The Academic Equestrian: If Trainers Were Animals

What qualities do you recognize?


I’ve been riding horses since I was five, but lucky for me, my mom has always been my trainer. Until I was eleven, I had never had consistent lessons from anyone else, and even now my other coaches are like family to me. However, based on experience and observations of other rider/trainer relationships, I’ve compiled a list of animal qualities that apply to a variety of trainers — reverse personification, if you will.

  • Cat: either loves you or wants to kill you — there is no in-between. Variations in mood can be caused by anything ranging from what they ate for breakfast to how you rode that day. Usually very smart but only sometimes pleasant.
  • Dog: Sometimes clueless but loyal to a fault. Happy for you no matter what and very protective of all horses and riders under his or her care.
  • Deer: athletic and sensitive but skittish. Will abandon ship if anything goes wrong–want consolation for your train wreck of a class? Too bad, because your trainer is nowhere to be found. If you win, however, they will be next to you smiling and supporting your trophy.
  • Lion: very territorial, hovers incessantly over riders. Has a loud voice and tends to over-instruct riders through every situation, including but not limited to calling out every single maneuver and feedback during a class.
  • Raccoon: knowledgeable but devious. Will dig in your garbage at night (or wallet) and appreciates your willingness to let them do so, but if you have the audacity to question their methods, will try to drag your garbage away with them while hissing and spitting. Refuses to take responsibility for the mess they’ve made, instead insisting that if you had not tried to chase them out of your garbage, they could have left it in its original position. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
  • Goldfish: well-meaning but little to no attention span and lack of short-term memory. You learned how to do flying lead changes in your last lesson? If you didn’t understand it fully, never fear because you will probably be taught it again in your next three lessons. Been planning for months to go to that one show? Your trainer probably forgot about it five minutes after you said you wanted to go. Constant reminders are necessary for this kind but scatter-brained instructor.
  • Fox: similar to the dog but considerably less clueless. Smart and dedicates a lot of time and energy to taking care of pups/riders. Can make riders feel comfortable in any situation: as a fox will den anywhere from a remote forest to someone’s backyard, this type of trainer can dispel any fear horses and riders might have at an unfamiliar situation.
  • Ant: small but mighty. Can carry heavy loads (physically and mentally,) impressive work ethic, dedicated to helping clients. Often overlooked by others, this type of trainer bears his or her load quietly and without fanfare or complaint. Excellent teacher and beloved by riders and horses alike.
  • Bear: can appear grumbly and grouchy to the casual outside observer, but this unpleasantness is usually directed towards a bad judge or unfair placing for his or her riders. Kind-hearted under the gruff exterior.
  • Elephant: slow and lumbering. Doesn’t believe in any shortcuts, usually stubborn and not open to new ideas (“Why fix it if it isn’t broken?” mentality.) Generally old-fashioned but skilled at handling stressful situations, this trainer will often help out other trainers’ riders in addition to his or her own clients, and likes to have fun.

Of course, there are as many different types of trainers and training styles as there are animals, so this is by no means a complete list. What kind of trainers have you met in the past? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

Haley Ruffner will be attending Alfred University in the fall to major in English and minor in Business and Equestrian Studies. She has a green Quarter Horse, At Last an Invitation “Cricket,” and he will be joining her at Alfred. She rides western and hunt seat and also loves to rein and trail ride.

haley bio

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