BY HALLIE DAVIS
These days, a lot of people in our industry like to talk down about the young riders of today. Recently, a post went viral on Facebook from a highly regarded trainer about kids and their perceived lack of work ethic. I sat on it for a few days, and I’d like to voice my humble opinion. We all need to rethink what our roles as mentors, trainers and role models mean when it comes to improving and growing our sport.
As trainers, we are teachers and as teachers we have to set the expectation of what we want. If we want students who work hard, learn horse management, and ride everything under the sun then we must articulate that as our expectation. It should be the expectation that our students know what equipment they are using and why, how to spot unsafe equipment, and how to properly take care of their equine partners.
A small step would be encouraging horse management education. Monday is where our students learn the horse management side alongside seeing the operations of our business. Not only would this increase their horse sense, but it would also let the next generation of professionals see what it takes to run a successful business.
If they came to the barn to work side by side with the grooms, I guarantee they would leave not only with a bigger tool belt of knowledge but also a greater appreciation for the grooms.
If the students don’t have a guide/norm or know what our expectations are we are setting both ourselves and the students up for failure and disappointment. It’s through teaching moments that students learn expectations, and also how to accept failure with grace. It’s our job to teach them it’s okay to fail and fail again, as long as we are continuing our education, making needed changes and keeping our goals and expectations in mind.
As a teacher, it’s ok to tell them they didn’t meet our expectation but then we also show them how to next time. Their growth, as well as their motivation, will double. We shouldn’t be afraid of being stern. It’s through sternness that they learn expectations.
And if we are stern, we need to talk about praise too. Some see it as being over done, but I see it as an opportunity to boost confidence. You never know the pressures that the really good riders put on themselves. Something trivial to us might make the difference to them. Everyone wants to feel recognized and appreciated.
If you were to ask me if I see a barn full of slack, unmotivated young riders — I would say that I don’t. I see something different.
I see tons of kids that want to work hard, ride everything, and learn… but many are afraid to ask. Some big name trainers need to think about that. To many of these kids, they are their idols and the kids are intimidated. I know it’s hard for me, a full grown adult, to just walk up to someone I idolize and start talking. It’s our job to give back to our sport, to make it better and you never know that one student in your barn might be the one who does it.
I am sure there are slackers out there, but I refuse to believe they outweigh the wonderful kids I see week after week at horse shows all over the country.
Hallie Davis grew up riding in Memphis, TN showing both hunters, jumpers and later eventing. She has a Bachelor in Fine Arts, a Masters in Special Education and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. She is a mother of four children, and owns/manages Hallie Rush Show Stables, LLC which is named after her daughter. The barn is a small, boutique farm outside of Nashville, TN and specializes in upper end ponies, hunters and jumpers with successful ribbons at Devon, Pony Finals, etc. You can follow Hallie Rush Show Stables on Facebook and instagram @hk.unlim.