Your Training Relationship Is Like a Marriage

I have lived the life of both an amateur and a professional rider, so I think I understand the viewpoints of each. I’m told, though, that my 25-year amateur experience was far different from most other amateurs, in that I took care of and rode my horses myself at home, so that when we started our own training stable the change was largely a matter of degree, not substance. that’s significant because We’ve observed that the majority of conflicts between clients and trainers are over horse management and cost, not over training or lessons (although, yes, that certainly does happen). Everybody who owns a horse thinks the way they?d keep them at home, if they could, would be best. But finances and the suburban expansion of the last 40 years have made keeping horses at home largely unrealistic. Most people can’t afford a house with horse-friendly acreage close to where they work. So boarding and training stables are the only horse-keeping method most have ever known. That limited experience means that it’s the rare client who truly understands the time, effort and cost required to manage a horse or, especially, a barn full of horses. Most trainers and barn managers are trying to be professional and to do their best by their clients and their horses. But no one is perfect, and life can often intervene. Perhaps your life changes ? an accident, a death, a marriage, a child ? and suddenly the client perceives that their Dobbin is no longer the most important creature in your life. Or times get tight, as they are now, and you can’t afford new equipment or maintenance, because you have to pay the mortgage, the hay man and the vet (plus feed yourself). it’s easy to get soured by unrealistic clients. You learn to keep at arm?s length the training client who tells you, ?I’ve just never been able to find a trainer who shares my principles until I met you. I’ll be here forever.? You learn that ?forever? probably means six months. Fortunately, every now and then we trainers do get lucky and get to work with a student or two who has the passion and who really appreciates the experience and guidance we share. And we eagerly help them because someone once did that for us too ? and we want to pass that experience along. These are just a few of the daily challenges that confront those of us who make horses our lives that suggest that making your relationship with your trainer work is a lot like making a marriage work. Each is a relationship resulting from passion, and both relationships require honesty, communication and understanding to make them work, and that can be difficult for all of us.

John Strassburger
Performance Editor

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