If you go to a horse show and look around you, you’ll see several different types of student/trainer relationships. Some banter and bicker like siblings, some follow a strict formal client/professional relationship structure, and there’s everything in between.
Whether your relationship with your trainer is casual and familiar, or formal and professional, it’s possible for issues to arise and when they do, it’s uncomfortable, stressful, and takes energy away from the real task at hand: riding.
When disagreements arise…
1. Be respectful. But also, require respect in return.
Especially if you’re one of those students that has a laid back, friendship type relationship with your trainer, it is easy to forget that your roles are different for a reason. Take the time to consider their perspective/requests/position because, after all, the point is that they know more than you, right?
2. Don’t throw loyalty out the window.
Your trainer has stuck with you through embarrassingly missed distances, ringside meltdowns, and your horse being “that one” that ran around the show grounds with his halter and hay net from the trailer still attached to his head. So don’t be too quick to think, “We aren’t getting along, so I’ll just find a new coach.”
However, do remember that you’re paying this person for a service. If your needs aren’t being met, or you’re being treated poorly, and these issues don’t resolve after a few earnest conversations, it might be time to pack your tack.
3. Keep it to yourself.
If you’re having a disagreement with your trainer, don’t spread it around the barn to other boarders and clients. In the age of social media and over-sharing, it is easy to air your dirty laundry publicly, but this move will usually permanently mar your relationship with your trainer, sometimes beyond repair. Your trainer is still just human, and being gossiped about is painful.
4. Set aside the time.
Ask for your trainer’s time to discuss the issue when the barn is quiet, no horses are sick, and the seas are calm. Don’t try to hash your problems out at a stressful horse show. Wait until you’re home and the dust has settled, and then ask if they have a few minutes to talk. During the conversation, be calm, do some active listening, and ask what you can do to resolve the issue – not just what your trainer can do for you.