Confessions of a Show Mom: Respect the trainer

As a parent, you probably think you know what’s best for your child. But the moment you step foot in a barn, explains columnist Barbara Hamilton, the rules change.

From Barbara:

Your trainer’s the boss–especially at a show

Our trainer is young enough to be my daughter, but guess what? When we’re lessoning or at a show, she’s the boss.

I’ll admit there have been times when at first I didn’t think she was making the right call. Like when she put my daughter on a different pony than the one she had been riding for a couple of years. My daughter was upset and being a mom I went to her the next day and asked, “Couldn’t she just stay on him a little longer? Maybe do one more show—she’s so attached to him.”

Of course, she said she would think about it and then after the very next lesson my daughter tells me she “loves the new pony.” I could have died. At that point I told my trainer, “I will never question you again.” And we had a good laugh. But I learned a valuable lesson: Whether at the barn or, more importantly, at a show you need to listen to your trainer.

During the show

Maybe it’s really hot, or your child’s horse just turned into “Devil Horse.” Your trainer might say it’s not safe to ride. Or sometimes the class is so large (I’ve seen some with close to 50 kids) and it’s taken forever just to get through the flat class—your child is over-heating, the horse is over-heating and it’s apparent they’re not going to place. Your trainer might decide it’s time to pull out.

At the show it’s really important for your child to listen and take direction. Your trainer may want them to do a light-seat canter because they know that’s what that particular judge likes to see. Or they may have your child slow their horse down in order to get the correct number of strides between jumps.

And not every show is the same. As parents we don’t always understand that at a C-rated show your child might be in a Beginner Hunter class, while at an A-rated show they might do Beginner Rider.

The bottom line is, your trainer knows what he or she is doing. As a parent we all feel we know what’s best for our kids, but this is one time you really have to trust someone else.

Some things to keep in mind

Talk to your child’s trainer before show season begins and find out what shows they’re thinking of doing. If you have a budget (like most of us), figure out which ones your child wants to do and let your trainer know.

Don’t drop out of a show at the last minute unless your horse is hurt or your child is sick. Most of the time a trailer is hired for a specific number of horses. By dropping out they’re now stuck with a bigger trailer, as well as the cost of that trailer which is now spread amongst fewer kids.

Attend the show. Your child has worked really hard practicing and preparing for the show. Showing up says you know that. It also sends a message to the trainer about how involved you’re going to be in the sport. (Of course we all have those days when we can’t make a show—I’m talking about missing show after show.)

Don’t over-rule or contradict the advice your trainer gives. You’re undermining their authority—so if you don’t listen to them, why should your child?

And last but certainly not least—after the show thank your trainer for everything they did that day, from making sure your horse was wrapped perfectly before you even got to the barn, to standing in the sun encouraging your child as they warmed up, to making sure your horse was put away safe and sound for the night.

A lot of people take trainers for granted but when it comes to a great trainer, as most of us know they’re worth their weight in gold.

Barbara’s daughter Emma Bond with her trainer Krista Blomberg from The Elite Equine Group



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