Sometimes it feels like finding the right trainer might be just as daunting as finding a life partner — here are ten questions to ask yourself to help find the perfect match for you!
Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting to get your feet wet in the equestrian world, finding the right trainer is essential to a rider’s success. A good trainer has the ability to build confidence, motivate, and support their students in achieving their desired goals. Staying with the wrong trainer can trigger quite the opposite effect and cause a lot of undue stress, negative feelings and unnecessary drama in your life. Finding the right trainer can be a daunting task, here is a self-check list to help you on your search:
1. What are your non-negotiables?
How far are you willing to travel to ride and train with someone? Would you rather stay close or are you willing to drive a little farther for the right person? You may dread driving an hour to the barn or find yourself going to the barn more often because it’s only 15 minutes away. Next, does the trainers program fit your wallet? Do you want to be in a full training program or only take a few lessons per week? Are you looking for a large show barn or one that is more casual and low key? Inquire about the services each barn offers and see if they align with what you are looking for.
2. What type of trainer are you looking for?
Determine the type of training style that works best for you. Some riders are fine with tough love, while others need a little extra praise. Ask to watch them teach lessons at home. Do you like their teaching style? Are you able to understand what they are explaining to their students? Would you respond positively to their instruction? You want to look for someone who inspires you to be a better rider and can help you obtain your desired goals.
3. Does the trainer listen to you?
One of the most important and often overlooked forms of communication is listening. We all have different fears and expectations when it comes to riding. Find a trainer that listens to what you want to accomplish and that you can be honest with. Do their goals align with yours? Your trainer should be as invested in your future as you are. They need to express their expectations of you as a rider.
4. Does the trainer create a safe learning environment?
The cornerstone to a lasting and successful student/trainer relationship is trust. A respectable trainer will be straightforward about your riding abilities and the reality of your goals. You want someone who is looking out for your best interest and is going to keep you safe. A trainer who sugarcoats your abilities or pushes you to do something you’re not ready for isn’t necessarily looking out for your best interests. A good trainer will help guide you in setting realistic and achievable goals and ensure you feel safe and comfortable doing so.
5. Do you like how the trainer rides?
Many trainers have their own unique style of riding. Some ride more on the conservative side, while others may have a more unconventional way of doing things. Find a trainer you can respect and value. You need to be content with the way they ride, as you will be the one gaining valuable insight from them to develop your own riding style and ability. Find a trainer that inspires you to be better and that you want to model yourself after.
6. What are you looking to do with your barn community?
Are you an adult amateur looking for a place to unwind, drink a glass of wine with barn friends and relax after a fun lesson? A junior rider wanting to find a barn that has other young riders competing in junior and equitation classes on the circuit? Maybe you prefer the comfort of hanging out in the VIP tents and watching your horses show. Whatever your preference may be, finding the right fit can be the difference between an enjoyable day at the barn versus something you dread.
7. Are people advancing and improving as a result of that trainer?
Sit and watch trainers and their students at a show. How are the riders responding to the trainer? Do they seem calm and confident, or stressed and underprepared? Talk with the riders who train under them. Ask if they feel they have grown as a rider and competitor. In order for a rider to improve, a trainer needs to be able to break down concepts in various ways so that each student is able to comprehend what is being taught.
8. What are the trainer’s goals?
Are they more focused on training horses or training riders? Are they aspiring to go to the Olympics? Will their focus be on their own horse and training? Do they travel a lot for shows or spend the majority of their time training at home? To benefit from your trainer, you want to maximize the amount of time you are able to ride and work with them. Look for a trainer whose show schedule matches what you are looking for.
9. Does the trainer have enough experience?
The trainer doesn’t always have to be a big successful Grand Prix rider. A trainer should have enough experience to help you progress as a rider and achieve your desired goals. Look for someone who continually tries to learn and improve themselves. Find a trainer who is able to pass along their experience to their students, so they too, can become more effective and accomplished riders. It comes down to finding a trainer that has enough experience, perception and fortitude to take you where you want to go.
10. Do you like the assistant trainer?
Many barns now have one or more assistant trainers. They are the head trainer’s right-hand man and will often be riding your horse and teaching you lessons. When trying to find a trainer, it is important to look for the same attributes in their assistant trainer. See if their ideas and values align. Do they complement each other and each provide unique value? Often times the assistant trainer is the one at home teaching and riding while the head trainer is off showing. You need to be able to have the same level of trust and comfort with the assistant as you would with the head trainer.
Finding a trainer that’s the right fit for you can be a daunting process — take your time and don’t get discouraged. Your trainer is out there. Choose the trainer who suits your personality and riding style best. Whether you’re a first-time rider or looking for a change, consider these ten questions before making a decision.
Courtney Boros is a junior consultant at Entrigue Consulting, a full-service equestrian marketing and brand agency. She works with riders, trainers, sales barns and equestrian brands managing social media and content creation. She has over 25 years’ experience riding and training Hunter/Jumpers and has built a strong network within the Equestrian community. Her passion for horses and years of experience help to bring a unique perspective and skill set to Entrigue Consulting. If you have any questions about social media, please contact Courtney at [email protected].