There are lots of trainers – good trainers and bad trainers. For these purposes, let’s assume we are talking about good trainers. This is a conversation that comes up a lot with equestrians of all disciplines and all skill levels. When is it time to move on from your current trainer? Why are you even considering it? What are your needs and what do you want to accomplish?
I ride English. Specifically, I like the hunters, both show hunters and field hunters. An unusual match, I know! As an amateur, I need help and I know that I need help. I want to get better. I want to do better for my horses and I want to be braver.
For years, I rode a Quarter Horse. He was quiet and pretty. He was lots of fun to trail ride. He was honest outside of the ring, but in the ring he was not. Along the way, he’d suffered a minor injury. Because he was still sound, it was barely recognizable to most professionals. That’s where the trouble started. My horse that had always jumped around, was ducking out before jumps. And he was ducking out like only a Quarter Horse could. He’d prick his ears, lock in on the jump, I’d get a little bit ahead of him and then BAM! He’d drop his shoulder and duck out. And I came off. EVERY SINGLE TIME! For a year or more, I stopped jumping. At the beginning, I didn’t miss it. A year later, I missed it a lot.
I only had the one horse. I’d been taking dressage lessons on him. Dressage means training, and it’s valuable for everyone that rides in any discipline, English or Western, jumping or not. It’s just not my passion. The trainer that I was using is positive, friendly and confident and makes you feel good about your riding during lessons. He helped me get my mojo back and get back to jumping. As I got better and a bit more confident, I really wanted to go back to the hunters. I also got a new horse.
My new horse was everything my other one was not. He was quiet, sounder, and wanted less contact on his mouth. He was hotter by breed, but not by nature. I started taking lessons on him with my trainer. As things progressed, I was feeling less comfortable. Not with the trainer as a person, but with the way the lessons went. I wanted to go back to my first love. The show hunters.
My trainer had done nothing wrong. He’d gotten me to the place that I wanted to be. It was timing. I was ready to fly. Now, the hard part. Here are the lessons I learned when I was considering moving on to a new trainer:
- Are you having fun? I mean lots of fun. This sport is expensive. Really expensive. It should be fun. If you have goals, make sure that the person you are working with can understand them. If not, it’s time to move on.
- How does your horse go? If your trainer wants you to sit down, is your horse happy? How much contact does your horse like to feel on his mouth? Does your current trainer want more, less?
- Do you compete? Does the trainer that you are working with attend the shows that you want to do? Does he/she understand your discipline?
- If you are in one place all year, is your trainer available to you all year? My trainer started to spend lots of the winter in Aiken. I live in Maryland.
- Is it easy to get to them or to get them to you? Are they easy to get to come and fix any problems that you have?
- Do you feel safe? There are tons of injuries that come with riding a 1200 pound partner at speed.
- And when it’s time, be honest. Be honest with yourself and your trainer. Tell them why you are moving on. This trainer did not know the hunters. He doesn’t approve of foxhunting. He’s a dressage expert. He’s a great guy. He’s a great rider. The jumpers, yes. Eventing, yes. Show hunters, no.
I’ve referred many friends to this trainer since I left his tutelage. Some of them are doing things they never thought possible. And I’m happy. I’m doing what I love. And it’s because of this trainer that I’ve gotten to this place.
Courtesy of Barn Chats by Vetoquinol