at risk.
                                  I agree 100%. From the perspective of the other clients, they do not deserve or need to be in an environment with this man - and their children should definitely NOT be learning that it's okay to be like that. As the head-trainer YOU are responsible for ensuring a safe, productive environment.

                                  It really sucks that the daughter and mother are in this situation, but that is not your problem, nor are you in a position to do anything about it.

                                  That said, if you do not want to fire him as a client, you can ask that he not come to the barn. He will probably pitch a fit and you will lose them as clients, but at least it will be his choice ... and who knows, he may wake up a realize the effects of his behavior.


                                  • #18
                                    OP - I know this is probably obvious, but, be very careful here to maintain boundaries and focus on objective (specific behaviors) that he cannot dispute. After reading through the comments above, some of the ideas are really good and creative, but, IMO, they come close to blurring the professional relationship. You are dealing with a man who already seems to disregard women, and, he is likely to try and marginalize your comments and concerns.

                                    That said, for what its worth, here are a couple of suggestions:
                                    - Do not mention his personal relationship with his wife or daughter;
                                    - Do not suppose to understand his motivation;
                                    - Try to minimize talk about your feelings, instead stick to the fact there have been complaints and his actions go against your policy and the barn runs on your policy;
                                    - do not try to "fix" him. I'm certain you are not the first person who has been offended by him and your relationship with him is professional, not personal.

                                    Anyway, good luck. I've had to deal with men like this in the course of my career, and it is not easy. If you were close friends with this man, then I would say, by all means, try and help him see the error of his ways and work on solutions to support correct behavior, but, you are not! You are a professional woman, running a successful business that helps children (boys and girls) and other riders grow.


                                    • #19
                                      Was it the child the previous trainer struggled to handle or the father????


                                      • #20
                                        Sir, I am going to need to give you the 30 days notice that I agreed to give if this continues to happen. I enjoy working with your daughter, I think she is talented and has love for the sport but I cannot put any of my clients in an uncomfortable situation on someone else's part. If this is something that we can agree on I would be more than happy moving forward. If we still have a disagreeance, this might be a good time to start looking at other options.