Guest Blog post # 88: "Trainer Relationships: Caustic or Constructive?" by Bill Kraatz

Trainer Relationships: Caustic or Constructive? 

I read two completely separate posts on social media this morning. They couldn’t have been more opposite!

Post One:  From a well-established Eventing trainer who was at an Event this past weekend and was lamenting the fact that she heard two different “trainers” screaming at their students, insulting them, and basically being a bully. She was wondering, WHY the students and parents accepted this behavior?

Post Two:  A local horsewoman had opportunity to take two of her horses to a clinic herself this weekend. The clinician was a rapidly up and coming rider riding-lesson-english_800at the 4 star levels. ( Think Rolex 3 Day, the very top, international level). This poster stated that her “big time trainer” could not have possibly been more accommodating, helpful, and of value if she tried. She had an overwhelmingly positive experience with both horses and was anxious to tell everyone about it, even posting her own blog!!

As you can imagine, both posts generated lots of comments! On the first post, another, well established, rider mentioned that many times clients lose sight of the fact that trainers are your employees!! Please read that sentence again!! It’s your trainer that works for YOU! The trainer is ONLY being a bully because you ALLOW him/her to be!!  It was also suggested that trainers bully because that’s all they know (a VERY good point, indeed!). They can’t solve the problem they are seeing; sometimes not even able to recognize the problem. (Incidentally, those are the same ones you see on their own horses, picking a fight with their mounts in a futile attempt to disregard their own short comings.)

Well, those who know me very well know that I do not have a politically correct bone in my body. I read articles and posts about bullying, and can’t help but thinking, Hmmmmm.  I was taught, and taught well, that bullying needs to be dealt with, and dealing with it right up front is the only remedy. I’ve taught my daughter the same.  Back (WAY back) in my middle school days, I was quite slight (puny, might be a better word) at 5 foot 10 and a whopping 140 pounds. An upper classman would get on the bus and “clip” the back of my head every morning. It became quite humiliating and I didn’t know how to handle it, but I knew that I MUST formulate a plan. That plan never did quite form, but…one day we had just entered school and this big kid was in the hall reaching for some books off the top shelf of his locker.

That was MY instant!! I took a flying leap and slammed into that locker door, which, of course, slammed into his forearm, breaking it.  I received a 3 day suspension, but the kid never bothered me again (in fact, we became friends…marginally, anyway). The bullying had been dealt with.

Now…I am NOT advocating that you physically harm your trainer!! (well…maybe a little), however if you, or your child, feels intimidated, unhappy, and being treated with less than a normal level of respect and professionalism…it is up to YOU, and no one else, to do something about it. It does no good to complain to anyone else, or online. It does no good to drive home from training or show time feeling badly about yourself or your horse. Do you really think you can ever improve if you do???

Resolve today…right now…to MAKE SURE the relationship you have with your trainer is one of value, one that brings the very best out of you and your horse. I don’t (and probably can’t) give you a formula for recognizing this…but if you look down inside yourself, you’ll know if your own trainer/client relationship is a functional one, or not.

Again, this is…Just One Man’s Opinion.

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