I want to talk about that person behind the scenes who does her best to hold the shit show that is my show career together while working her tail off so that I don’t embarrass myself in the quest for a fifty cent ribbon. Even though this is about my trainer, I am sure this applies to all show trainers out there.
I am a real estate agent. My job is to sell houses. My job is not babysitter, emotional counselor, fortune teller, or sorcerer capable of making people love your home—yet, these are often the expectations. What I struggle with the most are the basket cases that call me up the second a buyer leaves their home asking if I have received feedback. “Of course I haven’t gotten feedback, psycho, they haven’t left your driveway yet!” is what I desperately want to say. Instead, I grab a shot of Fireball and say, “Not yet dear, but honestly how can they not love your home? I will certainly let you know the second I get feedback.” While I fully understand the stress that leads normal people to become insecure, impatient, and demanding emotional wrecks, I really struggle dealing with irrational emotional psychosis. I tell you that not to slam my clients, but to admit that I am not much different.
I am very new to having a “show trainer”. In fact, I was perfectly happy on my big, barely broke spotty tooling around the show ring coming in last, ecstatic on those rare occasions we actually beat someone—so excited! Our biggest accomplishment was winning the Non-Pro Walk Trot High Point at the local Appaloosa Breed and Open Show. As it turns out, thanks to a tangle with a barbed wire fence, my big spotty is now permanently retired.
It was my little spotty that lead me to this show trainer thing. He was in training because a previous trainer had made him all but impossible to ride and I wanted him in the show ring, especially since my big guy was done. I had no idea that a show team was even a thing, but I figured if I was paying for professional show training then it might be a good idea to have some kind of guidance at the shows as well.
So, here we are a year later, with a horse that is trying his level best to be that show horse I wanted. It was our breed show last weekend that made me take good long look at myself.
You see, being a show trainer is not all that different from being a real estate agent. The job is to make unrideable horses rideable in as short amount of time as possible. In the case of a show trainer, those once unrideable horses are also expected to bring home prizes and blue ribbons. Seems easy enough, right? I mean, like real estate agents, horse trainers are way overpaid for doing something anyone can do, right?
Like real estate, training horses involves dealing with people, and for lack of a better description, people are crazy. Horse people are a very special brand of crazy. Just as in real estate, you can’t really call your crazy clients out on their crazy. The reality is that in most cases the crazy is situationally induced.
I know this because I have now been on both sides of this crazy teeter totter. Here are a couple things I have learned:
1. Hug your trainer….and I mean hug them tight. They have to put up with your crazy ass in the frantic moments before the show when you’re screaming and stressed and mad at the whole world. Those moments when you realize that showing horses is the single dumbest thing you have ever done and it’s most certainly your trainer’s fault and you want to make them pay! Then you find that the very same person you screamed at, or wanted to scream at depending on your level of fear of your particular trainer (I am not ashamed to admit that my trainer terrifies me a little) is the first one at the out gate with a huge smile and a high five for a class well done! Believe me, they really want to smash your face into the dirty stall bedding before your class, yet they can forget the horrible way you treated them before you walked into that ring. So, when you aren’t being a hot mess, hug your trainer.
2. They don’t do it for the money. I am not sure what you pay your trainer, but my monthly fee includes training and board. If you add up the hours they spend training your horse, giving you lessons on your horse, holding your horse for the farrier, filling out show entries, helping you clean your show tack, creating lists of things you and your horse need and feeding your horse, I can tell you that they make less than the kids making Kathy Lee Gifford’s clothing line. No, my guess is they are just crazy enough to do this idiotic job for the love of the horses, and yes, the love of the people. The very same people who become raving lunatics at horse shows.
3. If they are loyal to you, stay loyal to them. Hopefully they are not analyzing your every move and shopping around for a “better client”. If you don’t get along with your trainer, or they are abusing your horse, then for sure you need to find someone that fits you and your horse better. But, if you and your trainer are on the same page with your goals and you are still shopping around, stop. That is a jerk move, and believe me, they already put up with you at your worst, shopping trainers only makes you look bad. Around here it is a pretty small and tight horse community, and if you get the reputation of being that person who goes from trainer to trainer, word will get out and you won’t be able to find anyone good that’s willing to work with you. Loyalty is the cornerstone of any good client/trainer relationship. Plus, no one wants to be a trainer hopper.
4. Whether you like it or not, your trainer is right. When your trainer tells you to drop your hands, it is because your hands are too high. When your trainer explains that your horse, whom you have placed all your western pleasure dreams in, is actually a hunter, they are right. When your trainer tells you to take your horse into a circle to get them soft, they expect to actually see a circle, not a trapezoid with round corners. When they say you are doing a good job they are also right! When you come out of a class and they say it was your best one yet, believe them. You don’t pay them to needlessly pick on you, but you don’t pay them to lie to you, either. If you sucked ass in your class they will tell you so, even if you managed to walk out with a blue. Conversely, if you walk out dead last in a class despite your best effort they will tell you how great you did.
5. When the dust settles and the ribbons have all been collected, your trainer may have what I call HSEIE (Horse Show End Induced Euphoria). They survived yet another weekend with your crazy ass and they didn’t kill you! Don’t get me wrong, they probably have a voodoo doll that looks like you hidden in the trailer they take great pleasure in stabbing with pins. Funny how right after the last class clients can breathe again and are no longer acting like 2007 Britney Spears. Your trainer may begin to randomly giggle and start singing wildly inappropriate songs. Don’t judge them, for they have put up with you all weekend long. Just pretend not to notice when they start singing “Rappin’ for Jesus”, and even though it is very impressive they know the song word for word, don’t judge. On second thought, it might be best to learn the words yourself so you can sing it as a round.
6. Apologize. When you are the nightmare client, admit your faults and apologize to your trainer. Pulling them aside and giving a heartfelt apology for being the exact brand of crazy client that you yourself cannot stand to deal with is sufficient. If you were a class A crazy bitch of a client then you must do something really grand. My brand of apology should really match my brand of crazy so I shall go big…like dedicating a whole blog post to them in hopes that when my new English saddle arrives she doesn’t immediately take away my stirrups in retaliation!
Thank you, Melinda, for putting up with my special brand of show crazy. Thank you for not firing me, punching me in the face or taking away my stirrups when my saddle arrives. Our whole family is very grateful for all your time and hard work and songs you sing along the way. I will try to be a better client, but I will not learn the words to “Rappin’ for Jesus” for a post-show duet…nobody wants to hear that.
Originally published at The Humorous Homesteader.
About the Author
Patti Marcotte is a wife, mother and Real Estate agent who grew up on a ranch in Wyoming. After a 20+ year hiatus from horses, she is the proud owner of two beautiful Appaloosa’s trying desperately to regain her childhood horse savvy. She enjoys sharing her misadventures through her lighthearted blog, The Humorous Homesteader.