Monday, November 26, 2007

More on trainers and instructors

Yesterday's subject got me to recalling some of the sessions I have witnessed over the years. Considering we are in Alaska, there aren't that many-but they are stellar examples of the trainer him/herself indeed.

First, the local dressage diva. I have not seen this person give a lesson in quite some time now, but I did observe the method employed. It primarily consisted of nastily chiding the rider(s) about what they were doing wrong, sometimes even yelling. I originally thought that people were idiots to pay someone for verbal abuse, but over the years her students have gone on to place and win at shows. She has not changed her teaching style, and students still sometimes leave the barn in tears. I understand that classical dressage takes many years to master, but some students have been taking lessons for over a decade, without substantial progress.

Second, a hunter jumper instructor team. This father/daughter union is fairly successful, but even in the outwardly staid world of those who ride small patches of leather, conflicts abound. The father managed to create his own show circuit, so the daughter could compete against local riders. Most folks who ride at the barn, or who have taken instruction there, are relatively happy. Funny how they don't place though, eh? But if you spend enough $$ you can end up in the ribbons eventually. I have never known the truth of the formation of the circuit, other than there was a big spat with the state organization, and the father did not get his way. When you are wealthy enough, you can make your daughters' dream come true though!

Third, saddleseat. Not sure sure who is doing that currently, but in years past there was a lady who wore many hats. Over the years, I watched this person force horses into frame complete with hollow backs and trailing hinds. It was all about the picture presented, not the actual well being of the horse. Thankfully she had light hands and generally used mild snaffles, but was constantly after horses with the riding crop or lunge whip. I even watched the collection of a raving idiot of a Saddlebred stud, then go on to personally AI someone else's mare...completely illegal although I did not know it at the time. As charming and pleasant as she was, she wasn't above suggesting gingering or tying a horses' head around (with tack on) for hours. She went through crop after crop of young girls who were "working for lessons/training" and who were then abused for asking for one. This is the same woman who believed that all horses should be fed 14 pounds of hay a day...I won't even go there on the watering and feeding schedules, but let's just say it was convenient for her. Can ya tell I once boarded there?

Then we get to the western folks. I can only comment on those folks whose riding I have actually seen, although we do have a Certified Parelli and a Les Vogt practitioner here. Several spout the "cowboy" way, but obviously never figured out that cowboys didn't ride with chair seats, five pounds of hardware hanging on the face, and iron hands. One person's qualifications include the husband's connection to ranching in the L48, and how that proves capability is beyond me. Another will grant you 12 rides a month for your $1000+, lessons for you are additional. Most of what this guy does is basic handling and guidance for the novice-with religion as a backdrop. Another is new on the scene, and so so popular that he cannot possibly ride all the horses he has scheduled. That's in between all the phone calls he takes on your horse as you pay him for riding. The wool has been pulled off a number of his clients' eyes, yet he still brags about his accomplishments, and has a waiting list. If he could string together enough rides in a row, people could actually see if he is as good as he says he is-as it stands I have a horse at my own place, who has not been ridden YET....he's been "training" since June! I will say he has a decent seat and line of BS, because what he explains as he is riding is not what is actually happening...and ayep, I do know the difference.

Then most recently I had a great conversation with a new person on the scene out here, who believes in the basics of all riding-wonder of wonders! Ride a horse from back to front! What a concept here! I have not actually seen this person instruct or ride, but 20 years riding under schools masters in Germany surely accounts for something positive, one would hope.

And then there are a number of people whose results are personal triumphs. They aren't out there scrounging up business for themselves, but are exceptionally good hands with all sorts of problems and behavioral issues. They all have different approaches but the end results are the same-happy horses who are compliant and soft in the bridle. The majority of what they accomplish is done from the ground first, creating partnerships which last. A good portion of what they do is actually applying an understanding the horse as a being, rather than ascribing human emotions or thought processes to them. Bingo!

And those are the true horse people, not the ones out there who have bought into their own hype, propped up by followers who hang upon their every word as though every bit of drivel that falls from their mouths is Gospel. May they each find satisfaction in their own successes, and continue to help those owners who are floundering to find the way.


Lori said...

Alaska! The last frontier for everything under the midnight sun....were the odds are good but the goods are odd!
Credentials, what's that?
A certified instructor/trainer can't make a living here.

suvalley said...

Well I beg to differ. Anyone who is good, and whose students or clients can actually compete and place-can do just fine. Advertising helps, but word of mouth can keep a person swamped with work if they are talented enough.

My problem stems from folks charging a higher fee than some national level trainers, without those results. There are a couple certified or professional trainers here who DO make a living doing so. And they aren't charging the outrageous fees either.

They are fully booked because they do not charge the big money, that's why.

Heck, imagine how many horses I could have here for basic starting, if I hung a shingle out at a couple hundred bucks a month plus board? LOL, I would have a waiting list in no time at all! And so would anyone one else who is capable.

We have often lamented we don't have enough horse people here-vets, farriers, trainers, instructors. It's all about supply and demand...and partly, how effective the trainer is at pitching themselves.

Lori said...

Both you and I could easily hang a shingle for training (and get $$).
But if ones sites are higher than the average Alaskan horse owner (and horse) one would need to go outside to really feel challenged. The only way to see if your education and talent was effective would be to see how your students/horses matched up at the "big boy" competitions.

I find most students here are suckered into a popularity contest and not into quality training.

suvalley said...

I think part of what you are saying is due to the fact that we have such a small horse population, and a short season. It doesn't give people many opportunities to show-breed, open, or for fun. There have been a number of locally owned and trained horses who have competed successfully outside-but not many considering the expense involved.

I keep expecting some of the larger barns to band together and start a series of indoor "shows" over the winter, so people can keep their horses tuned up. Evidently it's too problematic for most barns to consider.