Saturday, February 17, 2018

PSA: The Training Wheels Have to Come Off at Some Point

I've noticed that there is somewhat of an epidemic going on with lack of confidence both within my own friends, and at shows.  Now with show season approaching, I'm sure I will continue to see it, and I don't understand it.  I think I know why I don't understand it, but I still can't comprehend it.

People are deathly afraid to ride their own horses without their trainer.  Key word THEIR OWN HORSES.  Not a lease horse, not a lesson horse, or any other form of riding a horse that you do not personally own.  THEIR OWN HORSE.  They act like their own horse, which they paid for, pay all the maintenance on, and even insure, in some cases, has been syndicated.  So, who is the mystery owner that limits them from doing whatever they want with their own horse?  Their trainer.

Having a trainer is not bad thing, at all.  This post is not to discredit trainers in any way shape or form.  But, is not a little ridiculous when people pass up shows or schooling because their trainer can't go on that day.  Do you really lack that much confidence in your own abilities that you can't even go to a damn schooling show without your trainer?  Think about ride your horse with them all the time, is the training they are giving you not sinking in, no making sense to you?  Because if that is the case, you better speak up and fix that.  At a show, you can either ride your horse or you can't.  There is no big, magical fix that is going to happen in the short time span that is a horse show.

Last year I was at a show where the girl ahead of me was called in for her stadium round and she started freaking out "I...I can't go yet, my trainer isn't over here yet.  I can't go in."  This was a schooling show, so it is a learning opportunity and I can appreciate that, but...either you can ride your horse, or you can't.  If you can't go in the ring and ride your horse without your security blanket, is that not dangerous?  The people running the ring at that show weren't having it, because there was a nasty storm on its way in, and said get in there and go, NOW.

Think about all the great schooling opportunities you miss out on when you won't go because your trainer's schedule doesn't match up.  I understand if you are in a spot where you are trying to move up a level and feel you need some coaching to school it, but I would say 99% of the situations I have witnessed, that is not the case or anywhere close to it.  Do you realize just how much you are limiting yourself? Also, do you realize how much self confidence and partnership building you are missing out on by refusing to take the training wheels off and going out without your security blanket?

What if your trainer gets hurt and is out of the barn for a few weeks?  Then what do you do?  Nothing?  Your progress stops?

I've known people that want to jump but won't because their trainer isn't there that day.  I suggested just putting up a course of cross rails and they still were like "oh no, I can't."  You can't jump cross rails by yourself?  Say what?  You do realize your horse could STEP over a cross rail at the walk, right?

I've even known some people that won't make a minor change like try a different bit on their horse because "my trainer would be upset with me."  Why?  For doing something with your own horse?  How will you ever know if that different bit makes your horse more comfortable if you won't even try it because someone else, who doesn't own YOUR horse told you not to do it?  Have some self confidence people.  YOU know your horse.  Stop letting someone else dictate your every move.  These people act like they're going to commit a criminal act if they deviate from any tiny little thing their trainer has suggested.

Some of the examples above are why I understand why this happens sometimes.  I can't comprehend it because I don't have a frame of reference for it.  I learned to ride with no trainer at all, ever.  My mom bought me my first horse and told me I had to learn to ride bareback first before she'd get me tack.  She didn't have money to put me in lessons, so I never had any.  Now as an adult I have taken lessons here and there but have never had a regular trainer, and have never had any of my horses in training with any trainer.  A trainer is an absolute luxury to me, not a necessity.  But I do understand some people had the good fortune of growing up in a regular lesson program and from there they have developed this need for their security blanket.  However, I don't think that changes the fact that you limit yourself in a big way when you rely on someone else so much.

We have all heard that nothing grows in a comfort zone, practice what is difficult or what you are not good at, etc...  That doesn't mean you have to do something dangerous that is so above your skill level you run the risk of hurting yourself or your horse, it can start with simple things like jumping a small course by yourself at home, or going along with a friend for some xc schooling at a level you are already competent at.  If you can't do these things, maybe you have the wrong horse?  Maybe you have the wrong trainer?  All I'm saying is do yourselves a favor and work on your self confidence both within your own abilities and the trust you have with your horse.


  1. I think this is a fair post. I've never had that codependent relationship with a trainer, mostly because I grew up too poor to take lessons so I worked to ride and was grateful for whatever I got to sit on, much less show. I didn't get my first horse until I was 32 and the only place I really relied on my trainer was for day to day horsemanship stuff. But eventually, like you said, the training wheels come off and by going off on my own and developing autonomy I had to trust myself and utilize my knowledge base. I think never boarding my horse anywhere (I always either rented a barn with someone or co-oped) has also made me quite independent. That said, I like having someone to coach me or lean on at times, and I definitely want someone to help coax me out of said comfort zone when needed.

  2. I grew up taking lessons because my family couldn't afford to have a horse but I was never scared to ride on my own or jump on my own. I try not to jump without at least having someone around though in case I did fall. If I'm alone I'll usually text someone and tell them I'm jumping and that I'll text them again in half an hour.

  3. Trainers corner their market to keep their livelihoods going. Why would they allow you to use their jumps when they can corner you into jumping only when they're present in case you get hurt or damage their equipment. Actually, in that case, why not utilize them in a lesson since you're both there? I think people forget that saying no is an option, and then they get lost in the in-over-my-head feeling.

  4. While I can understand where you are coming from, and you make some good points here, I have to disagree. I enjoy being a program and taking regular lessons — it is certainly a luxury that I am grateful for! As an adult amateur, I am keenly aware of the many things I don’t know, and just how carefully curated my confidence is. I am learning more and gaining confidence every ride, but I also want to be careful to preserve those things. I want to reinforce the correct skills I’m leaning, which I choose to do through lessons. For those reasons, i typically do not jump outside of lessons, and I’m not
    ashamed of that.

    I also would not go into the show ring without my trainer present. We are a team — I’ve asked her to coach me at the show, and to do that she needs to be there. At the ring. While she will not be able to provide a magic fix in the moment, she may have some ideas to help us get through the day more successfully or see issues that we need to practice at home. She can’t do that if I go into the show rind without her.

    1. That is not the people I am referencing, those that knowingly feel the way you do. See reply below.

  5. i used to be real weird about doing stuff without a trainer. then when i started eventing... i realized at least up through novice i'd probably live if i had to run around without one!

  6. Whoa, why so judgmental? You don't know that other girl's story... maybe she had a bad fall last time she was at a show and her trainer really helps her confidence? And there are some barns where their insurance states that boarders are not allowed to jump without the trainer present... you just don't know the situation. There are definitely trainers who keep their students close, but there are plenty of students who want exactly that kind of relationship... why is that a problem? There are also plenty who encourage their students to explore on their own, and that's great for them if that's the situation they prefer. So some people do things differently than you, so what? If it works for them, that's what's important. Do what works for you, and let others do what works for them. Hopefully at the end of the day you will both be having fun with your ponies, which is why we're all here.

  7. I figured I should put my flame suit on for this one.

    It's not a problem. I don't care what other people do. I just see some people where it is actually holding them back from doing some things they want to accomplish. Again, does it affect me? No, what do I care if other people are holding themselves back? However, some of these individuals are my friends and I would LOVE to see them realize they CAN do things that they think are a bit out of reach, they just need the boost of self confidence ad to maybe give it a try instead of limiting themselves.
    All I was trying to provoke is some thought about self-confidence. It makes me sad to see people limit themselves (for whatever reason). Also, those that I do personally know that do these things, wrecks and insurance limitations are not their issue. So I actually DO know. Not everyone out at shows has had a nasty fall that is causing their lack of self confidence. I am perfectly aware that some have had that unfortunate experience, but not everyone. Your last sentence is part of the reason I wrote this as well, some of these people are NOT having fun with their ponies. They're terrified of them when they get on yet feel pressured into doing it and, sure it's not my problem or place to care or say something, but it does make me sad for them that they are not enjoying a hobby that as a whole, they love. I see the negative self talk and massive self doubt creep in when they don't deserve to feel like that.

  8. YES. I agree so much and understand where you're coming from with this. I, too, have had friends over the years who are afraid to do anything without their mentor/trainer and have been so held back by it. Fortunately, a lot of them have broken free of the bonds by now, several getting out of horses altogether. I can understand knowingly wanting the relationship, but I've definitely seen a lot of mentors/trainers take advantage of their client and it makes me sad for the client.

    "A trainer is an absolute luxury to me, not a necessity." I agree so much with this - but that's likely because I live in an area where quality horse professionals in the disciplines I'm interested in are NOT common. I'm self-taught and self-motivated and utilize trainers when I can. I definitely wish I could access that knowledge-base more often, but if I waited for it alone, I'd never do anything. Ever. I'm a big believer that if you want something, go freaking get it!

  9. I am amazed at how afraid people of their horses too. It was actually brought up in a recent thread on a popular message board. People are dependent on their trainer for everything.