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Trainer Confessions

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.

I have spent a great deal of time over the past several months (years) thinking, talking, and writing about rider responsibility and the relationship between the rider and the horse. I have been annoyed by parents standing over me and second guessing me. I have been reading Denny Emerson’s posts on Facebook and have bemoaned the downfall of our sport, I have been irritated with people pouring money into to the sport to win ribbons, I have been callous, I have been cynical.

Tonight, I went to dinner with three of my most favorite persons. These are my “horse moms;” their kids have moved on from horseback riding in various ways, yet we make an effort to get together at least every other month. We are always the last people to leave the restaurant. My face usually hurts from laughing so hard, and I always get into my car after dinner with a huge smile on my face. Tonight, as I was leaving the restaurant, I paused before starting my car. You know this pause, the one where your breath catches and the quiet taps you on the shoulder, the one where time stops to allow you to gather memory. It was one of those moments that I cannot quite adequately categorize, it was a stillness in time: when my student finally finished a clean novice cross country round and I couldn’t stop crying, or that Friday evening when I held my student’s hand as we stepped into the trailer after it detached from the truck on I-40 to find her unharmed horse waiting for us, or the morning I knelt next to an amazing student as she held her dying horse. These moments have carved spaces in my soul that will never be erased. Not ever. Tonight I was reminded that these moments have connected me to people that I will never lose, not ever.

At my wedding some years ago, my father stood up and remarked that I was always very driven when it came to horses. This was an annoyance to him, because clearly he thought I should play tennis or water ski. He made a joke about the former, then paused for a moment and said that over the years he has had patients come to his clinic and say, “are you [insert anonymous trainer’s name] dad?” He said that it made him so proud, to be my dad. He then glanced down and laughed quietly, that’s how I knew it was important to him. The thing is, I always felt the same way- people would ask me if I was [insert anonymous trainer’s dad’s name] daughter. I was so proud to be his daughter. My father values relationships, he honors relationships. That is the part of horseback riding that he gets. When we were trying to figure out a guest list for the wedding, he told me how wonderful it was that I had so many close family members as a result of riding horses. He doesn’t know how to be around a horse, but he understands something essential that I have forgotten lately- it is about the people who stand beside you in this sport. The people walking next to you at dusk on the Friday evening course walk, the mom who clutches your arm as her daughter leaves the start box, the dad who tries to quickly dry his tears when his daughter crosses the finish line, the friends who bring you a beer at the end of a long day of competition. The people who become your family.

As I drove home from dinner tonight, I could hear my father reminding me what this is about; the same way I often see my old horse watching me, reminding me of my footfalls. I am very driven with regard to the relationship between and horse and rider. What I forget is that I am blessed with the human relationships that come along with the horses. My horse friends have pulled me from the depths of self-doubt and have held my hand during the lowest moments of life. They have put up with my ridiculousness. They have listened to my rants and respected my reasonable plans. They have forgiven me. If my husband and I are ever blessed with children of our own, I will do my best to honor the model my students’ parents have set before me. My horse friends are people I might never have known. In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this without the support (prodding) from an outstanding individual who has encouraged me to write, which is something I love to do but have neglected in my life. Would I know this individual if I were not involved with horses? No. Nor would I have been smiling and laughing for three hours at a restaurant tonight. To be fair, maybe I would have been smiling and laughing about other matters, but don’t we all agree that conversing/commiserating about horses over wine is second to none?

So, rather than my usual cynical ranting, there is this: the quiet space where the relationship between horse and rider gives you pause, but even more so, the moments where you are smiling/laughing uncontrollably because the people you love have reminded you what it is to be loved.

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