Looking for an assistant trainer or trying to find an assistant position are unique challenges for a horse trainer.
How do you know someone will be the right fit, as an employee or as an employer? What if this move sets you back in your goals rather than launches you forward? True North Stables head trainer Caitlyn Shiels and assistant trainer Cody Wooten share how they found each other and how you can more confidently approach this process if you find yourself on either side.
At a point in her life where she felt her experiences had all intersected to make her a well-rounded horseman, Shiels took a leap of faith and started True North Stables. It wasn’t immediately that she hired an assistant; she took the time she needed to establish her business and identify the ideal candidate.
As a young professional, Cody Wooten was seeking employment at the same time that Shiels’ plate was getting too full to manage on her own. Feeling as if the opportunity was too good to pass up, Shiels brought on Wooten as assistant trainer, and the pair soon developed a nearly perfect rhythm.
Wooten was looking for a role that would balance out his experiences as a young professional with a more business-oriented mindset and more time devoted to clients. With less of an interest in showing, he knew his focus would complement Shiels well as they could each devote time to different aspects of the business.
Ultimately, Shiels and Wooten have proven to be a great match. “I was raised to cherish the things I have and work hard for the things I want, and Cody really embodies that,” said Shiels.
Their combined hard work is paying off, and True North is gaining clientele and respect as a top show stable in the Midwest. See what they recommend—from each perspective—if you find yourself hiring or seeking a job.
If you’re looking for help…
Identify and define the role you’re looking to fill. You’ll begin to delegate responsibilities to someone else, so knowing which responsibilities your future employee will take on is important to recognize ahead of time and helps set clear expectations for the position.
Know what kind of worker you’re seeking from the get-go. Shiels knew in advance she wanted someone hard-working and dedicated to join her team. At True North, the trainers are very hands-on, so it is common to see Shiels down on the ground wrapping legs or bathing horses post-ride. She seeks this trait in her employees, as well as a meticulous attention to detail and a drive to work hard.
Look for compatible personalities in the hiring process. The most fundamental building block of a successful professional relationship is respect—it’s what gets you through disagreements with one another to arrive at the best mutual agreement. “Like all relationships in life, you deal with highs and lows,” Shiels said. “You have to be flexible, especially in an industry that can be so unpredictable. You have to know you’re hiring someone who wants to work through those highs and lows.”
As the working relationship begins, patience is key. If you’ve hired someone, you have to allow your new employee the time to learn how things work; you can’t just expect him or her to fall into the way things are done. It will take time to establish rhythm with someone new around, so be patient and allow that to happen over time.
If you’re looking for a job…
Look for a like-minded team. From the point of view of an incoming employee, Wooten echoes the importance of getting along with your employer. “You don’t have to be best friends,” he said. “But you have to get along and work seamlessly as a team because you’re going to be spending a lot of time together.” It won’t work out well for anyone in the end if your operation lacks teamwork, so identify that connection early on in the process before making a long-term commitment.
Do your research on the farm you’re considering. Examine the overall operation and business goals of the farm before committing. If its mission and goals align with yours, it is likely a good fit, but if not, it’s something to be aware of as you make your decision.
Understand the specifics of the job itself and what it entails. For example, if you want to mostly stay at home to ride and teach, be sure to discuss that with the employer at the beginning, so that everyone is in agreement. Job expectations can be easily miscommunicated during the hiring process and you can find yourself in a job you feel you didn’t sign up for.
Remember that a job opportunity may not seem perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right move. Wooten believes that sometimes you should take on jobs you may not necessarily want, but that may give you the opportunity to showcase hard work and dedication and will lead to more opportunities down the road.
Trust your gut. When all these boxes are checked, go with your gut, recommends Wooten. If the opportunity feels right, it probably is. If you’re having reservations, those are likely there for a reason.