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Trainer Confessions: Warn Your Children

This is an anonymous post from a guest writer. We asked Trainers what they would write if they could share whatever they wanted without worrying about social media backlash or stereotyping. This article does not (necessarily) represent the beliefs of Austin Eventing. Here are their thoughts. Thank you for the outpouring of support for this blog idea.

All names mentioned in this story are completely fictional, including the horses.

It’s 5:15 in the afternoon on a Tuesday. I’m hustling to get all the horses brought in and fed before my next lesson starts at 6pm. I’m covered in sweat, dust, hay and manure. I’ve got a streak of dirt running across my forehead. “Can Haley help you?” asked the mother of one of my students. “Sure thing.” I called out. “Haley, go ahead and grab Gambler and Bart, be sure to bring Bart in first and please pick their feet when they come in, the hoof pick is next to the stall door, thanks!” I said without looking up as I tossed hay into each of the horses’ stalls.

“Thanks for letting her help you” The mother of the thirteen year old said. “You know she wants to be a horse trainer, just like you when she grows up.” I looked up at the mother’s face and paused, blinking at her with a look of utter confusion. I thought about how I hadn’t been able to make my truck payments on time in months, how all my clothes had holes and were covered in stains. I thought about the huge fight I’d just had the night before with my fiancé over my lack of time to spend with him, or anyone else for that matter. I worked 14 plus hour days, six or seven days a week and hadn’t had a real, full day off in over a year since I first opened my farm. I was completely drained; financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally.

“What kind of a terrible parent are you?” I wanted to say. “Don’t you see how much I’m suffering here?! How could you possibly want this life for your child?” But the fact was that the mother had no idea about my problems. To her my life looked amazing. Who wouldn’t want to make a career doing what they love and are so passionate for?

It is true. I love what I do. And I would sooner die than switch to a different profession, this is my life’s work. I’ve been blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it…) with knowing what I wanted to do with my life since I was four years old. I was born with an obsession, an addiction really, to horses. No one knows where it came from, but ever since I was a very small child, just old enough for real cognitive thought, horses were all I’ve ever been able to think about.

I sighed and looked the mother right in the eye. “Haley is a very smart kid. My best advice I can give you is to have her do good in school, go to college and get a degree in something that pays really well…science, medicine, engineering. That way she can afford to do this. This industry is tough. It’s very hard to make good money.” She looked at me disheartened; disappointed that I hadn’t been encouraging, supportive or excited that her talented little girl wanted to grow up to be just like me.

This is a tough business; it’s not for the faint of heart. When you are in the horse business it consumes you. You will work your ass off for little to no appreciation. You will pour your entire heart and soul into it. You will have your heart broken, ripped right out of your chest with all your hopes and dreams crashing down around you. But you get back up and do it all over again, this time promising yourself to do it better, to learn from your mistakes. You learn to be tough. You learn how to not take things personally. This is an emotional business. It’s a balancing act between a lot of different things. It’s personal sacrifice. It’s expensive. It’s time consuming. And not everyone is going to make it.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Those that are the most successful are very happy people, content in life (after spending their respectable time in the trenches, mind you.)There are no short cuts in this business and these people have worked very hard to get where they are. They’ve learned to take pleasure in the little successes, no matter how small. After all, watching horses and riders progress is like watching the grass grow. Little by little there is improvement, but it is impossible to see all at once. Anyone who has spent any amount of time learning to riding a horse knows that this is not a sport for instant gratification.

The most successful people are humble. They are the best because they’ve put in the time, energy, effort and sacrifice to be good. They don’t bad mouth others in attempts to make themselves look better in the eyes of their clients or other trainers. They make many friends and get in good with lots of people; their clients, vets, farriers, feed store owner’s, hay suppliers, and everyone else in between. They strive to make minimal to no enemies. They don’t get offended when clients move on, or buy a different horse, or ride with a different trainer. They’re big enough to send a client or a horse to another barn or trainer if they think it will benefit them. This is because, above all, and most importantly, they put the horse first. Always.

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