Trainer Tuesday: It is not your trainer’s job to…


Welcome to Trainer Tuesday! Each week we ask trainers a question and gather their answers for you. These trainers have a range of experience, backgrounds, and focus points of their programs, so the answers have as much variation as you would expect and also probably much more similarity. 

This week’s question posed is: It is not your trainer’s job to…

Here are their answers: 

“Know what time the walk is and if your ring is on time. Most trainers are very on top of what is going on in the ring, but it is your job to check in on timing. Know when your walk is and if needed help them out by telling them if things aren’t on schedule. Often trainers are dealing with multiple clients while you are only in charge of yourself and one to two horses. Do what you can to keep yourself organized and help make your trainers’ day run smoother.” -Hope Glynn
Listen to Hope on The Plaidcast here.

“Tell you what time you’re going to show. Nowadays, with everything online, clients should be self-sufficient enough to know when to be at the show.” -Tommi Clark

“I have so many things to respond with so here is a list!

  1. It’s not our job to motivate you to put in the time and effort it takes to be successful.
  2. It’s not our job to want it more than you or to instill desire.
  3. As much as we are here to help you, it is not our job to be your therapist.
  4. It’s not our job to raise your kids. It’s the parents job to teach them about good sportsmanship, it’s our job to enforce it.
  5. It’s not your trainer’s job to teach you to be a productive member of society.
  6. It is our job to teach you about discipline, but it is not our job to continually ask, beg and plead to do the things we have taught you to do that really do matter.
  7. It’s not our job to learn your courses for you! Be proactive, get to the ring, learn your course early in the morning!
  8. It’s not our job to answer non urgent questions outside of normal business hours.
  9. It’s not our job to constantly be expected to sacrifice our personal time, lives and sanity – we need work life balance too!
  10. Finally, it is NOT our job to finance your riding career.” -Brooke Farr
    Read about Brooke here.

“To teach what the rider ‘likes’ or only what they want. It’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle of ‘client controlled lessons’ based on a parent’s or clients’ paid influence or pressure. The trainer is there to create confidence, skills, and build character and safety in the rider and for the horse! That trust must be there between clients and trainers. This allows freedom for the trainer to create a successful system in their teaching. Even when it gets hard!” -Jonathon and Joseph Fischetti

“It is not your trainer’s job to know your courses. When my students arrive at a show, one of the first things I have them do is find out what ring they are riding in and go up and learn their courses. Some people need to watch others ride the course, some can look at the board where the courses are posted and be fine. I always go over the courses with them before they enter the ring but that is a review so that we have our plan. It should not be the first time they see the course.” -Gregory Franklin
Read Gregory’s article here.

“Babysit your toddlers during your lessons. If Something came up and their care fell through, it’s not a big issue unless it becomes a common occurrence. However, I had a client once who whenever she came would drop her toddler on me and expect me to watch him while I was also trying to teach her.” -Simmone Berg

“A clear description of the trainer’s responsibilities – as each sees their role – has always been part of my fee schedule and showing etiquette.

  1. As a trainer and one responsible for the care, custody, and control of your horse, I am focused on safety. Safe aisle practices handling a horse, safe footwear, etc, and also safety is #1 in lessons and making realistic goals.
  2. It is my job to educate non-horse people on how the sport works, how horses vary from lesson to lesson and show to show. It is my job to take time with clients.
  3. I am not a chaperone. Parents are responsible for their children. Teaming up with other parents etc. My main focus is on the horses. I welcome riders to work in the stable and gain valuable confidence and increase their horse IQ. That has to be balanced with parents’ schedules and timing for rides home etc.
  4. Payment of vendors and shippers etc is the owner’s responsibility and timely payment of monthly board and services invoices is required. I cannot operate as an owner’s bank and the other customers who pay promptly are not a slow paying customers bank either.

Riding is a sport and a business and needs to be respected as such.” -Diane Carney
Listen to Diane on The Plaidcast here.

“Know your course. That is something you should get on your own. If you’re not quite sure then watch your class.” -Pearl Running Deer
Read about Pearl here.

“Babysit your child after the lesson is done.” -Sally Batton
Read Sally’s book The Athletic Equestrian: Over 40 Exercises for Good Hands, Power Legs, and Superior Seat Awareness.

“In my barn, it’s not your trainer’s job to lie to make you feel more comfortable. Horses are animals that we partner with to meet our expectations and standards for fun and competition. In my barn, you will not hear ‘this pony/horse is perfect and will never hurt you.’ Some of these animals are like no other; tolerant, kind, forgiving, educated, and as close to perfect as you can get in this sport. But there is no such thing as a perfect horse.

They spook, buck, get fresh, have mid-ride or show crises, and many other behaviors that are natural and will occur if you stick around long enough. It’s not your trainer’s job to hide a horse’s behavior. It is our job to help you learn the horse and have the most enjoyable partnership with them.

A lot of my students – young and old – will hear me say ‘the worst thing this horse will do is X’ or ‘this pony has a habit of Y’ and ‘try not to pull on this pony as hard as others or he might go faster instead of slower because of past experiences.’ All of this information that may seem ‘scary’ or ‘negative’ is followed by instructions on how to have a good ride with every horse with behaviors considered and talked about openly.

It is not your trainer’s job to blur over behaviors just because it makes the rider uncomfortable. If we are doing our job correctly, then this type of information will make the rider better and happier! -Alliyah Antoniadis
Read about Alliyah here.

“It is not your trainer’s job to know where your equipment is. Of course, a lesson program is different from a show facility. In my program, it is your responsibility to hand the grooms your tack, and take it back after your ride.

If you have a fancy set of jumping boots, special bridle for showing, or personal saddle pad, it is your responsibility to keep track of it as it goes on and off your horse. Always check your tack before your ride!” -Megan O’Dwyer Thiel

“To clean up after you and your horse. To clean and wrap your bridles. To teach you your courses at a horse show.” -David Sanderson
Listen to David on The Plaidcast here.

“It’s not your trainer’s job to learn your courses for you. When your trainer arrives at the gate to coach and school you, you should know your courses forward and backwards and all the measurements. You should be able to tell your trainer the track.

Be aware of any course questions that may cause a dilemma for your particular mount, ie: is there a puddle in front of the oxer? If possible you should walk the courses prior, or at least watch horses jump them earlier in the day. Know if there is a problem fence, a spooky corner or a line riding rather long. Take good notice of the perimeter of the arena and any possible issues exterior influences may present.

Routinely following this procedure will allow you to feel confident and more relaxed as you enter the ring. Being well prepared will undoubtedly result in better performances. It’s all part of being a better exhibitor.” -Ellen Shevella
Read Ellen’s article here.

“It’s not your trainer’s job to babysit you at the horse show.

If you’re a good enough rider to compete, that also means that you can find and learn your course, know approximately when your class will go, show up to meet your trainer at the warm up ring when you need to, have the proper attire, and be mentally and physically prepared to do what the show will require of you that day.

Your trainer is bringing the knowledge and the experience to support you, it’s your job to show up ready to receive that support on the day!” -Randi Heathman
Listen to Randi’s book Horses for Courses: The Definitive Guidebook for the Prospective College Equestrian, Second Edition.

“Set your goals. It is helpful for everyone to be clear on their own goals and expectations and what it takes to get there. Do you want to be a national champion or do you want to have fun and improve your basics? Goals can and should change so have these conversations as needed.” -Traci Brooks
Listen to Traci’s book With Purpose: The Balmoral Standard.

“It is not your trainer’s job to make you show up, both literally and figuratively. Your trainer wants this for you. ‘This’ being improvement, success, confidence, growth, achievement, etc. However, it’s not their job to want it for you more than you want it for yourself. It is your job to show up and work – to ride, to learn, to listen, to absorb, to put in the time and effort required in order to achieve your goals.

Similarly, it is not your trainer’s job to teach you every stitch of information you know pertaining to your horse and your sport. There is an overabundance of knowledge and information out there in books, magazines, videos, articles, on the internet, you name it. Seek it out. Go the extra mile and absorb the knowledge that decades of horsemen and women before you have learned the hard way.

Come to the barn and watch lessons or training rides. Get off of instagram and really seek out all of the knowledge that’s around you, usually free of charge if you’re willing to put in the time, and don’t just expect your trainer to spoon-feed it to you in a lesson.” -Maddy Brown
Read Maddy’s article here.

“It’s not your trainer’s job to make sure you’re on time. You know your horse and your ride times, plan accordingly!” -Macy Clark

“It is not your trainers job to take your sun visor off before walking in the ring.” -Alex Wilson

“Be your friend.  It is our job to support, push, and develop you. It is not our job to coddle nor be an emotional batting ground.” -Johanna Hyyppa

“It’s always important for riders and parents to know that it is not up to the trainer to always teach you the courses on show day. We as trainers are managing a lot of hats day in day out. It should be the riders responsibility to learn the courses and understand how to navigate it properly.

I always encourage my riders to watch a couple rounds of their courses to get a better understanding of how the courses ride and the best trek in the ring. It’s a major pet peeve of mine as a trainer and judge.” -Jay Moore
Read Jay’s response on It Happens! here.

“It is not your trainer’s job to search for you when it is time for the course walk. As a trainer, we let our clients know the expected start time of their class and ask that they are at the show an hour before that time. Once at the show, it is the rider’s responsibility to pay attention to how their ring is running and to be prepared with polished boots and the proper equipment needed to be successful.” -Caitlin Boyle

“Merely teach riding. It is to facilitate and fine-tune efficiency on and off the horse; building muscle memory, utilizing horsemanship, and honing mechanical skills to attain sought-after goals. Trainers work diligently to minimize risk and maximize performance accounting for every aspect to create an environment conducive to consistent, successful outcomes. It is the client’s task to ensure they are in a growth mindset and prepared to the best of their abilities to execute the task at hand.”
-Skye Gravois

“It is not your trainer’s job to learn your course. I believe that riders should learn the course before getting on to show. We go over the course and make our plan before schooling and going in the ring, but the rider should already at least know the jump order. It is especially helpful for those that can have trouble remembering the course or get anxious in the ring.” -Leslie Janiak

“Solve the problems of basic instruction. These day, too few ‘trainers’ have been instructed themselves. Most are ‘teaching’ the ‘catch-riding’ they absorbed. This is not the same as disciplined, organized, riding-instruction. The effects of this misunderstanding are far-reaching.” -Jane Frizzell

“Us trainers wear a LOT of hats- coaches, riders, vets, therapists, time managers, etc. A lot of these jobs we are happy to do. But the one job that is not mine to wear is my students personal drive. This has taken me a long time to come to terms with. Trust me when I say that your investment is my investment and the product that I take to the ring I stand wholeheartedly behind and will always go the extra mile to make sure my clients feel like they are getting their moneys worth. But at the end of the day, if I have a student that doesn’t want it for themselves, I cannot be responsible to want it for them more than they do. At the end of the day, this is still a sport and you will get out of it what you put into it and the students that are truly driven will always come out ahead.” -Megan Rosenthal

“I think the only way I feel I can comprehensively answer this question is to instead say what a trainer’s job IS. A trainer’s job IS to be the translator of horse to human — to educate the horse to understand the demands of the human & to educate the human to understand the form, function & true nature of the horse for what IT is — not for what we want it to be to appease our human egos.

Trainers are required to perform a myriad of tasks to bridge this gap in understanding. Anything that is not helping horses understand what humans want from them or helping humans understand what horses CAN do and how to extract that in the most compassionate, empathetic way is intrinsically not the job of the trainer — under ANY circumstances.” -McKrell Baier
Read McKrell’s article here.

“Know the course and when you go in the order. I have older kids help the younger kids learn the first course before they ride to the ring. That way when I get there we can focus on the numbers and the overall plan.” -Waddy Ousler

“Learn the course for you or keep you organized and on time.” -Missy Jo Hollingsworth

“It is not your trainer’s job to wait for you because you are late for your lesson. It’s not your trainer’s job to make sure that your horse and tack are clean and that the tack is properly fitted. (Unless you are still in walk/trot.) It is not your trainer’s job to learn the course for you. It is not your trainer’s job to make sure you give the groom ample time to have your horse ready on time. It is not your trainer’s job to make excuses with the back gate person because you are late. It is not the trainer’s job to run up your stirrups when you dismount. It is not the trainer’s job to remind you to show up with clean boots, the proper spurs, and a riding crop. It is not your trainer’s job to remind you to be gracious to all staff and especially your horse.” -Sue Lightner

“One area that I found very early on that it had to be the riders responsibility and not mine is in the show ring. I remember as a teenager growing up in upstate New York that Missy Clark’s students were the best in the area. I can remember sitting in the New York State Fair Coliseum and when her students came in the ring she was up in the stands watching quietly and not on the rail coaching them.

I’m not saying I never say anything, but I try to not say much.

So my system for this is as follows. I give each rider three things to think about on course. Thinking about three things tends to give them enough to focus on without overwhelming them with too many details and getting lost or too little and them panicking because they have nothing to focus on.

It may be and is often make sure your horse is in front of your leg, rhythm of your canter and jump out of that rhythm, look and look up. It certainly can change for rider or horse and from day to day. This often can put riders in the zone mentally and the details that we talked about in the course or at home in lessons will then just kinda show up. The last thing I say often as a rider goes in is no matter how good or bad a round is going go back to the three things.” -Mark Aplin