Shout-Out For the Trainers

I recently discussed the importance of questioning yourself when things aren’t going right with a horse.  Missed it? Check out When the Going Gets Tough

What about when you aren’t agreeing with your trainer?

StirrupMarkusSpiske Pexels

Let’s put something straight now…

You take lessons from a trainer because they have more knowledge and wisdom than you…That is why you pay them.  If you have a trainer there must be a level of trust that they are looking out for your best interests.

Finding the right trainer is incredibly important.  Teaching styles and personalities are as important as education, knowledge, and experience.  When you find the right combination, dear Lord, HOLD ON.

Traditionally we’ve heard of the old salty schoolmaster that never compliments and only barks.  While this still exists and works for some we are also seeing a lot of supportive upbeat instructors flooding the territory.

Daniel Matlack rides Dulce at Batti Ranch in Lincoln, Calif., on Aug. 2, 2013. Batti Ranch hosts a number of programs for Beale Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings/Released)

Finding the Right Trainer for You:

  • Discipline: This one should be obvious.  If you want to learn dressage you don’t go to a western pleasure trainer.  With so many horseback riding disciplines it’s important to find the trainer who knows the most about that discipline.  Maybe you just want to ride in general.  If that’s the case this won’t matter much.
  • Teaching Style: Have you ever tried learning from someone who just doesn’t get you?  A good trainer must have the talent to find ways to motivate and guide you.  Not all trainers instruct in the same manner.  Do you prefer someone pushing you even if it seems harsh?  Do you prefer someone who will always cheer you on?
  • Adaptability: Similar to above, the right trainer will be able to recognize the different ways to educate you.  We all have different styles of learning and you’ll want your trainer to be able to adapt to this in order to effectively reach you.
  • Knowledge and Education: Some horsemen are naturally talented so I’m not going to stand on a soapbox saying that all instructors should have a formal education…but in a way they really should.  If you’re instructor is truly dedicated to what they do they will have some formal training.  Maybe in horses and equine science, maybe some pedagogy classes to help them become better educator.  A good horseman doesn’t make a good educator.
  • Honesty: A good trainer won’t tell you that you’re doing great when you’re actually doing terrible.  This is bad for both you and the horse (and the trainer’s reputation). If you’re struggling with something the trainer should be comfortable telling you so.  Accept the feedback, don’t get sensitive, and use it to
  • Integrity: You may need to find the right trainer but you might not be the right fit for your trainer.  You’re trainer should have integrity by recognizing when the pairing no longer works.  Maybe there are ongoing issues…maybe the trainer struggles to find an efficient way to educate you, or maybe your potential stretches beyond trainer’s limits.  Whatever the case a trainer with integrity is going to look out for what’s best for you, not just what you pay them.


Communicating With Your Instructor

You aren’t your coach’s only student, and it’s not his or her job to know what your goals are unless you speak up.  A good instructor will train their students based on  individual goals.

There are some trainers that require their students to compete.  If that aligns with your goals, go ahead.  Don’t get upset if they refuse to teach you when you don’t have ambitions for competition.  Many instructors have students who want to compete, students who just want to walk and trot, some want to barrel race, some want to jump.  Every student has a different desire, and goals morph and evolve over time.

For example: I told my instructor that I have a goal to get back into jumping.  She told me a few exercises I can do at home to get better prepared.  I continued my lessons and a few months later I began jumping again for the first time in several years.  I communicated my goals and put my trust into my trainer.  I trusted her opinion and knowledge, and I trusted that she’d get me jumping only when my riding skill reached the level needed.  This is important for rider safety but also for the horses.

…and I want to go into this just a bit more.  I’ve met several people through the years… frustrated that they aren’t progressing as fast as they’d like.  “Their friends are a lot further than they are.”  “I practice as much as I can” “My coach must hate me” “I’m ready, why can’t I do that too.”

…But that’s what you get for comparing yourself to others.

Not everyone learns at different speeds and that’s OKAY.

If you have effectively communicated your goals with your instructor and you’re not reaching those goals the first thing you need to do is look within (Similar to When the Going Gets Tough).  You are not being fair to the instructor by blaming them for doing the right thing.  Before putting the burden on your coach ask yourself if you truly are riding as solid as you think you are.  I’d be willing to bet that you are weak in a few areas and that’s hindering your progress.  Watch videos of yourself riding.  Practice more.  Take more lessons.  Stop comparing yourself with others. Stop expecting some fixed time frame.  Achieving your goals takes work and humility.

I communicated my goals and put my trust into my trainer

My point is, when you aren’t getting what you want from your instructor, look within.  Make sure that your issues aren’t a result of your own shortcomings.  Once you’ve corrected or addressed your own weaknesses, speak up if you need to.  Have an honest and cordial conversation with your trainer to discuss your concerns, goals, and setbacks.  Your trainer will respect you for your honesty, and you may be able to work through whatever the trouble is…or you may mutually agree to part ways.

Regardless, it does nobody any service to focus your frustrations outwardly.  On your horse.  On your trainer.  Be honest with yourself before you can be honest with others.


  1. Your points are well taken. I would add that there are some trainers who are not completely honest. Remember they’re in a position of authority. I have had one who sold me on a package of lessons (three per week) and insisted on dumbing things down and keeping me at first level dressage even though my horse was schooling third. More than $800 per month for a year and I learned nothing and my horse was held back. My next trainer (current) has coached me once a week for almost two years (with exceptions for whatever reason) and my horse and I showed second level last summer with scores in the mid 60s, and are now schooling third. My trainer has taken me leaps and bounds beyond what I thought was possible because she believed in me and my horse from the outset. So, while I agree that we must look inward we must also be aware of any BS coming our way which is being made to look like our fault. There are plenty of unscrupulous trainers out there who will take advantage of vulnerable students.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s amazing. I totally agree there are probably many trainers who use their power improperly just to line their pockets. I applaud your decision to switch, I don’t discredit that one bit. I posted this mainly for the ones who are not getting their way or had a bad lesson and never once tried to talk to the trainer about why or what’s going on.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Good points! I have had a few trainers and some were not the best for me and I left them. Now I have a trainer in the winter in Florida and a trainer at home here in Ontario who are terrific. They both have patience with me and push me to move up and get better. I cannot ask for more. Oddly enough I just posted about the value of a trainer. ( Invest in training.)

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s