Ive now been with my trainer for over 7 years. Started out doing stalls in exchange for lessons, bought a horse that ended up not being the right fit for me, and then being given an opportunity to half lease an amazingly talented, sweet mare who has my heart wrapped up around her right now. And when you spend that much time with someone who you trust to have your best interests at heart, you become friends and build a relationship with that person. However, at some point during your journey to whatever kind of rider you dream of becoming, especially if part of that is showing, you start to see other trainers and riders. You see how they teach their students, you hear what they tell them, and you start to pick up on things your trainer tells or doesn’t tell you. So when you hear those trainers schooling a client, and that client proceeds to win or place high in almost every class, wouldn’t that possibly lead you to question what’s missing from your current program? Especially if you arent winning or riding as well as those around you?
I remember that moment of clarity very vividly. I always knew my trainer was able to teach each one of her students in a way that works best for them. But one day, at a rated horse show, I listened to her training some clients, while simultaneously listening to another well known trainer in the area. Only, what they were saying didnt make a lot of sense to me. It didn’t really give them a solution to how to manage their horse’s negative behaviors or how to ride through them to get around the course. That rider went in, and her horse stopped in every. single. class. She had no spurs, she had no crop, and each time it was obvious her lack of courage to ride aggressively to get her horse over that same jump was missing. And I realized — she had never been taught how to ride a refusal. It probably never happens at home, so it was never a topic that required discussion. But we talk about how to deal with refusals at home, even if no one refused during a lesson. Why? Because knowing how to handle yourself in that kind of situation makes you a stronger rider when faced with it.
This type of thing grew more apparent the more I went to horse shows. Then I noticed articles being posted on facebook about riding styles and basic skills that are imperative to a good ride, regardless of discipline. And each article I read, the same thought passed through my mind — we talk about this stuff in our lessons. These are the things that get drilled into my brain with each ride, the things I force myself think about when Im hacking to ensure Im doing it right. The things I do to prevent myself from missing a distance or pulling when I get scared. I am far from perfect, but my trainer teaches us these things. And like the cartoon lightbulb we are all so familiar with, mine finally went off. I ride with a fucking amazingly talented and knowledgeable trainer. Not only is she amazing to watch ride when she needs to school a misbehaving baby or working some kinks out of a seasoned show horse, but she teaches us the basics day in and day out in hopes that one day it will stick in our dense skulls.
So when I see these articles being passed around and people finding them to be so insightful and so amazing, my response is usually, so? Is this something new? Are you one of these people who finds yourself reading these articles and thinking you aren;t being taught the basic important skills of riding? So when is it time to start questioning what you are being taught and consider moving on to a trainer that will? Or are you more comfortable staying where you are because you dont have high aspirations to do big things and would rather stay some place that makes your happy? Or is your current trainer willing to work with you when you bring her this new information and helps you incorporate it into your riding? What do you want from your riding? What are your goals? When you can answer those questions, you will know better where you should be regarding a trainer who can take you where you want to go.
It took me a long time to find the barn I ride at. I tried many places and all I ever got was, “I can’t teach you anymore, you know it all.” Only, I knew I had far more to learn to be the kind of rider I want to be. I stumbled across my current trainer by accident in an ad in a local newspaper. And of course I have moments where I question if I should move on. But at the end of the day, this woman teaches me the things I want to know. When I talk to others about horses, not only can I have a competent conversation regarding riding, but about horse health, care, wound care, turn out, stall care, hay, feed. Granted, a lot I learned on my own because I’m an admitted horse geek who wants to absorb all the knowledge I can. But I don’t know where I’d be without my trainer today, to guide me in the right direction and teach me those important things that not only make me a better rider, but make me a better horsewoman. Which is a big part of who I want to be. I owe her more than I can ever repay. And she’s far from sentimental, so saying these things to her has to be in passing.
But thank you, trainer. I was lucky to find you as my trainer, but I was even luckier that we got to be friends. I am forever in your debt for all you have taught me and all you will continue to teach me. You obviously see in me what I know deep down I am capable of but am too afraid to let it out. You’re far more gifted than you let yourself believe you are. And without you, I would not be the horse woman I am today. Because Im not just a rider. Im a horse woman. Thank you to the moon and back.