Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life........and Its Lessons........The Final Straw

Part 1

Once we began riding the horse hunter pleasure, part of the plan for Legs changed. The original plan was for just the trainer to show the horse in the open and that was it. Now that the horse was doing hunter instead of western, I was to show the horse in the amateur division as well but only in the one region. The WT would show him in both regions.

Me showing the horse in the amateur division may not sound like such a big deal but it was. I hadn't been on the horse but a couple of times in his months of training and that was only when it was "allowed." (One of those allowed times just happened to be at that schooling show where the other trainers were watching and that was western.) Doing the hunter thing was a whole different ball game........and I'm not crazy about riding hunter.

If I was to show the horse, obviously I would need to ride him. Yet still that was kept to a minimum. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I rode before regionals.Like so many other trainers this WT wasn't all that happy about the amateurs "screwing" up his horses. There was always some reason for the lesson to wait.

That message you won't ride the horse unless I let you is all too rampant in the horse industry. That message "you'll screw up (my) horse" can only cause confidence issues with the rider. It also keeps amateurs believing they "need" trainers. I don't know if that's why trainers do it or not but it sure doesn't do much for trainer/client relationships.

It seems to me if the amateur is paying the training, it's up to them whether they ride or not. It's the trainers job to deal with any issues that might arise afterwards. And if a rider doesn't have confidence, time in the saddle is the only thing that will fix it. Telling them they "can't" will only make it worse.

Riding a horse that "feels" like a stranger is tough. That would be the single most reason I don't do the trainer thing very well. Not getting to ride my doesn't help me OR my horse one bit.

The problem I had with Legs every time I rode him hunter was the horse would break into the canter every time I tried to push him up into the bridle. At first I thought I was cueing him too strong so I backed off some with my cue using less and less leg. Then I went to just using my seat. Even that didn't stop the behavior so I just thought about pushing him up. The horse would still break. It took me a while (a while as in weeks later) to figure out the horse didn't understand the request to round up.

Now we are back to that frame versus function debate. As it turns out this particular WT was/is a believer in frame. His whole approach is about attaining that frame with little regard to function but then I actually heard him having the discussion with a BNT. The description of what he's trying to accomplish and how clearly fits frame focused training techniques.

Legs didn't get my cue because he had been asked to go in a given frame BEFORE he'd learned how to go forward as the means to round up. That's why his head position was erratic when he was going slow. The horse didn't have enough impulsion to keep his head steady. Even in hunter the horse was not rounding up off my legs or seat.

I did manage to get the horse qualified for Region 5 ath the Midsummer Classic in June. We placed third in a class of 6 even with a break from the trot to the canter. Since that didn't get me qualified I rode the horse in the championship. Legs won that class with 9 horses in it. There was a small break but I caught him before the judge saw the mistake.

From there is was on to the the Region 4 Regional Championships in Salem. I didn't get to practice between those shows because I wasn't showing at Region 4 only the WT was. They had what the WT considered to be a clean go but the horse did not place.

By the time we got to Region 5 I had not had a single clean ride on the horse. I was not the least bit comfortable riding a horse in the regional class when I couldn't be sure we'd be doing the requested gait. It is the most uncomfortable time I'v ever had showing a horse.

Regionals is where everything changed for me. I was taking a lesson on Legs in the outside "dressage" arena at the fairgrounds in Puyallup. I was wired with one of the walkie talkie ear things so I could hear the WT and he could hear me.

If I remember correctly I had just asked the horse to canter. Legs gave me a poor transition so I stopped him to do it over. This WT began screaming obscenities at me. "WHAT IN THE F**K DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING!" rang in my ear.

My response was "I'm asking him do this thing over because he didn't get it right."


I was mortified. There were people all around hearing this trainer screaming at the top of his lungs at me. I pushed myself through the lesson but I was fuming. I had had it.

That was it for me. The proverbial light bulb went off in my head. No trainer worth his salt would ever tell a rider NOT to fix and error. Heck, I've even heard them say it's better to do something wrong that nothing at all. Yet, here is this guy thinking I should be nothing but a passenger. Finally, loud and clear, I got the message this guy was not for me OR my horse.

To be continued...................

Finishing Up with the WT

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  1. The suspense of these posts is keeping me on the edge of my seat!

  2. I hope you gave this jerk his walking papers! No trainer should ever act like that whether it's in public or at home. By the way I had a trainer like that for years and since I basically learned to ride at his barn, I thought it was the norm and stayed for a few years and took the abuse. I can tell you it doesn't do much for your confidence especially is you're a beginner.

  3. I cannot believe he spoke to you that way, the nerve! I'm sorry that you had that awful experience. This sounds like he had quite the ego; and he really treated you like dirt. I wonder if he spoke to all of his "clients" that way?

    It really says something that you were placing well with Legs even with the blips and he wasn't really doing that well. Maybe WT was feeling threatened.

  4. Wow! What an arse! I would have been hard pressed not to go over and tell him he was fired on the spot!

  5. Blech. These posts remind me why I got tired of restarting the scary horses (and the show scene....oooooh, don't get me started!). I am glad that I made the decision to go to medical school and keep my horses as my darlings instead of the way I put food on the table. Now they serve as the impetus to keep me going when times are tough, and I can take my time fixing the problems that arise!