The Academic Equestrian: Haley’s Secret to Success

Haley opens up with the truth about her IHSA season.

It wasn't hard work and practice that brought Haley this far -- it was purely the fact that she's the coaches' favorite. Photo by Ellie Woznica.

It wasn’t hard work and practice that brought Haley this far — it was purely the fact that she’s the coaches’ favorite. Photo by Ellie Woznica.

There has been some speculation this year as to whether I did well and showed often in IHSA because I have decent horsemanship or because the coaches like me. Today I would like to clear things up and confirm that it is the latter — I have shown so much purely because I am the favorite. I have practiced at length my manipulation of those in power and my prowess has been proven this year. Luckily, I have composed an extensive list so that you, too, can learn how to be the coaches’ or trainers’ favorite.

1. Nag your coaches incessantly. It’s a common misconception that coaches don’t like to be nagged, but the truth is that they’ll love you for it. Make sure it’s the first thing they hear when you get to the barn and the last thing they hear before you leave. Ideally, you arrive before anyone else and linger till everyone else is gone for optimal nagging time. Skip any formalities and jump straight into whiny questions when you see your coach or trainer. Even nag while you’re in a lesson; for example, if your trainer tells you to square your shoulders, reply with something like “Do I have to?” or (they especially like this one) “I can’t!” Responding like this lets your coach or trainer know that you’re paying attention to what they are saying.

2. Pay your board or lesson bills a few days late. Your coach or trainer might complain about this one, but it’s a surefire way to make sure they don’t forget about you. In those few late days, you might even be the most important client and they will think about you all the time until your bill is paid. This often also leads to extra time on the phone with your trainer during which you can strengthen your working relationship.

3. Schedule your riding time to coincide with other lessons or practices. Memorize the arena schedule and make sure to always show up just as a lesson or practice is going in. Apologize profusely for mistaking the open ring time and hope your trainer is kind enough to let you disrupt another lesson. This way, they will have extra opportunities to watch you ride and acknowledge how great you are. Additionally, they won’t be able to resist coaching you if you make a mistake — it’s basically extra lessons whenever you want, and soon your coach or trainer will miss you if you don’t crash another practice.

4. When you’re not nagging, be as sassy as possible. The mistake most people make here is that they stop being sassy when their coach or trainer stops laughing. Keep going long after they stop thinking your sarcastic attitude is funny. Be sure to use sass at entirely inappropriate times to keep the mood light, such as during the predawn hours before a show when no one’s had coffee yet or directly after having a terrible lesson. The more offensive your humor is, the better. Lay it on thick and always laugh at your own sassiness even if no one else will.

5. Show your dedication with exaggerated emotions. Didn’t place well? Exit the ring bawling your eyes out and remain inconsolable for the rest of the day. Once you’re done being sad, rant for the remainder of the weekend about the poor judging/footing/weather and unfairness of life in general. Won the show? Scream, jump around so much you scare your horse, take no fewer than twenty pictures with you and your ribbon or trophy, and hug your coach or trainer at every opportunity for the rest of the week. Doing this consistently proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are committed to your team or trainer, and they will appreciate the team spirit.

Go riding … and happy April Fool’s day!

Haley is the author of Horse Nation’s “Academic Equestrian” series, following her collegiate experience as she balances her studies with participation on the varsity equestrian team and time with her own horse. Catch up on past columns by clicking the #ACADEMIC EQUESTRIAN tag at the top of the page!

Haley Ruffner is attending Alfred University, majoring in English and minoring in Business and Equestrian Studies. She has a green Quarter Horse, At Last an Invitation “Cricket,” and he is also “enrolled” at Alfred. She rides western and hunt seat and also loves to rein and trail ride.

Photo courtesy of Haley Ruffner.

Photo courtesy of Haley Ruffner.

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