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Trainers - what would you do?

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  • Trainers - what would you do?

    Sorry - long....I am a freelance instructor and work at about 4 different barns in my area, all of which have 1 or 2 other instructors. I just went pro again 2 months ago after a 7 yr break to go through those fun things life likes to throw at you. When I was pro before, in IN, I either owned my own barn, worked at a show barn or was a sole instructor in a private barn, so this little issue never really came up.

    Recently a current client approached me saying that a fellow rider was interested in taking lessons with me. This barn is a co-op situation and there are a couple of other instructors at the barn. I talked to her after I had finished teaching and told her to contact me if interested. She called the other night and in the course of trying to set up a lesson, she tells me that certain days won't work because she rides with another instructor at that barn on those days. I asked why she wanted lessons with me and she said that she wanted an extra lesson a week and a fresh set of eyes and if she liked me might switch. Asked if she had discussed this with her current instructor and she had not.

    Back in IN, if a potential client said they wanted to take a trial lesson or switch trainers, I had no problem doing the trial lesson, but always asked that if they did want to make the switch to me that they needed to discuss it with their trainer before we went any further. ditto if they wanted to ride with both of us (most of those were cross discipline riders)...and let them know that I was going to follow up with that trainer. This lady is insistent on her not telling her current trainer and doing the lesson when she is not out there. Well, in this situation, we are all at the same (small) barn and people talk...even a trial lesson will be a hot topic - the other trainer is going to find out. I really pride myself on doing the right thing and keeping my business honest and ethical. So, do I just tell her that I won't teach her until she tells the other trainer? Do I approach the other trainer and let her know what is going on? Go ahead and teach the prospective client?

    Really on the fence here. In IN I grew up with all the pros, so by the time I went pro - I would have had no issues with talking to any of them about a client...but here, I am still a relative unknown and the trainer-trainer relationships here are well - less than friendly a lot of times!

  • #2
    The client came to you. You did not go "poaching" so to speak. As a consumer in any other business I do not need my current provider's permission to try another provider. Why should this be different?

    It is the client's money and choice on who she want to lesson with not her current trainer's. If the other trainer approaches you just say she came to you and you scheduled her. End of discussion.
    Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


    • #3
      Would that it were so easy, Sonnysmom. Even when we're the ones who are approached about lessons, we are made out to be the bad guy.

      DR, that's a heck of a situation. I would talk to the woman and make it clear that you want her to talk to her current trainer so as to keep everything kosher at the barn. Let her know that it's a respect thing, and that as a fellow professional you want to be sure you are showing proper respect to another professional.


      • #4
        I wouldn't have a problem teaching the trial lesson. But I agree, I would expect the client to speak with the other trainer if things were to go further. The client can do what she wants, but you have a professional reputation to maintain. Both of you (the two trainers) have the perogative to teach or not teach someone who wants to train with two people at the same time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

        My feeling is that if the client doesn't want the other trainer to know, they think they are doing something wrong. Why not tell the other trainer if everything is above-board?


        • #5
          The big snag here is...you will be teaching at the cleint's co op barn where all the other trainers, including the regular one for this client teach regularly.

          So everybody is going to know...and professional courtesy, not to mention common sense, dictate a heads up that you will be instructing her. Really do not want her to hear about it second hand as barn gossip regardless of the situation.

          If the client was hauling off site and you not going to her barn, it would just depend on your personal preference...you are not poaching but, on the other hand, you are new to the area and have no idea of the relationship this client has with her exsisting trainer. No matter how innocent you are, it could be trouble.

          Ask the new client to please let her exsisting trainer know.

          Word to the wise here...make sure your style and system is somewhere near the other trainers or it will not go well as client will start the old "but she said to do it this way..." with both of you. Turns into a mess in a hurry if you are not all on the same chapter, let alone page.
          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


          • #6
            Ditto , if this is an open barn with what sounds like freelance trainers , the clients dictate policy , (Their own) not the free lance trainer. If a client is seeking an outside opinion then that trainer may not be meeting their needs, The trainer can get pissed off all they want but in the end they can pick and choose their clients and the clients can pick and choose their trainer . As a trainer live with it or go find another barn . You have no obligation to inform anyone and if the other trainer finds out .. that is for them to take up with their client in what ever manner they feel a need to. Teach the lesson to the best of your ability , don't diss the other trainer , and just focus on your own strengths and style, If your effective and the student enjoys it , you may have a new client.. and the only person the other trainer has to blame is themselves .. or maybe no one is to blame and the student just wanted a new view.


            • #7
              Tell the client you'll be happy to teach a trial lesson, or even teach her some days while her current instructor does other.... so long as she explains her preference to the first trainer. Tell her to take as much time as she needs, but that you both know this can't be done in secret in your very small world. After that, you say, you'd be happy to teach her. You'll also enjoy coordinating with her other trainers and being part of her team.

              All this is true unless you believe that instructors have proprietary rights to clients. As a competent rider (I made my own horse with some lessons here and there) and a competent, professional adult, it makes me crazy when trainers tell me I can work with them exclusively or not at all. If that's true, then you had better be the best thing out there. That's too much pressure for anyone, so let your clients spend their money as they wish. If you are all that and a bag of chips, they'll figure that out. If there is someone else who can occasionally say what you mean in different words and that helps the client through a rough spot, or there's someone else who wants to do some remedial work on their position or flatwork that bores you, accept the help!
              The armchair saddler
              Politically Pro-Cat


              • #8
                Well, trainers do not own clients, true enough...and something is lacking here or the person would not be seeking additional lessons from additional instructors BUT...especially ladies here...

                My point is that it could start a hell of a fight between various parties at that co op...just could create a very hostile environment if Becky runs up and says "Susie, Donna is taking lesssons from somebody else behind your back".

                I have been boarding out for...oh...almost 45 years now. Trust me, this is a possible result of showing up to teach there without letting people know that's what is going to happen and you really, really don't want to take the chance this heads that way.

                Free lance trainers can get a little territorial, especially with multiple instructors at the same barn.

                OP should have that client tell her other instructor and barn mates what she is doing to avoid shattering the peace of this co op.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  I understand why the student does not want to inform her current instructor that she seeks a lesson from someone else. If the student takes the trial lesson and decides that desert rat's teaching style just isn't for her, or that the student and desert rat's schedules just don't mesh well, then the student can drop the issue and continue with the current trainer without having to explain her motivations. And if the current trainer learns of the trial lesson, then so what -- the student has stated that she wants an extra lesson a week, which suggests that the current instructor cannot provide as many lessons as student wants. The current instructor should be happy that her student is industrious and wants to stay fit, get saddle time, and improve her riding.

                  The problem with desert rat insisting that the student inform her current instructor of the trial lesson ahead of time is that it sounds a little patronizing, like a school teacher pinning a note to her student's shirt to ensure the parents see it. And the problem with desert rat broaching the subject to the current instructor herself is it sounds as if she's asking permission to teach the lesson. Alternatively, it sounds a bit smug, like "Hey by the way, one of your students isn't getting what she wants from you so she came to me." If the bottom line is that desert rat doesn't want to cause waves, and doesn't really need (or perhaps even want) the new student, then desert rat should politely decline the lesson, explaining that she's trying to establish a good rep among trainers and doesn't want to step on toes. But if she's trying to build a business, how long need she pussyfoot around?

                  Were it me, I'd try to act like a grown up horseperson, and teach a lesson to a student who asked me to, without worrying so much about the petty politics. Ignore the gossip, and let your abilities speak for themselves. Not everyone will like or respect you no matter what you do. In fact, the more successful you are at teaching and attracting students, the more resentful other instructors might feel. So you may have to make the choice of whether to be good versus whether to be liked.


                  • #10
                    I'd say this is a tough one as every post here has valid points. In re-reading the OP - I think her concern is that she has recently turned pro so basically wants to protect her reputation and not have people gossip or spread rumors - i.e. not when she has just recently re-entered the training arena.

                    I think in this particular situation the OP is right about keeping things upfront and above board. Potential student/client can certainly say something casual to her current trainer - like I hope you don't mind, but I really want more lessons, so OP is going to help me on Wednesdays..." etc

                    I don't think the OP needs to approach the current trainer and discuss it - because if I were a client, I'd be a bit peeved.

                    If potential client cannot muster up the gumption to tell current trainer then it might be best to avoid the client all together.

                    Best of luck to you
                    and please keep us posted on how things turn out -


                    • #11
                      The best trainers I know...

                      Are happy when I go ask someone else for help with a problem that we haven't been able to solve between the two of us.

                      Sure, go get the cowboy to help you with the bucking monster neither of us really wants to ride.

                      The H/J trainer might be a little insulted or confused if I went to a dressage trainer for some help with my flat work. But you know what? They end up liking the results in the end.

                      I take the proprietary attitude in a trainer as a warning. If the pro wants me to check my brain at the door, I know it might not work out between us in the very long term.

                      No problem. I'll always give credit where it is due and remember that so long as I want to compete in the pro's particular discipline, the help I get from "outside the box" is just a means to an end the trainer and I have agreed upon. The best ones are secure enough to be down with that, though I know that's financially precarious and tough for the free-lancer.
                      The armchair saddler
                      Politically Pro-Cat


                      • #12
                        If it were me (and I'm going to be walking into a similar situation in a few months), I would make sure that everything is on the table with the other trainer and the student. There is nothing worse for a trainer (on either side) to not know what is going on with their students when the trainer is laying down a plan for the horse and rider. I am all for training with multiple people, but the main trainer needs to know about it and should welcome the additional advice (if it's valid, of course). I think some trainers get really protective of their clientele because they're a) scared that their student will realize they're not learning anything or b) scared that their student will train with someone that will create a bigger mess for them to clean up when they get back. However, if both trainers' approaches to riding are similar, then there should definitely be an open and honest conversation about the student. People in the horse world should really work as a team, instead of seeing other trainers as competition. We can learn something new from almost everyone we meet, good and bad.

                        I've seen situations like this spiral down into a mess before, especially when everyone is not honest and upfront. Here's an example: my dressage trainer had left for the weekend and left this girl with detailed instructions NOT to ride her horse in a certain arena and to work on certain things. Girl doesn't do what she is told and the horse took off with her. H/J trainer sees this, takes command, and gets on the horse and schools it for 45 minutes right after the fall. Girl allows H/J trainer to ride the horse while dressage trainer is away. Dressage trainer gets back and can't figure out why the horse is acting oddly and not going properly. Takes a month to get back to where horse was in his training. Dressage trainer finds out a month later what had happened (from someone else of course) and is pissed at student and H/J trainer. Causes unnecessary tension in barn and eventually girl leaves.

                        Definitely not a situation you want to be in. The story wasn't to point blame or anything, but human emotions are often rash and illogical, and you want to avoid that as much as possible. You want to build a reputation on your honesty and reliability. Keep everything out in the open and make that your policy. If someone doesn't like it, then you'll be better off not involving yourself in their drama. Just my two cents.

                        ...one more thing...there are a vast number of trainers because we all require a different type of instruction. Some methods and some instructors work better than others for some people. You have to find the right match for YOU. The best trainer for one person, might be the absolute worst match for you. There's nothing wrong with this and trainers really need to not take offense when one of their students decides to pack their bags. It's tough enough to leave a trainer, let alone on bad terms because the trainer has a terrible ego.


                        • #13
                          I think you should happily give her the lesson, but insist that she tell her current trainer, so you don't get caught up in drama.
                          I hate feeling that once you take a few lessons from someone, you are then "their client". I like having one trainer, but also being able to take lessons at the bigger barns in my area. I consider them-"private clinics".
                          When I first started riding with my current trainer I was forthright, and told her I would occasionally be taking lessons with other people. I enjoy a different set of eyes and enjoy riding at different barns, meeting new people. I always tell her ahead of time and it's not a problem.
                          It's kinda like shopping at your favorite grocery store 95% of the time. I like to every once in awhile go to another grocery store for different items. It's not a place I'd shop at most of the time, but I like being able to make the choice. If my regular store got upset with me for shopping somewhere different 3 times a year-Then I probably would find another favorite store.


                          • Original Poster

                            And the table is turned -

                            Thanks everyone for the great feedback. I actually had an interesting experience last night when a trainer approached me and said she heard I lost one of my students at another barn I teach at. Bit confused since I had just been out to teach a lesson the morning before. He had just moved to a private facility about 2 weeks ago. Turns out, he has been taking lessons from a lady, that like me is freelance, and boards at that same private barn He had moved there with that purpose. Is actually showing with her this weekend as well. Wondered why his schedule had become a bit sparse!

                            Funny thing is that really, I am ok with it. If it is a better fit, then so be it. Only area that I am disappointed is that he wasn't up front with me. He is only 14, so the maturity for that honesty may not be there yet and his parents are nowhere in the picture.

                            this morning I was at the barn I posted about originally and the word is out that she asked me for a lesson. She approached me and said that if we did more than the trial lesson she would be sure to clarify the situation with both of us to make sure it was above board and both of us were comfortable with the situation

                            Thank you all for the honest and in depth feedback and suggestions. It gave me quite a bit to think about and to use should (and I am sure it will) this situation come up again!