The rider, horse and trainer relationship - photo by Katie Mortimore

The rider, horse and trainer relationship can be complicated – photo by Katie Mortimore

As in marriage, the union between horse, rider and trainer can be a complicated mix. Not all parties get along at all times. Sometimes it is a full moon, sometimes it is hormones, and sometimes it’s just one of those things.

Building a relationship with a trainer is just like starting out with a spouse. In the beginning, you’re on your best behavior, all sweet and nice, respecting each other, working hard to communicate every need and want; both trying to please each other.

Then you get comfortable with each other and things go sideways. Some fool leaves the toilet seat up, a wet towel on the wood floor or they ate your last chocolate bar; you see red and don’t hear the “sorry” or see your fault in the mess.  Now add a 1200 pound, spoiled rotten, love of your life, horse to the mix and toss the whole combination into a show environment. The relationship can get downright ugly.

Every trainer, rider, horse combo can have a bad day.

Your trainer says “at C track left” and you swear she said right. You’re mad because you just messed up your test. She is frustrated because she feels you don’t listen. The horse pretends to be an innocent bystander.

The horse is being a pistol and is hip checking your outside leg out of the socket and the trainer, who is standing on the inside of the circle, is screaming …”MORE OUTSIDE LEG!!!!” for the tenth time. You stop, scream back “I AM using outside leg …YOU TRY!!!”  All while hopping off your horse, tossing the reins at the trainer, praying the horse sends your trainer into the next county.

Bad days, lack of communication, heat, stress, frustration and more lead to raw emotions but there is no reason to quit or be nasty to one another. It’s time to take a deep breath and try again.

You should be able to talk with your trainer, to express to them that the method of teaching is or is not working. The trainer works for you, so you should be able to get out of them what it is you need.

Not all people learn the same way. I have found when working with a rider, I have to be flexible and adapt to each rider and what is happening minute by minute. A trainer cannot come to a lesson with a set in stone lesson plan. Being flexible with a rough idea of a plan… if all goes well today… we MIGHT TRY to work on lead changes.

As well, a rider needs to understand things never go as planned, “I’m getting a new trainer, because I was supposed to learn lead changes last Tuesday but it did not happen.” All while the horse is in his stall laughing, “By bucking and tossing my head, I’ve gotten out of working on lead changes for two weeks…”

For the most part, all parties want the same thing: to have a safe and enjoyable horse experience.

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