Last week I shared a funny post on my Facebook page about How to Make Your Trainer Hate You. It was quite funny but still kind of truthful, you know, full of sarcasm. “You, sarcasm? Do you even know what sarcasm is?” Well apparently someone knows about sarcasm. I’m sure we are all guilty of 1 or 2 of those but hopefully not all. “So, what is the point of this article?” Well there was an interesting comment at the end from a reader. Paraphrasing, it went something like “When will someone write about things trainers can do that make clients like them?” Then they continued to wonder what happened to customer service, etc. “Let us massacre this plebe with our words on the interwebs.” Before you call the angry mob take a breath and really think about this comment.
I have been riding since I was a kid, the trainer was second to god, it was a given. This commenter did have a point though, I mean we are pouring our hard earned dollars into this trainer’s pocket. “Yeah a lot of our hard earned dollars, for all the abuse!” Put the pitch fork down, the more I thought on it though, it didn’t sit right. Why is that?
Well I finally figured it out. It doesn’t sit right, because it isn’t. Those of us that started to ride as a kid, our trainer/coach was an adult, we were taught to do what the adult says, always. Lately I am not so sure that this rule is taught but that’s a different soap box for a different day and different blog. So us kid riders took for granted that our trainer was someone we looked up to and respected. But what happens when you ride as an adult? Your trainer becomes a friend or possibly someone who works for you, I mean, you are paying them for a service. In theory this makes sense but there is one thing that I think people forget. Hold on to your hats ladies (and gents), here comes a big “light bulb” moment.
Crossfit is very popular right now, people actually pay to go to crossfit. People also go to gyms and pay for personal trainers. These people aren’t generally nice to you, they push you, they drive you to do better, they yell, they make you do things you don’t think you can or should do. I see posts all the time about people “hating” their personal trainers/dietitian/insert person who is not nice to you yet you still pay them, yet people still go back. Why? Because you see results. “I lost 20 inches off my waist!” “Look at my toned arms and abs.” Etc. These people don’t take you to the weight lifting machine, have you sit on the padded bench, hold your hand and say things like “Is this bench comfortable for you? Is the atmosphere enjoyable for you? You look great today, why bother working out. Let’s just chat for the next 30 minutes and you can go home.” No, they tell you to get on that bench, and start pumping iron, and when you say it hurts or you are tired, they say “Good, now do 30 more reps.”
Ladies and Gentleman, Your horse trainer is no different than a personal trainer or a crossfit coach. Be honest, you don’t take lessons because you want to trail ride, you take lessons to become better, compete at shows, even win. You only become better/win by being pushed, by doing one more lap of stirrup-less posting trot, or by them sneaking a jump up one more hole while you aren’t looking so you don’t spaz because you are now jumping 3′ instead of 2’9″. The better the trainer, the tougher they can be because in reality, they don’t need someone who stands around and whines the whole lesson, they can fill your spot with someone else that is ready to put in the work to get the WIN they are looking for. Essentially you are paying for the privilege of having Ms. Olympic Medalist yell at you, just like any other coach or trainer. Those trainers want a barn full of winners, they are competitive, they didn’t win a gold medal because they like sitting on the couch watching TV all day. The more winners they have, they more valuable they are, and the more clients they attract. So if you want to ride with a top notch winning barn, tighten your boot laces and put your big girl panties on, you are about to go to work.
An example of this would be professional sports coaches, I might see them smile once at the end of a game they won, or I may never see them smile. They are not holding the player’s hands telling them it will be ok, they will win next time. “Those players are getting paid gazillions of dollars, I am paying my hard earned cash.” True, but their goal is to win games, you do that by being a better team than the other team. You only get better by being pushed and working harder than the other team.
“But riding is supposed to be fun… I do it because I enjoy it.” My suggestion to you, pick a less competitive barn/trainer. If you don’t always want to put in the hard work required by Mr. Olympic Level Trainer, then maybe riding with Mr. Local Show Trainer is more your style. Maybe you don’t always win at the show but you have a lot more fun. If you are super competitive and want to win at nationally rated levels, you better buck up and suck it up and do what Ms. Olympic Level Trainer says, heck, and if you are on a budget and still want to win, then you better do what Ms. Local Show Trainer says.
For the ones paying for their own lessons with money they earned (aka the adults): That being said, personality conflicts do exist. If you just aren’t getting along with your trainer, after half a year to a year of trying (give it some time, all relationships need work), then maybe it’s time to find a new one. This doesn’t mean the first time Mr./Ms. Trainer says something you don’t like, or asks you to do something you don’t want to, or even yells at you because you are probably being unsafe. Changing trainers is fine, it happens, however if you find yourself going from trainer to trainer every year or two, it’s probably not the trainers that are the problem…
For the record, I still talk to the trainer I had when I was a Pony Clubber and got to spend a Saturday with her recently, which was so great! My Hunter/Jumper trainer I have been with off and on for about 11 years now. My eventing trainer I have been with off and on for almost 9 years. I say off and on because I was doing jumpers for a while, then I tried to event Emma, that was a hot mess, so then I went back to jumpers, then got Lily and am doing jumpers and eventing with her so I go to shows with the corresponding trainer. And no I don’t say “Well my other trainer said such and such.” They also know each other, are cool with each other, and know that I am not going to cause drama, they have both had me exclusively at one point or another. This is not an easy balance, I do not recommend this arrangement to anyone. It takes the right personality and a very good understanding of how the horse business works. *If you have not been taking lessons for at least 10 years, you aren’t ready.* Yes, I do have bad days, I always try and let the trainer know, if I am in such a bad state I will not be open to learning, I cancel the lesson (which includes still paying the fee as necessary) and I go trail ride.
Disclaimer: I am not a trainer, I do not teach riding lessons. I have taken hundreds of lessons in the last 25 years.