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.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I is a trainer, see my ad says so!

There's hardly anything that makes me roll my eyeballs with skepticism as much as someone who decides to hang out their shingle and be a "trainer" or "instructor".

There's a bunch of these folks up here, happily sucking the money and time from unsuspecting saps who have bought into whatever line of bullshit they have polished up well enough to actually work. Hardly a one has any accreditation, let alone any show experience to justify their fees. A couple of them have marketed themselves so well locally that their fees surpass BNTs in certain disciplines. (As in, if I had a suitable horse, I could place it with the Flarida's for less-and if you don't know who the Flarida's are, then you need to learn more about the stock horse world)

A few I can think of are just Moms who had some small success with their own children (as coaches) and who have been convinced by their buddies it would be a great idea to teach others. Two local notables have constructed such a fine facade of bullshit that their suckers, er, students, resemble acolytes rather than pupils-complete with a hefty monthly tithe of well over $1000 a month.

I really have to give them credit for being such good snake oil sellers. I mean, where else could you earn $50 (Or more!) an hour without having any licensing, secondary education, a degree, or have to endure performance reviews?

And even better, you never have to really prove yourself to your peers, since everything connected to horses is subjective!

Got a horse in that has your number? You just can't get a handle on that one. Taking six months to get wtc down? Well, he/she just wasn't ready-baby steps, you know. Still dangerous on the ground or under saddle? Well gosh durnit, this one is just gonna take more time than we thought. And more time, of course, equals more money.

You'd think that a student or two would go on to compete, but the reality is that after paying that thousand plus a month, most folks don't have the means left to show. And of course one of the reasons trotted out for the trainer him/herself not to show is because, of course, their heavy schedule-just no time for that!

I have thought about this situation up here periodically for years. If you spend five grand with a local "trainer" of dubious ability, then you deserved to loose it. The same money could have been spent purchasing a totally finished show horse in many disciplines in the Lower 48 in a lot of cases. Heck there are show horses going to auction, some with performance ROMS and championships, to be had for way less than half that. (In Missouri a couple months ago, an APHA Ch mare, with over 260 points, sold for under $200!)

The only thing preventing me from hanging out my own shingle is my own conscience. Yes I can get a horse started. I am actually pretty good with the bare basics but in no way do I consider myself able to train, or teach. Just because I have the facility (and could make the time) doesn't mean I should do it.

I have read up quite a lot on various "methods" and taken some clinics/seminars, but the real truth is this: Whatever approach you take, it will either work, or it won't. Those that adhere to specific methodology are certain to have their egos handed to them one day, usually with a side order of arena dirt.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Anti-Oil populist? Not me!

Anyone who listens to talk radio up here, has probably heard 750KFQD in the afternoons, hosted by Dan Fagan. This guy used to be a reporter on the local NBC affiliate, KTUU. Now he has two hours a day to use as his own personal bully pulpit.

He has had a number of "co-hosts" over the past year, since Sharon Leighow was tapped to become Gov. Sarah Palin's spokesperson in Juneau. Now he has some bimbo called Sanjuanita Valdez, whose only qualification I can figure out is that she is attractive and is a bartender in a popular night spot in Anchorage. Someone is making sure she gets more airtime by having her do some news reporting on air. She should stick to mixology because she's too young, and too ignorant to have an interesting point of view, never mind the experience to be the foil of Dan Fagan.

At least the station owners figured out that Dan needed to have someone in the co-pilots chair there in the afternoons. It's really too bad they couldn't have replaced Dan with someone with actual civility, an education, and a knowledge base, such as Jeff Lowenfels. But Dan is nothing if not controversial, and he is convinced his opinions and positions are defensible, period. The entire world is black and white to hear him tell it, and if you don't agree then surely you are misinformed, an idiot, or both. He proudly calls himself a conservative, and some of his positions I can agree with wholeheartedly.

But when he calls anyone who does not agree with his position on the development of our natural resources "Anti Oil Populist", his brush is way too broad and very offensive. He seems to think there is no middle ground when it comes to the PPT, or ACES, or anything related to the oil patch. And he literally will not hear other views, suggestions, or ideas that are more representative of the public. He is a staunch supporter of the Big Three and seems to think we should hand over the states' wealth on bended knees, paying homage to the shareholders that drive the investment these companies make here. I have heard him go on such venomous rants that it would lead nearly anyone to conclude that he's in the pocket of Big Oil, period. But after listening to him (casually, not every day) I can only assume that he personally knows people he considers key players in the situation, and he is serving well as their shill.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A long time coming

I have been lax in my postings here, due to work and home demands. However it has afforded me the chance to firm up thoughts that previously have been nebulous and tentative. With two weeks vacation starting, and no funds to actually go anywhere, I should have ample opportunity to spout off to my hearts' content.

You were warned :)