The “Young” Vs. The “Old” Trainer

There was an interesting discussion on COTH the other day about riding with a young trainer. Some said a  younger trainer (in their 20s) doesn’t have enough experience to really teach anyone, even if they are an accomplished rider themselves. Others said that older trainers can be so set in their ways that, when something doesn’t work for you, you are written off as incapable or difficult to teach.

Buddy

Over the last 15 (or maybe even more) years, I have had 3 trainers (if any of them are reading this, you have all been incredible and have shaped me as a rider, a person, and a horsewoman in more ways than you could ever imagine. I am eternally grateful for everything you all do.) During the first 8 years of my riding career, I bounced around a lot more and wasn’t advanced enough anywhere to really get more out of how to ride a horse than kick and hang on.

The first trainer in this short line was over 60. She is a USEF licensed Steward and Judge. She had taken riders through the big eq, A/O Hunters, and some jumper classes far higher than I ever had an interest in jumping (clearly, she was a H/J trainer). She knew more about horse care than any individual person I ever met. I learned how to show horses from her, how to wrap legs, how to back a green horse, how to put changes on a horse. I got to ride 6 horses a day, 6 days a week, and I was only ever charged for my lessons and training at the shows I went to. I had supportive boarders who lent me horses more than once. She no longer rode, but there was another, very talented rider, at the barn who would ride if I was having issues.

Our lessons, which started out amazing, got more and more passive. They became predictable. We would start over a small crossrail or vertical, and then build a course. We would jump the course once, fix some things, jump it again, and mostly call it a day. When I ended up with a horse that was really complicated, I found myself scrambling for help, and I couldn’t find anyone at that barn to help me. They hadn’t changed, but I no longer fit into the program.

After 10 years, I needed to add tools to my toolbox. Leaving that trainer and that barn was one of the hardest things I ever did in my riding career, but I needed to give the very complicate horse I owned a real chance at our relationship working.

Ezme

Somehow, I found myself at the other end of the spectrum. I moved to an eventing trainer who is only a couple of years older than me. I got about 10 minutes into my first lesson with her, and she pulled me into the middle of the arena. She realigned my leg and pulled on my reins, telling me what contact and connection should feel like. A new tool in my toolbox, and an introduction to a whole new sport.

Lessons were dynamic and interesting. We did grids, courses, Dressage, etc. I learned what connection felt like and how to ride a true leg yield. My old horse still wasn’t blossoming, and she was the one to have “the talk” with me. How it wasn’t fair to keep asking him to do a job that made him (and me) so miserable. How I could enjoy this sport again with another horse. Then, she got drunk with me, and we made a plan to go get May.

Winston

She trained (and still trains) with some top talent in the industry. Want to know what flat work exercises Marilyn Payne uses to increase ride-ability? Or what gymnastics Sinead Halpin rides to increase how careful her horses are in the SJ arena? I’ve ridden some of them. I met some of my best friends through her, and I met my best horse friend because she had a vision of me kicking around BN on a short, fat horse.

She took me to my first first event, and then my first recognized horse trail. She warmed me up for Dressage and SJ and walked me around XC. When I had a mental breakdown before XC, she talked me off the ledge. During that XC round, she stayed close to the start box, not so she could see any of my course, but so that she could listen to the radios to make sure I made it around ok. And she did all this while heavily pregnant. She was (and is) still excited about her career, about horses, about learning and improving as a rider and a trainer. She is still growing and improving and sometimes things didn’t always work out perfectly, but that’s horses (and horse people) for you. When the news about the husband’s new job in KY came, I gave her a hug and held back tears.

Nev

Do I miss having a trainer around almost every single ride? Yes. Do I miss having a trainer that pushed me to clinic, show, and take lessons as often as possible? Yes. But mostly, I miss my friend who was willing to take 6 hours out of her Sunday to drive me to PA to look at a yellow horse.

When I moved to KY, I debated what type of trainer I wanted. Someone at the sunrise or the sunset of their career? The truth of the matter was, I couldn’t find another young, well-educated trainer. I am sure they are out there, working hard and looking for new clients. Maybe a few were even among those who I called and emailed, but I never heard back from. Either way, I ended up with a trainer who has a resume longer than anyone I had ever ridden with before. She has a barn full of riders competing at levels higher than I ever want to see. The barn spans all breeds, but, as being both a barn in KY and an evening barn, it is made up of a majority of Tbreds.

My lessons are mostly sporadic, as our busy schedules can sometimes be difficult to coordinate. She asks me if I am going to compete, but she has never truly encouraged me to attend anything. She still trains me like I am going to be running my first FEI competition next week, but I am fully responsible for making all decisions about my horse, my competitions, and my training.

Her toolbox is vast and varied. I often tell my horse friends that she sets up an exercise that fixes a problem, without telling you to fix a problem. i.e. instead of yelling “Sit up” at me over a course of 10 fences, she sets up the Circle of Love, and it forces me to sit up. It changes my muscle memory. Our Dressage lessons are carefully cultivated to slowly build on themselves. Our first lesson was a W/T lesson where we spend the first 20 minutes simply walking and halting. Our last Dressage lesson, we were working on leg yielding at the canter and the beginning of a walk pirouette.

May

She expects her riders to listen, adapt, and ride. She expects horses to try. I will say she has very little patience for horses that are stubborn, nasty, or downright dangerous. She has ridden too many horses to weigh athleticism over ride-ability. This may be shocking to some, but she really likes my horse. She likes that she is honest, brave, and willing, but she acknowledges that she is a tough ride. She is careful not to lead me into fights with her, but instead, instructs me around issues to get outcomes without stirring up frustration.

Her techniques are focused around making better trainers and horses, not simply creating a prettier picture. I leave her lessons feeling like the best rider in the world on the best horse ever bred.

So if someone asked me, would you choose a younger trainer or an older trainer? I would answer, I would choose the best trainer for me right now.

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Thankful Thursday

Amidst all the driving back and forth to the barn, I have had an opportunity to reflect on what I am more thankful for in my riding career. However, the thing I am most thankful for, is the mare that turned out to be much more than she was ever supposed to be.

I have talked a lot in the past about how May was a complete impulse buy. You can read the full story here: A May As Well Purchase However, I am not really sure I ever explained what I was expecting. Originally, when I bought her home, we joked that I had overpaid for her. After all, she couldn’t even do a 20M circle before she popped her shoulder and ran in the opposite direction, a canter took nearly 20 steps of trot to pick up, and I quickly learned that she had never seen a gymnastic.

To be honest, my original thought for buying her was that, if she didn’t work out, I could recoup most of my money and just sell her as a trail horse. She was sane, and sensible, and had color. All the things trail people want. Right? I mean, she could comfortable carry a larger rider for miles without discomfort. Then, we went to our first CT. It was a W/T Dressage Test and 18″ stadium round.

And we had SO MUCH FUN. She was a champion, and I finished with a giant smile on my face. I was hooked on competing this horse, and I think the man in this situation finally understood what it was all about. She never was supposed to be as cool as she is, but gosh… she is really cool…

 

I think she has turned out to be really cool… And I can’t wait to see what more she has to show me.

30 Facts About Me

I saw this on a youtube video, and I thought it would make a fun blog topic!

1. I’ve been riding since I was 6 year old (nearly 22 years ago!)

2. I didn’t ride at all when I was at college, but I did ride 6 horses, 6 days a week each summer I was home.

3. My first horse was actually a buckskin, QH type. Unfortunately, we only had her for a year before we found out she had fairly serious bone cancer and needed to be put down.

4. I didn’t start riding with an eventing trainer until 2014. Before then, I had only ridden hunter/jumpers.

5. I received my bachelors degree in Economics Finance.

6. I work in the Hedge Fund world… doing compliance and operations.

7. My favorite colored horse is black… with minimal chrome

8. I rode one horse for more than a decade. He was an OTTB, and the first horse I got on after I recovered from breaking my hand and getting surgery. (Even before I got back on my own horse at the time)

9. My favorite breeches are the Romfh Sarafina breeches… I just can’t justify more than 1 pair for shows and clinics.

10. I have worn some of the most expensive helmets on the market… and I still prefer my OneK. (although the new technology in the Back on Track helmets make me think twice.

11. I have no desire to ever go beyond Training level eventing… The upper levels just are never going to be my cup of tea.

12. My favorite horse I have ever ridden was a fairly poorly trained Irish Sport Horse, who could jump the moon.

13. I am a dog person… but I do give the barn cats love whenever I am at the barn.

14. I hated Stubben saddles growing up… and now own 2 that I really like.

15. Both my left ankle and my left wrist suffer from the remnants of some old ligament injuries.

16. The only bone I ever broke around horses happened on the ground… lunging my old horse.

17. I almost took a job out of college that would’ve forced me to spend a year and a half out of the country. It was a higher salary than the job I ended up taking by $12,000, but it was completely the right move.

18. I hunter paced about once a month each fall and spring while I was a young teenage. I keep trying to get back to it, but haven’t found an opening. (Totally different leopard App below)

when I used to jump spotted things in the woods all the time #tbt

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19. Some days I seriously consider quitting eventing, buying a western saddle, and just trail riding. May wouldn’t care much either way… as long as we don’t go straight Dressage.

20. I used to play Eventing 2001 with a friend of mine… religiously.

21. The only time I have ever fallen off of May was in front of Marilyn Payne in her clinic. It was nearly 2 years ago, and I haven’t written about it yet.

22. I worked in NYC for nearly 3 years. It was a 3.5 hour commute to the barn to ride my horse at night… and then a 45 minute commute home… all to get up to catch the 6:14AM train the next day… but NYC is an experience.

Sometimes NYC shows it's pretty side. #nyc

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23. I have one, older sister.

24. My mom lives in Florida… but about 3.5 hours from Ocala.

25. I drive a Subaru, and it has gotten me out of some seriously icy and snowy situations. I wish I had it when I was going to school in MA!

26. My favorite saddle I have ever ridden in is a Butet… but I have never owned a horse that one would fit.

27. I might have a serious chocolate addiction.

28. My favorite non-horsey store is Lush. (Can I count this as a horsey store if I say their bath products are my favorite after a long day in the saddle?)

29. If I could live anywhere in the U.S., it would be PA in the summer and Aiken in the winter.

30. I would love to try fox hunting, and I think May would really take to it. She has no issue with dogs whatsoever, and tends to be very logical in a big group of horses.

All that being said, May is doing great with her fitness. I have a new vet coming on Saturday to do an evaluation and recommend if there is any maintenance we should be doing. (May had her hocks injected in Summer 2016, but hasn’t seemed to need them redone until recently.) Do you do any maintenance with your horses?

The Nicknames

Defiantly continuing my blogging about random topics. Today, the nicknames.

Most horses have 2 names: their show/registered name and their barn name. Some have 3, like a Thoroughbred with a Jockey Club name, a show name, and a barn name. However, I have affectionately given several horses in my life extra names for really no reason:

May – AKA Fat Mare (also called Maysville by my trainer) Granted, May came with the name “Krimpet”, which apparently had been changed from “Delilah.” Her show names were also “Too Many Cupcakes” and “Hey There Delilah.” I think May, Fat Mare, and May As Well are upgrades.

img_4405
May

Ezzie – AKA Lady Bird

Red Mare
Ezzie

Why did I call her Lady Bird? Honestly, she sometimes reminded me of the dog from King of the Hill. Occasionally though, red devil would have been a better name for her. She would buck and scream and carry on, but I absolutely loved that horse. Below are a couple of the few videos I have of her.

There was another fiery chestnut mare with a big white blaze named Ellie that I rode for quite a while. I just called her mama. I used to have a picture of us jumping a maybe 2′ vertical jump… and our takeoff spot was a solid stride and a half before the actual jump.

There was also Hamlet… who the entire barn renamed Beelzebub. He started out as Hammie… then he decided that scaring the crap out of people until they got off of him was his new favorite game. He was the first horse to convince me that you really do need to buy the brain, not the looks.. and I was all of 13.

Hamlet
ALSO – who loves my hunter duck here? For some reason, we entered a horse that had never completed a x-rail class at a show in a 2’9″ hunter division. 

Then again, I also do this to my dog (as does my husband). Hannah becomes Hanner-Nanners almost everytime we refer to her. She doesn’t seem to mind.

Happy #nationalpuppyday !!! ❤#hannah

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What about you? Do you have alternative names for your pets?

A May As Well Purchase

Since this blog will most likely end up being a journal of all of May’s thoughts and feelings (and how I attempt to deal with them), I figured it would make the most amount of sense to explain how I ended up with a short, palomino mare of unknown origin. 
   

 May is a 10 (or 11 or 9 or something) year old Draft Cross. I was told she is a Belgian/QH cross and that works for me! She was bought pretty much entirely on a whim. At the time, I was trying to sell my previous horse (calling him PH from now on), and it was not going well. He was a sensitive guy who was truly a one-person ride, so he didn’t show well to anyone who came to look at him. PH was big, gray, and super athletic. The problem was: I am a rather short Adult Amatuer who works a very consuming job and might never want to even go Novice and really needs: honey sized, plain, and only athletic enough to save me. 

Enter May. I found her on facebook, when I had just listed my own horse. I emailed back and forth with her current owner, and it sounded like a great fit, if I could sell my current horse. Enter Sangria (the drink not a horse or person or anything)… After a rather long Saturday afternoon of drinking sangria and lamenting to my trainer about how tough it’s going to be to find PH a great home, I threw out the wish that May’s current owner would just trade for May for PH. Trainer, being as wonderful as she is, told me it couldn’t hurt to ask. 

  
12 hours later – we had PH in the trailer and were driving out to see May, check in hand. I rode her and it was… fine. She was super green, and I couldn’t turn her to save my life. However, she seemed as brave and level headed as advertised. The barn seemed nice and the horses were in good condition, so I had no reservations about leaving PH there either.

  

All adults smile like 12yos when they get a new horse, right?

In the end, I didn’t even negotiate, or have a vet check, or a trial, or even a signed bill of sale on either end. We then tried to load May onto the trailer. She was having none of it, wouldn’t even put a hoof on the ramp. Then we brought out a little bucket of grain, and she tried to run me over to get on. I should’ve known that was some serious foreshadowing. As soon as she got home, I was regaled with this majestic creature I had brought home.

  
But true to promise, she walked right into the barn and settled in immediately. The rest… You’ll have to read to find out 🙂