Your Turn: 16 Must-Haves in a Trainer

It all started with this Facebook post:

I read that and thought, well, yes. That is important. But there are so many other qualities that a trainer must also have in order to have a functional relationship with you. Besides telling you the truth even when it hurts, here are 16 other qualities I have found that a trainer absolutely must have.

1. They know how to make all shapes of horses move well and score well. (We don’t all get to have the fancy mover that naturally jumps in a great shape.)

2. They know how to go the long way around to getting your position to improve.

3. They can think outside the box. (Imagine trying to train Coco by the book. That would end in death. If you don’t know about Coco yet, learn about her here and here.)

4. They don’t just spout stuff they read from an article that makes them sound good and fancy.

5. They can teach you through tears that are completely unrelated to anything horse.

(CASE IN POINT AND IMPORTANT DIGRESSION: One time during a lesson, I was riding around, bawling my eyes out because I let some stupid boy hurt me. My trainer Christian sees I’m crying, knows without asking what it’s about, and just proceeds to tell me the course I needed to jump. The lesson is going well. We are jumping all the things, and I’m just sitting up there crying. Her husband, John, saw this from afar and thought I was crying due to something she had told me to do. He walks over, and without asking any questions to confirm his assumption, he says, “You know. What I have found over the years is that she knows what’s best and is trying to help you. Since you are paying her for her help, you should really try to do whatever it is she’s asking you to do.”

You should have seen us. We both turned to look at him with the most bewildered, “what the hell are you talking about” looks on our faces. Christian says,”She’s not crying about the lesson!!”

John says, “Ohhh….. So you’re crying about something completely unrelated… while you’re having a lesson…?” Poor guy. End of digression.)

6. They can diagnose your horse through a text message at nearly midnight when you find one hurt in the field.  I find that one particularly impressive.

7. They can handle it and not have a come-apart when they tell you to do something, and your eyes glaze over, and you say “I don’t know how.” (Even though you do know how, and you’ve practiced it 8,562 times already.)

8. They can talk you off a cliff when your unrelated life drama catches up to you, and you are so overwhelmed that you suddenly think you can’t ride to save your life. (And you’ve already signed up for some giant jump class on your mini horse, and dear Lord, what have you done?!)

9. They can explain the same thing in at least 10 different ways until one of them finally makes sense.

10. They can, on command, show you pictures and videos of horses of many different builds and explain how and why they look or move the way they do and…

11. They can apply that to the many weirdly shaped horses in your own barn.

12. They understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, and while they could be charging an arm and a leg for lessons, because they are hugely overqualified, they don’t. In fact, they are aware that they will probably never see all of the money from those IOUs.

This one will cause people to panic. Beacause IT’S THEIR LIVELIHOOD! It’s a BUSINESS!! You HAVE  to pay for the services you receive!!!! *Gasp in horror* Yes, I know. Not an idiot, thank you very much.  I basically owe Christian my firstborn child. I GET THAT. I’m not trying to screw the system, but it’s currently down to this: Sell all of my horses to have money for lessons and competitions, but have nothing to ride, OR keep the monkeys, and do what I can. Because trust me. If I could fabricate a money tree, I would have already done so. But I can’t, and besides, there is something to be said for the students that have to ride the free [very naughty] horses and still make it work. Doesn’t it make you happy to know that some trainers can coach literally anything? Anybody can teach the students with the push button, sit there and steer, $100,000, pre-trained horses. What matters most, is finding a coach that can help you in YOUR SPECIFIC situation.

13. They actually enjoy helping people, and even if they will never get rich off of you, at least you are riding better. At least the spectators at the show don’t have to hold their breath every time you’re in the ring anymore.

14. They can train any horse from A to Z. No shortcuts. No expensive upper level horse, purchased after he was ready to move up. Just skill. One time my coach in Montana said, “Christian can ride anything. I think she could take a gerbil cross country.” I have to agree.

15. They’re tolerant of your mood swings and general insanity.

16. And they have to have really funny dance moves so that when you’re hauling 24 hours to AECs, and you’re bored and getting hangry, instead of killing each other, you just start to laugh, because somehow through all of the chaos, they’re no longer just your trainer. They’re your best friend.

Photo courtesy of Shallary Guymon.

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