Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Mugwump Rises


OK. I have been ranting about the injustices of trainers, clinicians etc. Now, my ever practical ability to see the other side of the coin has asserted itself, and I have to defend these guys as I see it. Remember, I'm one of them.
I'll start with trainers, since that's where I classify myself and can speak with the most experience.
I define a trainer as a person who rides multiple horses for people that pay said trainer for her ability and knowledge. Usually the trainer has a background in a specific discipline in the horse industry, mine is reined cow horse.
We supplement our incomes with lessons, horse sales, breeding, whatever will turn a dime. We tend to be obsessive about going to shows. Not only does it give us a chance to showcase what we do, we get to hang out with other trainers. Our jobs are very lonely.
What really turns our crank though, is delving into the mind of horses and figuring out what makes them tick. We can work for days on perfecting that one step that will make our horse succeed. Every time we conquer a new phase of training we immediately start thinking about the next one.
Everything we do is geared towards giving ourselves the time to go back to figuring out that next step.
I don't think that there is a trainer on the planet who started out planning to cripple a horse in order to win that next award. Nor did they intend to make a young horse mentally worthless with the intensity of their training program.
Most of us saw a winning run somewhere and thought, "How do I do that?"
And so it begins.
Figuring out the mind of a horse may be the beginning. If we have talent, other horse owners start to ask us if we'll train theirs too. That's where the trouble starts.
Once we go public, our people skills come into play. We have to meet client expectations, show leadership in the choices we make for them and their horses, make business decisions for them and ourselves, become their friend and mentor.
Often we are woefully lacking in the above mentioned skills. Remember this started out with an ability to work with horses. No Dale Carnagy here. Most of us are introverted, obsessive, (Who else would spend three days getting down the feel of planting one hind foot just so?) and just a little bit single minded.
We also have to earn a living.
Our expenses are huge. For some reason the outgo stays even with the level with success. The bigger the business the more expensive it becomes.
The wealthier our clients, the more bang for their buck they expect. The less interest they show in what it takes to achieve their goals for their horses. They want success, or they take their money and go home.
We need that money.
That's where things go south.
Depending on the person, and how we handle pressure we start cutting corners. We start pushing babies. We gravitate only to the horses that might succeed, and lose sight of the good ones that just needed a little more time.
We need a little bit of Slick Willie sales ability to make that next check. Most of us didn't know we had to become horse traders, but we do.
It all starts with the desire to figure out how a horse ticks.
ARGH! I have to get riding, I'll talk about clinicians tomorrow....

1 comment:

ORSunshine said...

Is this one way in which the dressage world differs from the rest of the horse world? Most dressage horses at the top of their prime are over 10. Is it age and years that perfect them and keep them from being broken down nags before that age?

I boarded my Very Tall Arab at a barn I liked for a few months before a NH trainer came along. I watched this cowboy back a yearling. A yearling! It about broke my mind!

This "cowboy" (jackass would be a better name), looked down his nose at the VTA. He called my gelding a "mare" more often than not. He also said I shoud get rid of him because he had "fire in his eyes". And, he ridiculed me for not having started him under saddle at the age of 3. Now, mind you, the VTA was in the midst of a massive growth spurt where he went from 14.3 to 16hh in about a 6 month time period. I, myself, went from 5'2" to 5'8" in a 6 month time period once and it didn't feel good. I also did some permanent damage to my joints by stressing them too much. I wasn't going to put any extra stress on his joints!

As the VTA was my first horse in a handful of years away from horses, I think I was desperate for reassurance I was doing right by him. I moved him from that barn after a few more months and I felt so badly about him and my abilities that I rehomed the VTA.

Should I have listened to the Cowboy Jackass? No. Should I have trusted myself and my past, albeit far away mentors? Oh yes!

I believe in the Al-Marah Arabians principal of not really starting an Arab under saddle until they're about 4. I wish I hadn't let the Cowboy Jackass influence me in a negative way.

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