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Susie Schoellkopf article in this week's Chronicle

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  • Susie Schoellkopf article in this week's Chronicle

    Did anyone read this article?
    Did anyone else think she was lumping all students & their trainers in together, when I contend that at the lower levels kids & their trainers DO take care of their horses. I can tell you volumes on every horse in my barn. My working students know how to do all the things Ms Schoellkopf implies the younger generation is in capable of.
    Who created this problem? The BNTs! & now a BNT is complaining in a national publication about a problem her & her upper level friends have caused. I don't know, I guess I'm happy to be down in the lower B & C level shows where mostly we all care for our own horses.
    What do you think?

    [Mod note: Here's the text of the article!]

    Think "We" Not "I" To Succeed In This World
    April 10, 2009 Issue

    Our columnist would like to see young horsemen replace their blaring iPods with solid horsemanship skills.

    When times get tough people have different reactions and demonstrate their feelings through how they behave toward others. A lot of the mess the United States is in right now is because we have become a nation of “I and me” instead of “we.”

    As I’ve looked around the shows and my everyday life the past few months I’m amazed at the lack of manners I’ve
    witnessed. Manners just don’t seem to exist anymore, and maybe that’s an outward manifestation of our times. I see a general lack of courtesy between fellow professionals, amateurs, juniors, management, staff and so on.

    I think one of the problems we have right now is a lack of forward thinking. It seems that few people set long-term goals anymore, so our junior riders and up-and-coming professionals are left floundering and don’t develop a serious work ethic. We need to help them refocus and think ahead and, most importantly, learn from those horsemen who have been in this sport for many years with much success. You don’t have to try to reinvent the wheel or the system when others have already done so for you. You just have to plan ahead and take the time to absorb their experiences.

    Looking Back

    When I was a junior, amateur and then a professional I was lucky to have mentors and great horsemen to guide the way. They all worked hard—drove the van, braided (manes and tails!)—and were always at the barn at dawn’s early light. They knew their horses’ every move—how they acted in the stalls, what they felt like to ride, and what it took to win.

    I began going to the top shows in the 1970s with trainer Roger Young. His horses were always turned out the very best—shiny coats, clean tack and thus great performances. We always knew our goals for the year, whether it was qualifying for Devon (Pa.) and the fall indoor shows or year-end awards for our local chapter.

    We also had the benefit of observing top professionals like Dave Kelly, Red Frazier, Kenny Wheeler, Rodney Jenkins and Dan Lenehan who produced top conformation horses year after year.

    This younger generation of horsemen, currently in their formative years, needs to read and review the tools and knowledge the past generations have taught us. Many of these younger horsemen don’t know top horse people like Rodney Jenkins or Michael Matz and grew up after these horsemen had left their respective marks on the sport.

    Some may remember Michael from his famous race horse Barbaro who won the Kentucky Derby, but they probably don’t know how Michael came up through the hunter ranks to became one of the top riders and trainers of our time. Michael’s and Rodney’s barns are run with the horse front and center. That’s why they were able to move to the racing world with ease and success. Those of us who watched and learned from them were fortunate, and
    we didn’t try and change the system they followed.

    We Must Take Action

    We as teachers, parents and mentors should seek to educate these younger professionals and help them on their way. It’s too easy now to just hang out a shingle and become a professional. But, in reality, to succeed in this sport over the long term you have to work hard and climb the ladder. Sure, some people have done it the hard way on their own, but why not move up the rungs with someone more experienced showing you the correct way?

    Sadly, there’s a reason many people simply print up business cards and call themselves professionals—we’ve become a country of easy short cuts, and taking time for long-term goals and educational opportunities are fewer
    and farther between.

    I’m disappointed to say that the hunter/jumper world is currently producing mostly a group of arrogant and self-serving professionals and students. It’s too easy to text instead of speaking one on one. It’s too easy to go to a website or bulletin board and say whatever you want about someone under an alias. Well, guess what? The days of slacking are gone.

    The economic downturn is showing us that we need to get back to basics, hard work and learn from those established horsemen who have come before us. They have survived hard times of the past because of their work ethic. Today’s young professionals may now be forced to learn how to braid, drive the van, clean tack correctly, bandage and manage the lives of the horses and students under their care. The era of having “a complete staff” for all of the day-to-day work may now be behind us.

    It’s all too common for top junior working students to rarely be seen back at the barn taking care of the horses they’ve been allowed to ride for customers. At the ring I hardly ever see these juniors checking their tack—bridles and saddles, girths, pads, stirrups—before they get a leg up! We need to insist they have a thorough education from the ring to the barn.

    Bandaging a horse is also a lost art. If the professional hasn’t learned to bandage correctly how will he teach the next generation? More importantly, do these professionals actually monitor how their horses are cared for? Do they care what their barn aisle looks like or do they check the cleanliness of their tack at the end of the day or beginning of the next?

    Many of those in the past generation consider feeding an art. Can you recognize the early stages of moldy hay? Is monthly deworming something you’ve discussed with your veterinarian? What are the pros and cons of each deworming method?

    Does your staff know why feeding times should be on a set schedule? Do they know what happens when a horse isn’t drinking? Would they know the difference between a pawing horse simply rearranging his bedding or one showing the distress of colic?

    Shipping horses is another topic that’s largely been ignored. Shipping a horse in a two-horse trailer, a four-horse gooseneck or a semi-tractor each requires different skill sets. One bad shipping incident while loading, unloading or being placed in a shipping stall is critical. Now it’s the norm for our young professionals to hand their horses over to a shipper and just show up at the competition. They don’t know enough to give the shipper any tips on each individual horse or pony because they’ve not bothered to watch or learn how it’s done. That’s unfortunate.

    A Fresh Start

    In order to succeed in this sport, trainers and riders must have a passion for the horses and know them inside out. There should never be a day that goes by that you don’t learn something new from your horse or from another professional. Now that we are seeing smaller shows and fewer people showing, an economic silver lining might be that we have the time to watch the best in the schooling areas, the ring, teaching lessons, giving clinics and more importantly back in their barns.

    We’ve heard countless stories over the years of people who have run their businesses based out of greed. It’s all
    about bonuses and commissions. Many in this industry have allowed their horse businesses to run without consequences to certain actions because there’s always another opportunity down the road. Has that road reached a dead end now?

    In the past, courtesy and respect took precedence over dollar signs. Not so much now. What happened to calling other professionals when a customer intends to leave a barn? What happened to making sure all bills are paid when
    you leave? Not long ago professionals protected their fellow professionals whether they were friend or foe. Now it’s easy for people to switch trainers and leave owing money. You cannot switch schools or lawyers or accountants while owing money without facing the consequences. Why have we allowed this situation to become the embarrassing norm in our business?

    Today’s economic climate is providing us with a fresh start; we simply have to take it. Professionals with established barns will always have to employ people to help them. In the past we’ve paid cash to foreigners who ended up making a small fortune. Our justification was that we couldn’t find U.S. citizens who wanted to work as hard or had the knowledge. It wasn’t always that way.

    Top horsemen of the past and present have spent long hours working with their employees to educate them and make them the best. In these tough economic times we need to return to those roots and take the time to train all of our staff members to be horsemen, whether that’s young working students or established workers. In return, we have to bring their salaries in line, provide health benefits and workers’ compensation. We have to train our staff for the future—not for short cuts.

    In many countries grooms are proud of the care they take of their horses. The young and upcoming staff and riders need to know and understand that working in all aspects with horses is crucial and rewarding–not just riding in the ring for the blue ribbon.

    I’ve read that our youngsters have the nickname the “iPod Generation.” And, unfortunately, I see this is true even in our world. It’s becoming the norm to ride with an iPod and tune out everything around you. I would seriously doubt that you would ever see any of our top riders preparing a horse while listening to iTunes. They are great riders because they have great focus.

    It’s time for us in the “older” generation to take a stand. I’m not saying we ignore beneficial technology and return to antiquated ways. I do believe, though, that we need to reconnect with the past to make a better future.

    We’ve coasted for a while now and have allowed, for example, this formative generation to take the easy way out. Now our junior and pony riders speak to us through texting instead of speech! Face to face communication is vital to succeed in our world and to develop manners and courtesy. If you can’t communicate well with a person, how are you going to relate to your horse?

    I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful kids ride and train with me in the past and now. I find the ones who are dedicated to their horses and have focus in the barn are the ones who do well in school. They are the ones who go on to good colleges and succeed in life. They are the ones who have “we” in their vocabulary not “I”.

    Susie Schoellkopf


    Susie B. Schoellkopf serves as the executive director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, which is the home of the Buffalo Equestrian Center and SBS Farms in Buffalo, N.Y. An R-rated U.S. Equestrian Federation judge, Schoellkopf has trained numerous horses to USEF Horse of the Year honors, including Gabriel, Kansas, Big Bad Wolf and GG Valentine. She started writing Between Rounds columns in 2002.
    Last edited by Moderator 1; Apr. 15, 2009, 09:56 AM. Reason: add article

  • #2
    I filed that article under "things that make me want to bang my head on my desk". I find a lot of the between rounds articles go there. I think there is a very visible minority of top juniors who aren't all around horsemen, but for every one of them, there are 10 kids in the barn at 5 AM to feed and hack.


    • #3
      I am an eventer and therefore unfamiliar with the h/j world, but as I read the article I thought, "there MUST be a whole bunch of h/j kids and ammies who drive their own trailers, wrap their horses' legs, and are hardworking caretakers." I do not doubt that there are entitled, spoiled riders, but perhaps her perspective is a little narrow.
      Taco Blog
      *T3DE 2010 Pact*


      • #4
        I read the article and feel that Susie was pretty much on target. However, I didn't take it as though she was implying "all" juniors are not good horsemen/women. I think what she said is indicative of what we see in every other area of life....people are consumed by cell phones and technology and therefore losing the personal touch. Teenagers especially, substitute texting for talking and have become obsessed with "keeping in touch" with their friends to the extent that they cannot go for any length of time without checking their phones. I see all of this at the horse shows, they ride with their phone on silent or rush back to their tack trunk to check messages. If they were as consumed with their horses as they are with their phones, they would take more time to prepare for their classes and actually spend more time with their horses daily. As we see it, on the A circuit, most riders are using day care, so they aren't actually responsible for the hard part. Someone else, feeds, bathes, braids, hacks, lunges, mucks, tacks up and cools down. For those of us that do all of their own work, we enjoy the relationship we build with our horses as much as the money we save by doing so. you also have so many riders who fly in just to ride for someone else. Gone is the day when trainers looked for capable riders who were there the same week.


        • #5
          Wellll I know that the kids at Susie's barn sure aren't taking care of their own horses. But no, she shouldn't assume the same is the case at all barns.


          • #6
            It was a great article!!!!! It is something that we as trainers only need to be aware of so we keep on track. For those of you who have students that do all the things Susie mentioned, great job! But, don't get so deffensive instead feel proud your stundents don't fall into those catigories. Lets try to stay positive......


            • #7
              It's nothing new. I remember back in the 80's and 90's there were kids ridingin the medal classes that didn't know how to tack up their own horses.


              • #8
                Hey Rhody you obviously haven't been back at Susie's barn. Those kids do a little bit of everything. Yes there are certain 'levels' of the work each one will do - but those kids DO work! And no, she doesn't ask them to muck their own stalls, but they can give baths and clean tack and get their own ponies/horses ready.....she has been doing business with my tack shop for years, and I have seen all of those kids (rich and not so rich) doing everything back at the barn.


                • #9
                  We added the article to the OP to help foster the discussion.

                  Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
                  Mod 1


                  • #10
                    Excellent Article!

                    I rode Medal/Maclay in the 60's and remember both Susie and her sister Penny and they were both riders to be admired.

                    My parents were not rich, and I learned to ride, and do everything for my horse. It never hurt me, and today, I still do everything for my horses. If you don't learn from the ground up, you will never appreciate or really know what horsemanship truly is. I braid, bandage, muck, clean tack, bathe my horses, clip, pull manes, and can school a horse to a high level of performance. I know what my horses think and feel, I know their personalities, and that level of horsemanship is what makes great riders and trainers.

                    I was also fortunate to watch the top riders in their fields, Steinkraus, Chapot, Rodney Jenkins, Dave Kelly, Ben O'Meara, Bernie Traurig, and many more. Those who think riding is just calling the barn, getting a leg up and then handing the sweaty horse to someone else, really are not horsemen or horsewomen. I know that everyone of those great horsemen, knew how to care for a horse from the ground up, which contributed to their excellence.
                    Proud of my Hunter Breeding Princesses
                    "Grief is the price we all pay for love," Gretchen Jackson (1/29/07) In Memory of Barbaro


                    • #11
                      The kids at my barn work pretty hard. One girl in particular rides quite a few. They can all tack up and groom and do so. They trim the horses and pull manes and clean tack. There is a curiosity about care and problems a horse might have. They can feed and muck. Help move jumps.

                      I watched schooling at a recent show though and saw some kids who gave me pause. One called for her mother to take her horse so she could finish her book. (LOL, it was not a school night). There were other cases of .... "oh my". And I have seen parents tack up and care for the horses etc. etc. I think a lot of that issue is kids that really don't care about riding with mom's who love the horses. I think MOM should be showing and enjoying. You can tell the kids that don't care- the barn is a social event and they treat the horses as an afterthought. Honestly, if you made it burdensome, they'd probably whine and quit riding.

                      That said, there are still plenty of kids with curiosity and love for the horses. I think they'd like to learn whatever someone will teach them. I think its a bit of a rare thing- not every kid wants to spend time mucking or cleaning out wounds. I doubt a trainer could pay the bills if they didn't cater a little to the kids who don't care.


                      • #12
                        My junior days ended several decades ago, but even then there were always some "full service" customers and some, like me, who mostly came from more modest circumstances and who learned to groom, wrap, braid etc to support our riding habit. However, if you wanted to learn, it seemed there was always a good older horseman around to teach you.

                        What stands out to me now, as an amateur rider, is the reality that a knowledgeable/involved customer is generally simply NOT welcome in most BNT barns.

                        I have witnessed this firsthand when checking out barns or looking for training programs. Even in the barns where full service is not mandatory (though it seems always encouraged) I have found that trying to participate in decisions about my horse's care/feeding/work program is NOT well received, no matter how carefully the topic is broached or how many assurances you give that you just want to collaborate on the program to make it as successful as possible.

                        At best, the BM or trainer will listen politely, with a somewhat strained expression, and then more or less pat you on the head - and then go about doing whatever they were going to in the first place. As an adult, I can push back on that behavior, but I can't see a junior doing that effectively, much less being able to get involved in the hows and whys of horsecare.

                        The excuse is always "we want the horses turned out to a professional standard," or "the staff doesn't have TIME to teach wrapping or feeding or whatever to the customers," (and clearly the trainer doesn't have time to even DO that stuff, let alone teach it.)

                        My personal solution has been to ride with a smaller barn, with a pro who is happy to have a knowledgeable, involved customer in her program. She is happy to collaborate on my horse's program and we work quite well together. However, when you are talking about show barns, those situations are few and far between.
                        We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                        • #13
                          Now THAT is a good point. I think my trainer has a certain amount of respect for me that I trailer myself and take care of the horse, but I am sure he'd prefer that I keep my horse at his barn and show up once a week. An involved customer really is a lot more work for a barn that is primarily full service.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TheOrangeOne View Post
                            Now THAT is a good point. I think my trainer has a certain amount of respect for me that I trailer myself and take care of the horse, but I am sure he'd prefer that I keep my horse at his barn and show up once a week. An involved customer really is a lot more work for a barn that is primarily full service.
                            Yep, and that is a large proportion of the customers you see at the bigger/rated shows. So I kind of wonder how many opportunities those "top juniors" have to learn or do a lot of behind the scenes care. There are exceptions to every rule, of course. But for the most part, the barns that play at that level are full service set ups, and customer involvement simply isn't welcome.

                            I guess this is a pet peeve of mine in a way, because I have *always* insisted on being the primary caretaker of my horse. It has made it *really* difficult to show at the A/AA level.

                            I have a really nice horse and I ride OK. I ride very consistently and work hard at lessons, training etc. I am (finally) at a point where I can afford to show at whatever venues I'd like to, and I have a very generous amount of vacation time to devote to clinics, showing, whatever. I have been a groom and a barn manager in some very good programs, so despite the fact that I now spend my days at an office job, I can and do turn my horse out at a very high level, so he isn't going to embarrass anyone. But IME, BNT barns aren't looking for (or willing to tolerate) clients like me. They much prefer the customers who will show up, ride, and leave without asking too many questions or, god forbid, having any opinions.
                            We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                            • #15
                              you bring up some very good points & I've witnessed similar behavior to a degree in my neck of the woods. I started in Pony Club in the 70's with backyard horses, and braided my way through grad school in late 80's-mid 90's, so I've seen 'show behavior' over a couple of decades. I remember seeing much of the same behavior >20 yrs. ago among juniors--then it was walkmen instead of ipods. And the greed has always been there, it's just that (I think) it was less socially acceptable to be as open about it, plus there are just more people showing as well as more shows today.
                              That said, I've worked with trainers who had more respect for me because I braided & did my own care--a lot had to do with the fact that I didn't need my hand held & could be counted on to help out if necess. (plus, I always offer).
                              On the other hand, my beef with trainers is the attitude that they can't possibly like a horse they didn't sell you themselves...
                              I think what Susie was referring to was the mindset that is so common today--that of selfishness & lack of concern for the horse; a lack of bonding, if you will, that comes from literal time spent with the animal.
                              I thought she was on point--especially about the texting--because I see the same behavior in my college students. It's a common rant of mine that people today miss being in the moment when they're texting random, stupid things to their friends. It seems to be done, as Susie pointed out, mindlessly, & I'd say it's damn close to an addiction with many people.
                              There. I said it.
                              "I never met a man I didn't like who liked horses." Will Rogers


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Lucassb View Post
                                What stands out to me now, as an amateur rider, is the reality that a knowledgeable/involved customer is generally simply NOT welcome in most BNT barns.

                                I have witnessed this firsthand when checking out barns or looking for training programs. Even in the barns where full service is not mandatory (though it seems always encouraged) I have found that trying to participate in decisions about my horse's care/feeding/work program is NOT well received, no matter how carefully the topic is broached or how many assurances you give that you just want to collaborate on the program to make it as successful as possible.

                                The excuse is always "we want the horses turned out to a professional standard," or "the staff doesn't have TIME to teach wrapping or feeding or whatever to the customers," (and clearly the trainer doesn't have time to even DO that stuff, let alone teach it.)

                                this post hit the nail on the head! i try to do all my horse grooming braiding myself. and i have been looked down on for doing it. i wasnt respected! wow she really cares and can turn out a horse herself and it looks great! no! i was pushed aside for the better customers that sat on their butts and had the horse brought to them.
                                if susie wants things to change she should start making the idea that the do it yourself customer should be respected!


                                • #17
                                  Typical SS. Look down my nose at everyone and let them know i'm better than they are, my program is better than they are and they should all just pay me to learn it my way. I agree with her that there are a lot of primadonnas out there, however she only needs to look at her own backyard to find them! And as for her comments on rudeness, she might find you get more bees with honey! She was after all the trainer who barked at and dismissed an amateur from the scholling area at Washington who was preparing to go 1st in her class, whilst she prepared her horse to go last in the class before. Kindness, respect and decency are a two way street MS. SS and you should practice what you preach! Shame on you!


                                  • #18
                                    I can do those things - braid, wrap, notice moldy hay and communicate face to face. I even did well in school, went to a good college and became successful in life. But I still can't afford to buy, keep and show a nice horse. Bummer.

                                    -Catherine Cullen


                                    • #19
                                      Guess it's a good thing that I can't afford the amenities and show schedule associated with riding with a BNT. My expertise, along my collection of Vet-Rap and other emergency supplies as a back-up to the barn collection, is welcomed at my barn. Some of the kids even ask me how to do things like pull manes and wrap legs.

                                      But, I have heard tales from the other side of trainers who don't want clients to groom their own horses, either b/c they won't do a good enough job or they don't want them getting too attached to their horses. This would make it harder for someone to learn. I know there are kids in those programs who can take care of their own; ones I know learned at home or from the smaller NT they rode with on the way up.

                                      I have come to the conclusion that SS doesn't think much of the internet, based on reading several of her columns.
                                      The Evil Chem Prof


                                      • #20
                                        While I agree with some points made in the article, I find it interesting that some of Susie's pony clients do not take care of their ponies at shows. I actually only noticed this at a show when my daughter was showing against one of her kids because her kid won. They pony and rider were turned out beautifully and obviously did well, but I noticed that the girl just showed up to the ring dressed and handed the pony off when she was done.

                                        It doesn't bother me that people do this because I realize that other people have lives besides riding. However, I don't think it is right to complain about everyone in the industry when it happens to her as well.

                                        Whether people are full service clients or they do everything themselves, the owners are paying the bills and shouldn't be totally trashed.