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Okay, where to start?

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  • Okay, where to start?

    I have recently been very generously handed two horses with full ability to go compete at the GP level jumpers (although one is out of commission at the moment while his feet grow out...). I am an amateur rider, but have been toying with the idea of going pro since technically I should already be one, and I really don't see a benefit to doing junior/amateur classes anymore. I have a trainer, but she lives in Southern CA and I am riding/going to school in Southen PA. I have the ability and my horses have the ability, but honestly, I'm not sure of where to go from here. I have always had a trainer by my side telling me what to do, but now I have developed many of my own techniques and disagree with a lot of what trainers in my area are teaching. But now that I'm going my own way, I'm beginning to doubt myself and whether I'm doing the right thing. The pressure is definitely on now that I have two mounts, one who is totally capable and could be a world cup contender in a couple years with the right direction.

    So I guess the question is, what do I do now? If you have been in my place, what did you do? What people did you need by your side to get your feet up off the ground and going? My trainer keeps harping at me over the phone that I cannot do this alone, that I need a "team," but what is that team, exactly? Is having a groundsperson (among the other usual professionals ie farrier, vet, chiro, etc) enough? Can I be my own groom?

    I'm looking to hear from other people who have been in my place. What did you do and how did you get started?

  • #2
    Could you do it alone? Maybe. Would it be better to have someone who knows more help you? Of course. Sure, be your own groom. Learn massage, chiro, how to be your own farrier, whatever you want. But having someone on the ground watching is invaluble. A knowledgable groundsperson can see things you can't necessarily feel, and we all know, having a good trainer is so important. And it doesn't matter whether you agree with all a trainer has to say, as long as you listen to what they say and consider that what they say might have some merit. Just my .02.
    Different Times Equestrian Ventures at Hidden Spring Ranch


    • #3
      You say that now that you are going your own way, you are beginning to doubt yourself. If that is the case, then don't be afraid to look to professionals to help you. Just because you are seeking the advice of others doesn't mean you have to agree with all of their principles. It is great to have your own technique and style and have help from others as well.

      ETA: My trainer who is a Grand Prix rider works constantly with a well known ground person. She would never think about not furthering her education or having someone there to help.


      • #4
        With the number of outstanding trainers in the PA, NJ, MD area I would think you could find one that is agreeable to your way of doing things and help you on your way to the top.


        • #5
          I agree, a ground person is ESSENTIAL! Even if you are doing your own thing you need someone to tell you what it LOOKS like when you do it LOL!! You need someone with a knowledge of horses who can say " yes your leg is too far forward" or "no the horse did not seem to respond to that aid" ect.
          My friend just got back into riding, and she knows how to ride , but the day I was there I pointed out a few things that unless you have HUGE MIRRORS all over your ring you will NEVER see.
          The rest you can do alone, BUT remember if you trying to go to school and do all the horse things required you will burn out quickly! Better to figure out how to delegate and enjoy this amazing experience than get so caught up in the day to day details and issues that your forget its supposed to be fun!
          Good support people are the key to success!
          If you are lucky enough to ride, you are lucky enough.


          • Original Poster

            I do know a ground person is essential... I was asking if it was enough. I definitely wish the place where I am going to board my horses had mirrors, but unfortunately it does not. :/ The only places are dressage barns, and I wouldn't mind going there except there are no jumps.

            Yes, there are plenty of incredible trainers in NJ, PA, an MD. Unfortunately, my options are limited to a 20 mile radius around Gettysburg, PA. Anything further than that would be too much of a drive when factoring in school. Right now my horses are going to be literally 3 miles away on full care board, and I should have a ground person to help me. I do know that it's important to have people to support me (I'm definitely not going to do this alone!), I'm just not sure what other kinds of support I'm going to need. And what if, for example, this ground person doesn't work out (haven't even met her yet)? Where am I going to find someone to help?

            I am taking lessons with my school instructor, although I am riding her horses and school horses, jumping a max of 2'9" if that. It's not much but I'll admit it helps keep my position where it should be. I'm hoping to take some dressage lessons, maybe once a week or every other week, but again, that is entirely not jumping focused. I am not completely against the idea of a trainer, but my options are very limited, and I'm afraid I would butt heads with the options that do exist, or else they are focused on hunters.


            • #7
              Mirrors are not going to help you my friend, no matter how big.

              Going pro certainly does not mean that you have learned all you need to know and stop learning, it is simply a disposition. A decision that generally occurs when a rider spends significantly less time focusing on their riding ability, and turns the focus on the horse alone.
              That being said don't think for a minute that someone like BM makes all her own decisions, or does not seek and heed the advice of those she would place in the trainer category.

              The fact that you have developed many of your own techniques and disagree with a lot of what trainers in your area are teaching does not equate to the possessing the actual knowledge base to navigate the GP route. I think you will find that at the GP level there is not a lot of divergence of ideas, there are a lot of different horses, that competing at the top of the game, require different methods of preparation based on their core abilities and their mind set, but the concepts that got them there are pretty much the same.

              I do not know what your horsemanship knowledge base is, but it is absolutely essential that this be a priority. Whether you learn or you surround your self with those who know better than you, you need it, because at the base the care and well being of your horse is going to be the most important requirement you have at the GP level. Successful GP horses are like finely tuned race cars, and they will not be able to compete at that level unless they are well maintained.

              Again this is the difference, everything becomes about the horse, the individual horse, your ride has to change for them, they don't change for you at that level, your focus must be on preparing them for competition, you may not feel comfortable going in to a GP class only having schooled 3', but it is not about you, its about the horse, and so on with every aspect of it.

              I honestly feel that you either want basic support saying you can do it, or you need someone to tell you you are not ready to do it. Either way the reality is that no one is ever certain. It is a an educational process, and the good ones learn, and adapt, take in every bit of information they can and use it to overcome the challenges of competing at the GP level.

              Perhaps the butting heads thing is a clue to where you are?


              • Original Poster

                Argh, I feel like I need to word everything exactly correct, or else it is going to be taken the wrong way.

                Perhaps I should have started the thread by saying I definitely do not know everything, nor do I think I know everything, hence why I am here, seeking advice and asking what I should prepare myself for before I even think about making the plunge into competition, professional or no. Every day, every moment I learn something new. I take something from everyone, be it a 4H trainer, Michael Whitaker, George Morris, or a backyard breeder. Not all I agree with, but it doesn't mean I don't learn from them. However it does not necessarily mean I want to immediately join their barn, committ myself and my horses to them 100%, and submit my horses to someone else's care entirely while I go about my merry way.

                I think of "professional" as nothing more than a status that allows me to openly accept clients and their horses. I feel that I already have been spending time focusing on the horse as opposed to myself. I have trained many different horses of all levels and backgrounds from those who needed tune-ups, to those who needed to be completely retrained, to those that needed to be backed and started in competition, to those that were competing at high levels.

                Perhaps I should not have blanketly said that I disagree with a lot of the trainers in my area. Instead, however, I will say that I have noticed a lot of yelling between student and teacher, draw reins, and other things I don't like that I don't necessarily agree with, nor would I want to see be a part of my program. Then again, this might be a question of my assertiveness in accepting some advice/criticism and rejecting others? That was not meant to be a show of immaturity, as in "I am above all and have my own methods, therefore I don't need help," but rather a quest for guidance as to what direction I should take. It was just worded improperly. Come to think of it, I have never really butted heads with anyone, but instead done the opposite and complied with practices I have not agreed with. Maybe this is more of the truthful concern, although again, as a professional, I suppose I should have a certain level of assertion as to what is best for my horses.

                I definitely do not think that simply "developing my own techniques" equates to GP level. Excuse me but that would be an asinine assumption, and I am a little angry that you would even suspect me of thinking that. I have developed my own method of training and preparing a horse for that level of competition which has arisen out of all I have learned, but I do not think that this automatically makes me a professional or someone ready to take on the GP ranks. It just makes me an individual just like all the other individuals out there.

                I feel I have a pretty strong knowledge of horsemanship. Not a day goes by that I don't attempt to expand this knowledge. You do not need t tell me that GP horses are like finely tuned race cars. I understand this completely, and feel that I am pretty knowledgeable as to what their needs are. I would not have these horses if I was not knowledgeable. They would have gone elsewhere, or stayed in Europe.

                I do not need someone to tell me that I can or cannot do it. I am confident that I can do it, and have had that supported by many different sets of eyes. The question is how do I get there and what do I need to do it successfully, hence why I am here, asking these questions. Hence why I am on the phone with my trainer who has been behind several other top level riders/trainers almost every day, asking for her guidance. Hence why I do not plan to go it alone.

                What I am looking for is advice and perhaps stories of anyone who has been where I am and how they got started. I am trying to anticipate problems I am going to run into and things that I will need for my journey before it has even really begun. I am not looking to be a know-it-all, I am not looking for reassurance, and I am not looking for people to question whether or not I know GP horses are like well oiled machines. I am looking for advice from the ground as I start on course, from as many sets of eyes as I can get.


                • #9
                  I would start by making a list of trainers I most admired. Then watch them instruct at a show. Then narrow the list down and call one or two of your favorites and meet them at the show and have them school you. Not sure if this helps, but it might be a start.


                  • #10
                    I cannot stress enough that you need to be working with someone who has ridden extensively at that level, either as their client, or as their employee. The upper levels of the sport are very, very different, and require a very different sort of preparation than the lower levels. Furthermore, it is difficult to ride at that level while still attending school (from experience). If you are indeed limited to a 20 mile radius, and cannot find a suitable trainer with which to work, then you essentially have two options: either take time out from school to pursue a riding career, or send the horses to someone else while you finish school. It is very easy to destroy a horse of that quality, and I've seen it happen many times.

                    It also pays to keep an open mind about things, especially when you're trying to expand your base of knowledge. The issue of draw reins immediately comes to mind: while for some horses they are inappropriate, they can be a very helpful training tool on others. I would even venture to say that the fact that you have developed your own training techniques might be quite detrimental. I can only recommend that you master the tried-and-true ways before you begin experimenting. When you say that you have developed your own method of preparing a horse to jump at that level, does that mean that you have actually brought a horse up to jumping at GP level?

                    Also, while you may not need a groom at home, I will tell you that it is very helpful to have one at the shows, so that, should you go early in the order, you can walk the course while someone holds your horse. Especially if you have two horses jumping in the same class, you will really appreciate a second set of hands helping you out on the ground.


                    • Original Poster

                      Now I am getting a bit irritated.

                      I have trained with and worked with someone who competed at that level going all the way to World Cup for 6 years, then spent 7 months with a trainer who helped initial trainer. I have worked with some of the top GP riders in the world and have even been offered positions with them. I am extremely familiar with this level. I have not competed in GPs, but that has been because I have not had the horse. I have, however, competed very successfully in 1.45m classes at the top level (Spruce Meadows, places in Europe, AA shows on west coast) and have brought horses up to that level. I am not an idiot who has no idea what she is doing, simply going "hmm, GP might be fun. Let's go!"

                      I do have an open mind. I also have my opinions, just like you do, Words of Wisdom. We can disagree and that is fine. Just because we disagree does not make me automatically incompetent and incapable of training these horses. Isn't having opinions part of what makes a trainer? How am I supposed to train a horse when I have no standard or routine to go by? So I'm supposed to master something I may have tried and found not to work before I can decide I don't want to use them? Trust me, I have used draw reins, and I have found that they are counterproductive if anything, at least for me. And even that concept was not developed on my own, out of the blue, but after careful consideration and collaboration with my trainer. Maybe that's different for you, but so far my methods are working, so I think I'll stick with them for the time being and keep my eyes open for better techniques that may come along.

                      Please read:

                      Perhaps I should have started the thread by saying I definitely do not know everything, nor do I think I know everything, hence why I am here, seeking advice and asking what I should prepare myself for before I even think about making the plunge into competition, professional or no. Every day, every moment I learn something new.
                      That was not meant to be a show of immaturity, as in "I am above all and have my own methods, therefore I don't need help," but rather a quest for guidance as to what direction I should take.
                      What you say about school makes sense, but neither of those options are available. One of my horses came to me from a BNT on the west coast, who cast him off as unrideable, failing to check into his diet and note the fact that he is a PSSM horse. Owner was at the point of just giving him away, and I am his last resort. Very little pressure there. The horses are owned by family (partly why I am so lucky as to have the opportunity to work with them) after I had been deemed ready to handle such mounts by outside sources. There is no interest to send them elsewhere, especially after so many other professionals have ripped off said family members. It is understood and accepted that school comes first. Both horses are with me for training. If I get to compete, then great, that's awesome, I have the power to do that, but first and foremost they are with me for training and possibly sale.

                      Having a groom at the horse show is definitely something to consider.

                      Thanks for your input, but I'd like to stay more along the lines of just advice and not telling me things that should be apparent to anyone even considering to take the route I am, ie "The upper levels of the sport are very, very different, and require a very different sort of preparation than the lower levels." I am not looking to hear I am incompetent by people who have no clue who I am, rather constructive advice on how I can get to where I want to be.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ontarget View Post
                        rather constructive advice on how I can get to where I want to be.
                        As you pointed out, we know nothing about you, making it impossible to predict even if you can get where you want to be. But others have done what you want to do without having a full time trainer, never mind an entire team. There are folks out there who go it alone.

                        If you don't feel 100% confident but feel you want to go ahead anyway, you can always haul to a facility for the occasional training session with a pro with more mileage than you.

                        Just remember who your competition will be: Even though you are going it w/o a "team", most of the horses/riders you will be riding against have the luxury of a team behind them. The team isn't just about how you ride and train, either: When a former YR I know went pro with nobody but her girlfriend to act as her groom, she met with moderate success in the GP ring against the big names but she found it absolutely exhausting and burnt out after about two years.


                        • #13
                          If you think you can ride the GPs without a "team" you are mistaken. You need at least professional help at shows before going it alone and even then, a knowledgeable groundsperson is essential. Look around you and see how many pros are out in the schooling area alone. None. At least two people are helping set jumps, groom, etc. All are professional at the GP level. Grooms must be very knowledeable in every aspect of the sport when working for the top riders. I was once told it takes five people to get me to the ring: vet, blacksmith, trainer, groom and the one holding the checkbook! I show up with the last three. Good luck, though.


                          • #14
                            I would say that the first thing you need to do would be to get your own place. I didn't see where you mentioned if these horses are boarded? It sounds like you've had enough experience to form your own opinions as to the horses' overall care. At the top level, the "trainer" needs to be in control of every aspect of the horses' care- feed, turnout, grooming, handling, footing in the ring, vet care, maintenance, shoeing and daily work schedule. Your "team" would be helping you with all of this. Then, of course, a good ground person. It sounds like you're still young. You need to mentor with someone to help you negotiate the waters. Find someone you respect. If you're serious, you can't limit yourself to a 20 mile radius- move.


                            • #15
                              Who are the top level riders/trainers you admire the most?

                              Talk to them. Ask them to recommend someone in your area. See if you can arrange teamwork, where there is a local trainer you work with (say, once a week) working in concert with a TOP trainer that you trailer too less frequently (say once a month) and meet at the bigger shows.

                              chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


                              • #16
                                As you seem to respect the opinion of your trainer in CA, and she/he is the one telling you that you need a team, but you are not sure what the team consists of, I would recommend asking the CA trainer. From your posts it sounds as though that CA trainer has more GP and international experience than many of us here and they could likely guide you better.

                                On a side note: this might be next to impossible to do while you are in school, particularly in the location that you are if you don't feel that there are suitable people in the area. (I am not saying that there are not suitable people in the area, just paraphrasing what you posted). You might consider transfering schools, or postponing your GP aspirations until you can dedicate yourself to the task. Just a thought . . .


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Jsalem View Post
                                  I would say that the first thing you need to do would be to get your own place. .
                                  The OP is in COLLEGE at Gettysburg. I don't think she can just run out and "buy her own place."

                                  OP - Since you can't move your horses, the thing to do is get someone to come to YOU. Maybe post a new thread in H-J about "Seeking GP trainer who will travel to Gettysburg" two or three times a month and then work from there.
                                  I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Guin View Post
                                    OP - Since you can't move your horses, the thing to do is get someone to come to YOU. Maybe post a new thread in H-J about "Seeking GP trainer who will travel to Gettysburg" two or three times a month and then work from there.

                                    Do you seriously believe that a GP trainer is going to have the time to come to her? I think it is FAR more realistic to have her ship to them.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by katie16 View Post
                                      Do you seriously believe that a GP trainer is going to have the time to come to her? I think it is FAR more realistic to have her ship to them.
                                      Who knows? What does it hurt to inquire? If the OP can afford to pay for the trainer's travel time, maybe someone would be happy to.
                                      I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry


                                      • #20
                                        I have an idea.

                                        What about finding a trainer that you get along with, and signing on as an assistant or apprentice? This will show you the ropes of the business end of things, give you a safety net while you're at school (e.g., eeek! I have finals this week and have 20 horses to get ready for a show by myself!), allow you to manage the horses in your care as you see fit, and still give you access to top training.

                                        As it sounds like you already know, lots of gp riders aren't the "top dog" at their barn, but they are able to make a living doing what they love until they are ready to strike out on their own.

                                        Just a thought.
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