I finally decided to write a Trainer Confession. This is not from a guest writer. Please ignore all grammatical errors.
This industry can be exceptionally challenging.
That sentiment seems to be universally accepted.
My question is: does it need to be this way? We all begin this career path for the love of horses, the passion of our sport, the addiction to our adrenaline rush… for many reasons true to ourselves (except for money). I am fairly confident that no one choose to be an equine professional for a sense of financial stability and an emerging portfolio.
We all “need” certain basics to be met, therefore a business model is created. The problem seems to be that equestrian professionals are awful business people. Maybe this is the basic and most fundamental problem with our profession.
We love our horses and our clients; we love our sport and helping, developing and seeing progress with our clients and our horses. We occasionally put on an extra training session or give a free lesson because we know we can make a difference. We do it for the horses. We do it to see our clients progress. We remember we couldn’t have afforded full training either so we try to work it out for them. Then we realize we need to pay our bills as well.
How does one come to terms with the desire to educate, inspire and pay ones bills? Too many turn to nickle-and-diming their clientele. All of a sudden, what started out as a noble pursuit evolves into a time-sucking financial drain. Are you clients learning? Yes. Are you paying your bills? No. The panic starts edging in. All of a sudden your clients can’t go to other trainers/clinicians for lessons. They might leave. That would be bad. How will you buy hay this month without that horse in training?
From there, they must buy the most expensive imported, overly trained, 3* reject they can. Clearly, the commission is important and they need to win BN to validate your training ability and thus continue to create new clientele for your business. And so it goes.
Now you become certain that no one can train as well as you do, knows as much as you do, nor has as strong of a training program as you do… so the bad mouthing begins. A neighboring program obviously is intensely flawed. A local trainer clearly doesn’t treat their horses right, and didn’t you hear that so-and-so blah blah blahs.
All of this comes down to insecurity and an awful business plan. I believe that if trainers (or other equine industry professionals) started out with a better business model, many of the glitches along the way would be avoided. It’s about being honest with yourself, your goals, and your clientele. Communicate, educate, and work hard. If you want to build an empire, do it. If you want to be an upper level rider, get it! If you want to dominate the 2 foot jumpers, go for it! Just be honest with what those goals require and above all be honest with each other. Realize that you are surrounded by other equine professionals that are also struggling with their goals and desperately trying to figure out how to make this crazy game work. Reach out to those professionals instead of shooting them down. Accept the fact that your goals might change with a stone bruise and having a support network around you might be beneficial.
Admittedly, I am a hopeless romantic and have been called naive in the past. That’s fine. I am confident in my business and marketing. I am not afraid to ask for help and I genuinely believe that helping each other goes a helluva lot further than tearing each other down.
I just think this industry doesn’t have to be so challenging, but it’s up to us to change the paradigm.