With the prevalence of the equine niche on social media as well as my presence in the local equestrian community, I have noticed a rather disturbing trend that is particularly common with young, up and coming trainers. I’m not sure if such a mindset comes about due to insecurity, the need to prove oneself or perhaps, just complete and utter vanity. Who knows. But, alas, the trend is the mindset that as soon as you start working as a professional, you are too good for lessons. It is the “I don’t have a trainer, I am a trainer” mindset and it it utterly mind boggling.
Here is the thing, to view it as a weakness to express a need to continue learning and growing as a rider by getting a second set of more experienced eyes to watch and offer tips or new insight on how to handle different aspects of training is utterly self-absorbed and not in the best interest of the horse. Every trainer you will lesson with will have a different training style, different tools in their tool box and different ways of explaining things that may click with you in different ways, thus allowing you to perhaps finally get one of those “AHA!” moments and fix problems you’ve been struggling with or realize the best solution to resolve a problem on any particular horse you make work with. Lessons are extremely valuable. Taking lessons and attending clinics with a variety of different people is valuable, even as you grow and develop as a professional.
Admitting you do not know everything is not a weakness. In fact, I would say the trainers who refuse to consider other opinions, refuse lessons and clinics and ultimately insist that they know everything and know the best way to do things are weak minded. They do not want to learn different aspects of training theory that may allow them to train better and develop more as a rider. It is as though they care more about being egotistical than they do about making a difference in the horse world. Especially whilst being young, we are youthful and may lack tact in how we explain things to clients, we may lose patience, we may mishandle situations. We do not have the insight that older, more experienced eyes have and thus, we should want help from qualified professionals to act as mentors for us.
I have given up my amateur status and work as a professional, thereby identifying as a professional. Despite this, I still get regular lessons and attend clinics when I can, as well as expressing interest in training under a number of trainers. I am truly blessed to work closely with trainers whom I respect and can discuss training theory on a level ground with, they allow me to have an opinion and they will correct me or put me in line when I need it. Even just this discussion outside of lessons is absolutely integral to my growth as a rider and I have learned so much in the weeks spent taking lessons with my trainers and most recently, in being mentored by my dressage coach and learning about his particular methods in working with horses. This insight allows me a more varied tool box when approaching work with different types of horses and their different personality types, strengths and weaknesses and the continued growth has and will continue to make me a better rider and trainer.
Here’s the thing: No matter how talented you are at your young age, you do not have the years of experience of other professionals who have been in the industry decades longer. Even just their people experience and viewing different scenarios play out, getting a variety of different horses and seeing the common trends in the horse world change over the years. This allows them to develop a different insight and while some may not change and grow with the times as our knowledge on horses from a scientific standpoint develops, many of them still hold wisdom that you should hear.
I find it disheartening to see young people that are around the same age as myself disregarding their need to grow and improve and disregarding the opinions of other professionals or blatantly avoiding taking lessons or accepting any ounce of outside views. I totally get the frustration with internet trainers and other online viewers weighing in on what you do and questioning what you are doing, but if you constantly shut down other opinions whilst refusing to seek help from the qualified individuals that can help assist you in person and help better you as a rider, how are you ever supposed to grow and learn? Not to mention, that these self-absorbed riders who view it as an embarrassment to seek help, despite being “green” to professionalism give other riders in the same age range a bad name. They cause everyone else to be taken less seriously due to their narcissism and unwillingness to take lessons or accept any bit of training, thus a lot of more “wise” clients may choose to sway away from the younger generations of trainers despite the fact that many of them are exceptionally talented with fresh new viewpoints on how to tackle horse training.
You are not superior for never seeking help. You are not superior for acting like you know it all despite being fairly new to training and even if you are not new to it, you still are not above seeking lessons from other people. Everyone still has room for growth. Heck, even long time upper level professionals still have trainers and other people to mentor them and act as a second set of eyes. Even people who seemingly know everything need to be humbled every now and then but ESPECIALLY the younger generation of trainers who seem to view it as superior to go it alone and never seek outside assistance. The superiority complex and viewpoint that they have it all figured out is concerning.
I have to thank my trainers for consistently humbling me. For pointing out my flaws and my strengths. For giving me other tactics to add to my toolbox so I have numerous ways to tackle the same problem, some that may work for very specific types of horses and may be a necessity in helping me tackle a particular complex horse. Not everything is going to come easy and with horses and their different personality types and different needs physically and mentally, it is really only a matter of time until a trainer gets handled a horse that they really have no idea where to start with. Having that mentor to go to when the going gets tough to request further insight and ask for some tools to help you out is so so SO important and I guarantee you that even the BEST OF THE BEST have these people that they respect that they can flesh out ideas with and figure out some new things to try in their training programs.
So, here is my advice to the younger generations and up and coming trainers: When seeking a trainer, avoid people who refuse to try to better themselves and view it as a weakness if they are to ever seek lessons or outside help from other professionals. Particularly if they are young and newer to training, avoid them like the plague. They have no one to humble them or to knock them down a peg when they are acting out of line. A huge ego does not really have a good place in horses, the belief that your way is always the best way and that no one else should have an opinion on it, no matter how qualified, is a dangerous one. Instead, select trainers that are okay with you questioning them and will adequately explain things. Don’t train with someone who you are afraid to question, afraid to ask WHY you’re doing X thing. Don’t train with someone who gets upset when you ask why you’re doing what you’re doing, who refuses to ever seek any outside help to better themselves.
I think the best thing my dressage coach has taught me is that as a professional, you need to be able to answer questions. So, during my lessons or during our discussions, he will ask me to explain myself. And… well… If I can’t, then that’s something I need to work on in my future as a trainer.
Now, for those of you wanting to get into training, here is my advice: Stay in lessons as much as you can. Ride with different trainers. Go to clinics. Get on as MANY horses as you can but never oversell your abilities. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do further research online. Learn the importance of credible sources. Find a good mentor who you are comfortable with and who you can have real discussions with, this will allow you so much growth. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS remember that there are no stupid questions. You are not a failure for being in lessons. For not knowing everything. Even the best of the best are still actively training to better themselves. They all have flaws. They all make mistakes. What sets the best of the best apart from others is their ability to humble themselves and realize that they are never above seeking training or asking for second opinions.