As a horse owner, you have many members on your team to help you and your horse. Team members include your veterinarian, farrier, barn owner and staff, saddle fitter/tack consultant, hay broker, etc… That’s a lot of people to help you take care of your horse! Of course, one of the most important members of your team is your trainer. If you’re doing something like dressage or jumping, it is essential to work with a qualified trainer who will give you the help and guidance you and your horse need.
Good trainers bring a lot of expertise and experience to bear. They have a system that they apply specifically to you and your horse. They should have experience with the many pitfalls and issues that you might face. They are thorough and clear and expect you to make progress. They are also patient and allow you the time you need to learn and provide a context in which to do the training. They should be able to demonstrate and work directly with your horse for his education. They don’t need to be your best friend, but you will be working closely together so you should have someone you want to spend time with.
It should go without saying that any rationalization of mistreatment of your horse or you is unacceptable. Horses are big quick animals with a mind of their own. They don’t always do what there are supposed to do which can lead to unsafe situations. Horse training is really physical work. But good trainers know what practices to do and how to do them to get horses to cooperate or progress without abuse.
Your role in the relationship with your trainer is to be a good client and student. Whether you are taking periodic lessons or working with your trainer everyday, it is essential to get qualified, expert help. Trying to do any substantive dressage or jumping without this help is next to impossible. It is also best to stick with one person or system at a time. Getting too many influences can confuse you and your horse. Again, stick with someone who is qualified. Taking lessons from someone who doesn’t provide the right kind of help is just a waste of time. Attending occasional clinics are really beneficial especially if they overlap with your current training program. But clinic riding is no substitute for regular training.
You should be an active participant in your training. Ultimately your learning is up to you. Your trainer should give you just the right guidance in a learning atmosphere. Your job is then to act on that advice. As you get better, you take more and more responsibility for your training and riding. Listen. Ask questions. Watch your trainer do work with other horses and students.
When things don’t go well, put your horse away and try again tomorrow. When things go great, appreciate it, and then put your horse away and try again tomorrow. It’s ok to make mistakes, but try not to. It’s okay to bask in the glory of your brilliant riding, but then try to improve some more. The road of successful training is long so enjoy the journey and your trainer is there along with you.
Trainers have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of the equestrian arts. They are elite professionals and should be treated as such. Show up and pay on time and be eager to learn. The best reward for your trainer is your progress.
One of the things we have implemented in our training program is a bi-annual progress report. We call it a “look back and forward” report. Every six months we review how things went the last half-year and what are goals and aspirations are for the next. Then we write it down. This is really important and helps us be clearer about where we were and where we’re going. We have a simple form with a few prompts that help us identify key issues. We can spend a few minutes with the evaluation or much longer. If you are interested to see the form we use, then email me and I’ll send you a copy.
Now go book a lesson and enjoy your time with your horse!