The Art of Wearing All Hats Well: The Life of a Trainer

Sometimes it is hard to put into words exactly what it is horse trainers do. Scratch that, it is always hard to put into words exactly what it is horse trainers do.  We are small business owners. We are animal lovers. We dabble in therapy and counseling. We are event planners. We are negotiators and middle men. The list goes on. But above all, we are horse trainers and we care about the horses first and foremost. Second, we care about our clients and their growth and happiness. Thirdly, we must maintain the capacity to be several different people.  Throughout the day, we need to put on all different hats. In a sense we need to be a model that everything looks great on.  

I became a trainer because I love the horses, I love working with students and helping develop passions. I was taught long ago that some spirits are not meant to fit inside cubicles, so I have done my best with the hand I have been dealt. I have been blessed with a great family and facility to help me on my way. But I will say now, if there is one truth to all the things your parents said to you when growing up, it’s that life doesn’t get easier.

Prior to writing all of this I would like to clearly state, this is not a complaint. I love my job and everything that comes with it, I am just merely stating my day. This is also in no comparison to other professions or jobs. My hope is just to merely state my own life experiences and hope that in some way it either is comical, teaches someone something new, or at best hits home for someone.

People say, “Oh you run your own business so you pick your own hours.” NO. I run my own business so it takes up all my hours. I work more hours because it is my business. I don’t clock out and go about my life. I eat, sometimes sleep, and breathe it every day. And on that one day I choose to sleep in a half hour, I wake up to countless texts and phone calls.

I make lists for everything. For the seventy-five horses in my care, for their programs, for the daily activities of the grooms and trainers, for the veterinarian, for inventory on medications and tack, and the list goes on. Generally, I go to bed with a long list of things to be done the next day that no one human could accomplish. Then, I wake up with messages to add to the list.

I do my best to prioritize and get things accomplished. And as the day goes on the madness continues. A horse comes out lame or sick. Someone cancels late for minimal reasons, again uprooting a half hour of my day that I very well could have used. And lastly, without fail, someone has a meltdown of some sorts with their horse or another client where I then instantly need to become a mediator.

When I finally get through the day, there is someone I forgot to return their call, a lesson I forgot to reschedule, or a client’s request I failed to uphold. And I want all of you to know, it’s not because you’re not important. It’s not because it doesn’t matter. And It’s not because I’m lazy. I want you to know, when I forget that one thing, I lose sleep. It is because when I am booked to start, but figure out a schedule to make it all work, with fifty of my own clients, seventy-five horses, twenty employees, and three dogs, something or someone always needs a bit extra that day. You are not forgotten, and one day that something or someone that needs extra attention, it will be for you. And I will be there.

Horse people say, “Oh you are so lucky, you have the location, it must be so easy doing business there.” My response is yes and no. Yes, my location is great. I have encountered more clientele and more great people here than most in a lifetime. Managing seventy-five horses on five acres, takes precision and constant attention. Between their turnout schedules, grooming and care, and those added supplements and vet requests. My lists have lists. My stall cards are color coded and fool proof. The system must constantly be adjusted and enhanced for every new horse that walks through the door to ensure proper care. And this is just the horses.

Keeping over two hundred clients per week happy and feeling important, also requires a great deal of staff and attention. The ring must be well maintained for the traffic, the horses must be suitable for a great variety of people, and each trainer must remember each specific student and their weaknesses and strengths and help them grow as riders.

Let’s move onto the facility. Twelve hundred pound animals in stalls. Things break. Other things just need to be updated to stay with or keep ahead of the times. From updating the footing, to planting flowers, to just keeping the schedule up to date, it is a whirlwind. I am very thankful that my father always told me, “Sweetheart, you can sleep when your dead.” Because that is the truth.(Except he didn't call me sweetheart, but it sounds better.)

And that truth for me is, on that rare day, when everything is going great and I can have that moment to breathe. I start repainting the paddocks instead.

I spoke with a prospective client today, and she asked me what is it that makes you different? At first I thought, I was in one of my own interviews with a prospective trainer. I have yet to be on this side of the fence. But my response was this:

I love what I do. I love my barn and the place I call home. I will work every hour of every day to ensure the horses are cared for properly. I will standby and do right by my clients, because they deserve it and that is my job. My job is to help them grow and take care of their horses, and I will standby that always. I don’t know if that makes me different. I can only speak for what I do and what the people who I surround myself do. And I can tell you this, you don’t need to lose sleep, we will do that for you. We do anything and everything we can to make sure we do right by you. It is not because I am a people pleaser, because I am not. It is because I am passionate about what I do, and the people here are passionate about what they do.

I enjoy taking care of the horses, because I love it and that is how we all got started. I enjoy taking care of the people who put their trust in me. And I enjoy encouraging growth in the people around me and myself because it is contagious and uplifting. With every difficult day, comes that moment you remember why this all began.

While every day is a challenge, I have come to welcome it. In one moment I have on a top hat and I'm making a pitch, and in the next I'm in my baseball cap relating to a child. You just can’t lose the notion of what you set out to do.