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Am I horrible for being exactly what I disliked about my previous trainers?

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  • Original Poster

    Originally posted by GraceLikeRain View Post
    If it is enough that parents are noticing then I think you must be showing favoritism. Yes people inherently have preferences but over time demonstrations of favoritism starts to undermine your professionalism and reputation. Be honest with yourself about what your relationship with this family looks like to the outside. Also, consider why you like this junior so much. By isolating her virtues (such as being a team player, giving 100%, having a rock solid seat, always finding her spot, etc.) you can develop these in your other riders.
    Aside from their (they are siblings) virtues, both have a keen ability to hop on and off any horse, whether its a 3 year old going under saddle or an old school pony without skipping a beat, and then giving 100% at their next show.

    As for the parent discussing this, my AT approached me about this, and I hate the she-said-he-said game, so I did not ask for too much specifics of what was bothering them.


    • #22
      My only caution to you would be this: you might be showing favoritism to the rich clients, as they might be your bread-and-butter at the moment, but are they REALLY in it with you for the long haul?

      As a junior, I had 1-2 horses and showed a decent amount, but we were not, by far, the wealthiest clients in the barn and occasionally that did show by way of favoritism.

      Having said that, my parents paid all the bills on time and always followed our trainer's program to a "T". Guess what client spent all their money and couldn't afford to pay their bills on their five horses? It sure wasn't us.


      • #23
        If parents are talking you have a problem.

        Another issue with showing favoritism is that some clients might not leave but they will start spending less money. If they feel Muffy and Buffy get all the attention in group lessons, they may take fewer lessons. If they feel Muffy and Buffy get all the attention at shows and they are treated as an after thought, they may start going to less shows.

        You need to make sure all of your clients receive value for their $ or you won't get many of their $.
        Auventera Two:Some women would eat their own offspring if they had some dipping sauce.
        Serious Leigh: it sounds like her drama llama should be an old schoolmaster by now.


        • #24
          Just chiming in on what others said, but you don't always know your client's financial situation or when it is going to change. I rode at one barn for 5 years where I was constantly shunned from lessons with stronger trainers as soon as my lease was up. Not fun. My mother flat out said we couldn't afford to a buy a horse, so trainers overlooked me. They "had trouble" finding me a horse when they had no problem finding horses for people with similar needs and budgets but who happened to show more often. I wasn't given the rides other girls were or the same amount of attention at all. And I know it wasn't a skill thing - I'm talking about hacking schoolies or easier boarder horses just to get them and opportunities given to girls less experienced because they owned horses.

          Anyway fast forward a year and I was riding at a barn much closer, just taking lessons. I had always planned to go back to the former barn when I wanted to lease again. But from the first few lessons at the new barn I was treated with the same courtesy as the boarders - and to them I was 100% just a lesson kid. Needless to say I did NOT switch back. And when I stopped going to private school and our financial situation got a little more flexible I leased a very nice jumper for 6 months, showed almost every weekend, went to HITs, etc.

          So be careful. You never know when the frugal client is going to surprise you by wanting to move up to a nicer, big budget horse and if they don't feel like they are heard they may decide to take that business elsewhere. Or they may know someone with some very nice animals and advise them to go to another barn since from their perspective they don't get a lot of attention.

          Agree with everyone else that having favorites and playing favorites are very different. One is normal and human, the other is just bad business.


          • #25
            I am not one of my instructor's big spenders, I know. But she has a solid program and she treats everyone with equal respect, and I really appreciate that about her. As a result, I frequently refer people to her. Over the course of the past couple of years, she has picked up five regular students (that I can think of, right off the top of my head) directly as a result of my recommendations and referrals. Keep that in mind. Your small-spending but loyal clients might be making you money in other ways that you don't consider.
            "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch


            • #26
              Originally posted by Alt View Post
              *Posting Under an Alternate

              Okay, so here's the story. I'll admit that I do have a favorite client... who pays the most
              Before I started my own barn, I would find my self jealous when the BO would treat the wealthiest boarder with more privileges, and show favoritism, compared to the others.

              Since I was an adult when I experienced that, it didn't bother me much, but in my current situation I am dealing with juniors, and I feel very guilty about this.

              My question is, what are your experiences with barn favoritism, and if you are in my position, did you feel guilty?
              Short answer is yes it's bad.... Human answer is that it happens... Professional answer is that each and every liens gets your full attention for the time allotted to them.

              For a business point of view it is risky to be too dependent on any one client. And it alienates clients when ALL the opportunities flow to an obvious favorite. Been on both sides of this situation as a client and as a professional and the outcome is generally not pretty....


              • #27
                I don't think moms talking necessarily means there's a problem. I guess it depends on who the moms are and what was said. I've seen and heard some seriously gossipy moms over the years, even about other people's kids.


                • #28
                  My opinion to your original question- yes (because you didn't like it from other trainers) but its human nature. Being a good business person means not showing it for the reasons already posted. Be careful putting all your eggs in one basket.
                  Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                  • #29
                    Every client should, at a minimum, receive whatever they are paying for. For example, if they are paying for a one hour lesson then they should receive the trainer's full attention for that hour, no major interruptions, no phone calls, texting, unless an emergency (IMO anyway). If they pay for their horse to be ridden a certain number of times per week, they should get that, not be blown off or rescheduled in order to accommodate somebody else (again unless it's a dire emergency).

                    If there are people that you want to do a bit extra for that is fine, but do it in a way that is not obvious to everyone else.

                    I had an experience a number of years ago with a particular trainer who would talk to her favorite client in front of other clients about given them perks and extras. All that did was create resentment and a couple of us left eventually.


                    • #30
                      I don't think you are horrible, but obviously in need of some support. I agree with much of what has been said -

                      Let me add a simple plan of attack. Since you didn't hear the Mom's comments directly; I would start by "noticing them". Say hello; have a brief conversation with them; make sure they know you notice them and their kiddo.

                      Feel this out. Since none of us are at your barn it's as much as a guess as to if the Mom's are being nitty or there is a indication of favoritism going on.

                      I agree as another poster said you need to really determine if it's only money that you favor this particular client or a combination of things.

                      I am at a very lovely barn with a trainer that has been doing this for a very long time. I think he is very good at balancing client attention. Yes, it's clear those that have more horses, go to more shows. I reason that as a client that they are paying for a bit more of the trainers time.

                      But what helps me through it all is that 5 minute conversation; or trainer approaches me and says - "how are you?" Or sends me a text message that my horse was good today.

                      Once you get a feel of what's going on, you can take it from there. Maybe a team meeting etc. Don't feel bad about having a favorite; we all do.

                      Good luck and I hope it works out well.
                      Live in the sunshine.
                      Swim in the sea.
                      Drink the wild air.


                      • #31
                        I can't tell you how many times I've seen a "favorite" client, usually one who spends a lot of money disappear either due to life changes or they change trainers. So, be careful that you don't alienate your other clients by showing favoritism.

                        It doesn't take much time or energy to say hello to the other moms, send a nice text message, or better yet, plan an informal barn party. Make sure everyone feels included.


                        • #32
                          If you have to ask the question, yes, it's a problem. And if mothers are talking about it, it's very likely a noticeable problem, and one you could easily lose a lot of business over. I left a barn where my 2 horses were in full training and I showed regularly because the trainer showed favoritism to a family with deep pockets and a kid the trainer liked. I went to a barn were everyone was treated equally, regardless of how much money they spent.


                          • #33
                            I can't speak to this in the horse world, but I can in my normal life, and I think it relates. I am a foster parent of teenage boys who are all delinquent, I usually have 3-4 of them. I don't really decide who moves into my house, as my agency doesn't believe in the pick a kid line up that some agencies do, and I agree with them not doing that. So I get to know the kids after they move in. Some I just like more than others.

                            Others are pure manure when they move in, and become golden as they change. I think it's natural to prefer some people in life over others, and for me at least, it's easy to prefer the ones who are better behaved.

                            I try hard not to favor a kid in the way I react to them, and sometimes I think I am actually harder on the good kids, as I expect more from them. The hardest thing for me is that with the bad kids, I can't really let anything slide, and with the good kids, they deserve a talking to about something they did rather than a yelling at.

                            I fight with myself all the time to try to be equal, and what is fair.

                            So it's not horse related, but I understand how you feel. As long as it's not about the money, I think it's fairly normal. If it's about the money, then a client who isn't spending much right now, might in future.


                            • #34
                              How do you feel that you have a favorite? What is the behavior you think is being noticed?

                              I guess I don't understand. My thinking is if boarder A has two horses in training board plus takes a lesson a week, that person is of course going to get more attention that someone boarding one horse and taking a lesson twice a month. Ditto if boarder A is attending two shows a month and the other boarder shows six times a year. It's not favoritism, it's time earned for money spent (from the boarder's perspective). If I spend $1100 a month at the barn and Sue spends $550, I'm going to get more attention by way of purchasing more of the trainer's time.
                              COTH's official mini-donk enabler

                              "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


                              • #35
                                We've been on the other side of the coin with trainers favoring other clients. Our last trainer managed it horribly. She ended up without a business once her big name client went to college. Everyone else was fed up with the favoritism and her rearranging her schedule to suit the big name client.

                                You are paid to train riders and horses period. You are not paid to be a friend etc to the kids.

                                Bottom line is that if you are doing what you are paid to do and doing it well, then even if some clients are getting more attention because they have more horses and are showing more than it should be alright.

                                We are now at a new barn and we are not big name clients but the trainer does a good job and my daughter is doing well, we are fine. We are grateful for any extra opportunities that she gets to hack other horses etc even if it is lesson horses.

                                Does the trainer spend more time with some of the other kids, yes but they have more horses and show more. They are paying more and should receive more time.

                                Our new trainer does a nice job of making sure that she is 100% engaged at all lessons no matter if it is a kid leasing a horse or one riding a $$$$ horse.

                                At the end of the day, I think that most at the barn feel that they are getting their money's worth.

                                Our new trainer has been around for a long time and I think she's figured out over the years how to manage things. At the end of the day, if you are true to yourself and your program you should be fine.

                                I don't know how your clients are but I've seen it with a lot of youth sports teams and in the classroom, parents want to "buy" grades or spots on teams, or special attention for their children. Teachers, coaches or trainers who allow themselves to be manipulated like this NEVER come out on the good end of this type of behavior. Eventually you will have to say no to these parents and they will leave and usually will cause an uproar when they do.


                                • #36
                                  I agree with people here who say it's all about how the trainers manage it. Good trainers don't play the clients off each other, esp. the kids, just because they can. Quite honestly, lots of clients don't want to unnecessarily take up their trainers' time and don't care about the extra goodies the favored ones get when they're not around. They just want their 3 minutes to get a question answered in a timely way so they can get back to their own busy lives.


                                  • #37
                                    From my past experiences as a self-paying adult, I have never been the "favorite" in the financial sense, but nothing makes me more pissed off than to be ignored or be less appreciated when I am likely to be more loyal than your client with the deep pockets. Just remember that. $$ is not equal to loyalty. Remember who is most likely to stick with you, and remember that the loyal person(s) will likely not stick with you if you show favoritism. Not only that, but playing favorites develops a bad atmosphere at barns. Nobody wants to be in an environment like that (from a client standpoint). Think about your business in the long run.
                                    Originally posted by rustbreeches
                                    [George Morris] doesn't always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis


                                    • #38
                                      I am with the people that say that just because some mothers are talking does not mean you truly have an issue. Gossip and griping does not require facts.

                                      I can totally see a horse show mother being annoyed because trainer spent twice as much time schooling some other student than her precious daughter. Oh but wait. Lets ignore that precious daughter and horse were doing great that day and her horse was already tired or maybe other student actually had two horses so the amount of time was double because it was the same amount of time for each horse.

                                      As long as everyone gets what they paid for you are fine. Angry people will be angry no matter what you do.


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
                                        I am with the people that say that just because some mothers are talking does not mean you truly have an issue. Gossip and griping does not require facts.

                                        I can totally see a horse show mother being annoyed because trainer spent twice as much time schooling some other student than her precious daughter. Oh but wait. Lets ignore that precious daughter and horse were doing great that day and her horse was already tired or maybe other student actually had two horses so the amount of time was double because it was the same amount of time for each horse.

                                        As long as everyone gets what they paid for you are fine. Angry people will be angry no matter what you do.
                                        ^ I agree with this (didn't read through everything). When I speak of favoritism in my post, I am talking about things like---making sure the "favorite" is taken care of at shows prior to anyone else leaving some to fend for themselves, making sure their horse is scheduled for things first, etc...things like that.
                                        Originally posted by rustbreeches
                                        [George Morris] doesn't always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis


                                        • #40
                                          What I don't get is a trainer that gives short shrift to a very talented horse because the owner doesn't have the deep pockets of the more wealthy client with multiple horses. I would think that winning does more to enhance a trainer's reputation than who's listed as the owner on an entry form. As a trainer, you're only as hot as your next big win.

                                          I saw this happen several years ago. The owner with the talented horse grew tired of his horse not getting the hack ride, or perhaps the amount of schooling at a show that his horse deserved. He moved the horse to another trainer who immediately starting beating the hell out of the previous trainer's horses. I guess the old adage that karma's a bitch is true.