Trainers put up with a lot of characters, and they (generally) do it with an overflowing amount of grace. You know that one girl in the barn who just drives you up a wall if you have to spend so much as five minutes with her in the crossties? Your coach spends 2 hours a week with her in lessons. That’s not counting shows, scheduling, and pre and post-lesson chitchat. Your trainer is a saint.
To make sure you’re not the person driving your poor coach up a wall every week, refer to this handy list of things you must not and shall not ever say to your trainer.
“But Pat Parrelli says….”
It’s great that you study other training methods through books or TV when you’re on your own time – it means you’re curious and making an effort to do right by your horse. But spending time arguing with your trainer over methodology in a lesson is a road to Hell paved in Pat Parrelli books, and a waste of time. When you’re in a lesson, completely invest in the training you’re receiving, and then make a decision how to apply it to your overall training regimen. If you’re genuinely torn about something, set up a separate time to talk to your coach about your concerns and determine a path forward.
“I know you said I’m not ready for the 1.10s, but….”
Your trainer’s job above all other things is to keep you safe. Ranging from the sentimental reasons of them liking you to the financial reasons of what it would do to their business if you were seriously hurt, your coach wants you healthy. And they also want you to succeed. If Mama says you ain’t ready for the 1.10 division, you ain’t ready. Period. Try to remember the old adage that you should show one level below what you can comfortably school at home. If you’re frustrated by your inability to move up, sit down and make a specific game plan about what’s holding you back and what you need to do to resolve them. When you’re ready, your coach will get you there.
Dropping a Bombshell at a Show
Any bombshell. Horse related, coach related, totally not even remotely horse related – if it can wait, wait. No 18-hour day is more exhausting on a human being than a trainer at a horse show. They’re dealing with dozens of mini rollercoasters happening all around them relating to whatever just happened in the barn aisle, the warm-up ring, the officials’ office. Not just out of sympathy, but for your own sake in getting a positive response, save the big talks for when you get home.
“I just bought a horse! You’re going to love him.”
I’m guilty of this one, and trust me when I say that my coach was an angel for putting up with that situation for three years. If you’re in a training program with someone you like and trust before purchasing, DON’T GO IT ALONE. It’s worth whatever finder’s fee your coach requests to come along and help you find a horse who will fit your needs and help you make not just an emotional decision, but a rational one. Not to mention, they know how to find horses who may not appear in a sale ad, but are for sale to the right owner, and those are the gems.
“Can you take a quick video of me doing this whole course again?”
I mean, in a pinch, whatever. Do what you gotta do. But personally, I hate that I lose a round’s worth of education from my coach while they jimmy with the phone or can’t really see what you’re doing through the tiny screen. If it’s really important to get something on film, plan ahead to ask a barnmate to come in for a class or a lesson and get the video so you get the benefit of the footage and also your trainer’s expertise. Or, better yet, go in on a motion tracking camera with your barnmates, such as a soloshot and never have to worry about getting the course on camera again!
“But . . . “
One of my first coaches in my young rider days gave me a brief and phenomenal piece of advice: Shut up and ride. 21st century riders are so conditioned to be multitaskers at home, in the office, while you drive places (YIKES) that we are positively experts at being in our own heads. You’ve got to shut down your argument center, your doubt center, your inner arbitrator and JUST RIDE. Absorb your instruction like a sponge, internalize it, listen to your trainer and your body and your horse’s motion and live fully in the present learning environment. Then go home and take notes about your lesson. Arguing in lessons or resisting ideas might be slowing your progress and making tension when you could be sky-rocketing to not only success, but deeply internal satisfaction. If your coach is presenting an idea that you fundamentally disagree or struggle with, again, make time to talk about it out of the saddle and come to a consensus.
“Could you go out and take off Sally’s blanket when you get a second? Oh and give her her grain? Thanks!”
We’ve all done it, and most trainers are happy to help out now and again, but if you’re making a habit of it, we guarantee your coach is simmering at least a little. How many students does your coach have? If they all asked him or her to do things like this every day, do you think any actual coaching would get done? This, my friends, is why the good lord invented poor working students and horse-hungry teenagers. It’s worth the $5-10 per chore to them and you to pay for a little service if you’re away and need a hand. It’s peace of mind for you, too, that it’s actually getting done.
If you feel like giving up any of the above statements will genuinely be to the detriment of your athletic career and ambitions, ask yourself if you’re with the right coach. These are mostly matters of trusting your trainer’s judgement and letting the process take over a bit. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, it’s worth pondering if the problem is them or you. Be the best Jumper Nation citizen you can be, and Go Jumping.