I have not personally started any of my current riders from the ground up. The riders I have started are in different areas and largely working with other trainers in those areas. I am not riding with the same coaches I started with. In addition, I have more than one coach that I personally get coaching from. Yet, clients seem to be continuously surprised when other clients work with different trainers.

Am I being too abstract? Let’s break it down in horse show scenarios:

Scenario 1

Let’s say one of my riders gets show coaching from another trainer for any multitude of reasons such as I’m broken, ride time conflicts, event conflicts, co-coaching agreements etc. Without fail, I will hear rumblings from other clients (they may or may not be “mine”) such as, “Oh is so-and-so working with so-and-so now?” I find myself struggling not to respond with, “Yes!!! Can you believe it??? THEY HATE ME FOREVER AND WILL NOT EVEN TALK TO ME ANYMORE!!” In a super dramatic tone of voice followed by throwing myself on the grass sobbing, of course. Actually, I might try that next time.

Antics aside, this is an easy one to work through, because it is simple enough to respond that I needed help and the other Trainer is helping. Right? Yes, simple enough and then all parties are pacified and the whispers in the barn aisle get quiet(er).

Scenario 2

Let’s say a rider from my program starts riding with another trainer on a regular basis and I no longer train them. GASP!! {cue uber dramatic music}

Days of Our Lives, or As the Shed Row Turns as I like to call it. You guys are either laughing or cringing because you know it’s true.

Alright, before we get all crazy and defensive here, let’s work the problem a bit, shall we?

Clients change trainers and programs for many, many reasons. such as:

1. Geographic: Trainer moved, client moved, or distance between the two is too far and gets tiresome.
2. Financial: They be broke and need a break or change in financial obligations to training programs.
3. Client Goals are no longer in line with Training Program Goals: Client does not want to compete anymore and Training program is geared towards competition riders or vice versa.
4. Emotional: Client feels emotional need not being met, i.e. Trainer pulled hair and hurt their feelers.

The reality is that most of the time, a client moves to another trainer because of reason 1,2, and 3. However, 4 seems to be the one that gets the most attention from onlookers. When that happens, this process becomes a client-driven cycle. What do I mean?

What should happen with a client leaves a trainer/program is that the client sits down with the trainer and expresses why they feel it is no longer a working relationship they want to pursue, the trainer gets feedback on their past working relationship to help streamline their future program (feedback loop), and both parties take steps in line with their needs (business cycle).

What typically happens (especially if the reason for leaving is emotional) is that the client feels the trainer is unapproachable or the client is insecure and just moves. “Just moving” is well within the client’s rights, though it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of awkwardness. It’s like just not showing up at work one day or just never returning home to your family while still living in the same area. Everyone is left with questions and it opens the door to speculation.

Of course, these examples are extreme on all sides, but I wanted to be clear about expressing the ranges of client-trainer relationships and client responsibilities within them as well. The thing is, we trainers do in fact talk to each other. I know you might find that shocking. Most of us communicate regularly when a client moves programs or reach out to say we have been approached by a client about helping them, etc. Yes, we really do. Most importantly, we need to continue to communicate with each other and support each other.

When you, clients, don’t communicate with your trainer and make a change, then everyone becomes open to speculation and other clients tend to chatter about who-what-what happened-why did they leave, etc. All of a sudden, Trainers find themselves in a rumor mill of commentary that may have not even known there was a problem. Clients will talk to other clients/friends rather than the trainer. Now Trainers are hearing things from a third party and a relationship that could have been a positive chance for growth becomes a strain and potentially a source of insecurity. Yes, clients, I’m saying that it seems to be that Trainers become insecure partially because Clients don’t always interact with them professionally.

No one wants to feel like people are talking about them. Do you?

Have I lost you yet? I have one more detail that I think is super important.

The best part of this client driven cycle, is that other clients that are not even related to the folks involved are usually the ones that cause the most chatter.

Typically the Client and Trainer have had a discussion. Typically the Trainer and New Trainer have had a discussion. Typically it’s none of anybody’s business except those two parties. Typically other people like to discuss it.

Here’s the thing, folks: we are all in this together. No matter what area or discipline you are competing within – it’s a small world. This is a tough sport and we don’t need to make it tougher for each other.

If you find yourself discussing someone, ask yourself, “Have I told this person I feel this way? Would I want to be spoken of in this way? Is it really any of my business?” If the answer to that is no, clients, please realize it’s necessary. The Golden Rule still applies in the horse industry.

I’m certain I have unintentionally or unknowingly offended people in the past. I am certain I have made professional mistakes as my programs have grown. I am certain I try to learn from those experiences and not make the same mistakes twice. I am certain that I consistently work to uphold a high standard of care and operation. I believe most trainers can relate.

Next time you find yourself whispering in the barn aisles or pondering the existence of someone else’s working relationship, take a minute and hit the reset button. The draw to soap operas is a real thing and are addicting. That is exactly why the title of this blog post got your attention. Recognize it and try to keep the soap operas on your television instead of in your barn and I bet we all become much better for it.

Also, now I really want popcorn.

Written by Lisa Bauman of Austin Eventing.