Friday, June 25, 2010

One important step: Find a trainer

*WARNING* This is a long post.
In Jillian Micheal's book on weight loss she says that you need a support base of: a partner in crime, a mentor, and a fan. Same can apply to any behavioral change your trying to make. This post is about the mentor. It has been something I have wanted to blog about for awhile. I think that getting a trainer is the second most important thing I did to start the journey of getting over fear, yet it took me forever to do it. The first was to change my mindset to be more positive. After that I think finding a trainer I could work with has been priceless. It may be costing me a pretty penny, but I am riding again.

Sensei was not the first trainer I tried though.

I did find one great trainer a few years ago, but she had some issues of her own to deal with. So while it was great in lessons the rest of the time it was like dealing with a time bomb. She did teach me so much about getting a better seat. She also gave me lot of back handed complements. Like telling me that while other people would say I was too heavy to ride, she would work with me because she though I rode well. Or that I shouldn't worry about my large calves because that was the way I was and even though most people want thin calves, I would never have them but that was okay. Well I never was upset about the size of my calves until after that conversation. I stayed with her for as long as I could because she knew her stuff about biomechanics and was helping in that area so much. Finally it was too much though.

I left her just after I bought Abby. I actually would have never bought Abby if I had known I would lose my trainer. At that point though, I sort of thought I was well on my way and could handle Abby on my own. Besides she had ingrained it in my head that I was so heavy no other trainer would work with me. I was terrified of looking for another one. FYI I am what they call painfully shy.

So with the idea that nobody would work with me on their horse and having no way get my horse to someone or a place to have someone work with me at my place I was stalled for a few years.

During that time I was searching for someone to teach me to drive. I could not find anyone. I would ask around, talk to people who did drive, and nobody in my area taught driving. Or at least that is what I thought. Now just before I bought Kinsey I had gone to look at a very short and ornery Haflinger. I also did a little research about the breed. Wading through the mire of information on the net, I found Sensei. I did not call him then. *kicks self in butt*

Getting the boat load of trouble called Kinsey, I had about given up the idea of riding all together. Horses will be part of my life though, and I wanted to give driving another chance. So finally I did something smart. I called Sensei. Shyness almost won over and if I were not so desperate it really may have won, but I picked up the phone and called.

For driving lesson mind you, nothing else. I was NOT going to take riding lesson from a western guy even if he would let me ride his little horses, something that I highly doubted anyway. Well you know the rest of the story from there. I started driving and then starting sitting on a horse. Finally riding, now I have Corrie. Just goes to show that you can definitely get help from outside your chosen discipline.

If it were not for Sensei I would not be so happy riding again. I would be sitting with two horses I could not do anything with and missing out on riding for yet another summer. Getting a trainer was pivotal.

For the past three years I have been wanting to ride. I have been making little attempts at riding. I have been working, sort of, with my horses. Nothing came to pass because I needed that outside pair of eyes to help me get to my goal. Okay another true confession, I have ADD.

Look a pretty little pony:


I get distracted by this idea and the next. I forget where I am going and end up at the start again. I have done this over and over again. That is one HUGE help that Sensei has given me. When I go out to the barn with some crazy idea, he takes me by the shoulders and turns me back to the goal.

Oh yeah a big pretty pony that I can ride and drive. I remember where I am going now.

That is something that a good trainer should be able to do. Help you find your goals and then stick to the path that takes you there. Weekly I would hear questions about getting my shafts for my cart, ground driving Ike, selling Abby and Kinsey, and other things I had to do to get on the right path for me.

Some of those decisions were really hard to make, like selling Kinsey and Abby. It about tore my heart. I really needed that objective person to help me move on from that point where I had horses that I could not use and were not suited for me at all to finding them good homes so that I could move on to a horse that is much more suited for me. It really has been very liberating.

Not any trainer could have or would helped me through all that. Not every trainer is suited to every student. I told you about one nightmare trainer that was actually good at training, but not as general person. Several years before her I hired a British guy who scammed me out of a lot of money. He seemed knowledgeable about horses in the beginning, but later said some odd things. I would blame odd information on that the fact that he was British. He is actually partly to blame for my fear. Those are the only two trainers I tried to have help me but they really put a bad taste in my mouth about getting help. That doesn't mean though that their aren't great trainers out that that still would not have been right for me. Keep looking until you do find one that you can work with.

So I understand how hard it is to find a good trainer. It isn't easy. I was so gun shy before Sensei. I did not even trust Sensei for a few months. Driving he was knowledge about, but I was not so sure about the riding part. Turns out that he is incredibly knowledge about about horse and people. My first few ground driving lessons were pretty easy stuff. Once we got out in the cart, I think he knew that I just needed to be working with the horse to work through my fear. We did a lot of talking, joking, and teasing. Probably because I was so tense. It was over time that I started to trust him and the horse. So give yourself a few lesson to get to know each other.

It is vitally important to trust your trainer. If you don't feel you can trust him, find one that you can. Especially if you are overcoming fear. You are hiring this person to help you work though some truly scary emotions. A lesson for a person overcoming a fear is very different than a learning to ride/drive lesson. Sensei did not push anything on me, unlike a normal lesson where a good trainer should be pushing you. Or maybe I should say that he was much more subtle about it. He is always waiting for me to make the first move, yet at the same time introducing me to new situations. I was nervous at times but trusted he wouldn't put me in a situation I couldn't handle.

As I get more confident he pushes more, but again that is how it should be. He puts little challenges out there for me. Both to work through on my own with Corrie and in lessons. He still realizes I have issues though. Now that I am feeling more confident, it does not mean that I don't still have fear. I think he realizes that more than I do, he has worked with a lot of people with fear issues. I sometimes think I can go out and do try something new and he will tell me to wait a bit more. Or more often shake his head when I tell him what I did and then tell me to wait a bit.

Trainers are there to be objective and sometime give you a reality check. You need to trust this person. And they need to be knowledgeable enough to be worthy of that trust, again, especially if you have fear issues.

Oh but don't think that I am saying you shouldn't question this person. I think Sensei would be very disappointed in me if I didn't question him to some extent. I want to know why. I don't just assume that he knows what he is talking about, likewise he asks me to explain why I do what I do. I think it is a huge red flag when a trainer doesn't like to be questioned or can't tell you why they are doing something. I am getting better about asking question if I don't understand.

And this maybe one reason that I really like Sensei. He does question me about what I do. Everything I do and rarely excepts an answer of "I don't know." At least not without a follow up lecture as to why it should or should not be done. If I can justify myself, even if it is different than how he does it, it's all good. I am sure that there are some that that would drive them batty.

Which is why you need to find a trainer that works for you. One that you can get along with. Your trainer maybe completely different than mine, but as long as she is knowledgeable, trustworthy, objective, and someone you can work with to meet your goals your on the right path. Just try to find someone and don't give up if the first one doesn't work.

I really wanted to share this because in my journey finding the right trainer has been vital to my success and will continue to be. I did not realize how important that one choice was going to be. Sensei is still going to be there through a whole lot more with me. Getting so I can drive Corrie on my own, bringing her home and driving her around here, going for a trail ride, cantering, and building a good solid relationship with Corrie so that I am not fearful to do all the above things. I know that my journey is far from over but I have a mentor for this journey.


  1. You are so right about this - finding the right trainer, one who actually knows something, works with you and the horses in a way that respects you and the horse (there are so many knowledgeable trainers who can't or won't do this) and is a good match for you and your personality. Anyone can say they're a trainer, whether they know anything or not. And there are lots of horse people out there, even good horse people, with zero people skills. Kudos to you for sticking with it and finally finding the right person who could help you on the road to your goals!

  2. Your post is so timely. I had already been considering working with a trainer for both riding and driving. Then Doc emphasized the need for this last week when we crashed.
    Now I have the fun of finding the right match!
    I heard of a trainer near me, only to learn that another trainer is having to fix a horse that the first trainer messed up. Scratch that one off the list!

  3. Its so hard finding the right trainer, and oftentimes it is not who you think at first. I found mine by accident, we stayed at her bed and breakfast, and now she is a friend as well as trainer. When I first went there, all I could see was the old barn and fences, but once I started lessons, that didnt matter, her horses were safe and she was knowledgable and wanted to share. Im so gald I got to know her.

  4. Good for you for finding the right trainer for you and your horses. It's one of the hardest pieces of the puzzle in riding. But once you're confident and comfortable with a trainer you like and respect there is nothing you won't be able to do.

    I've had some bad trainers in the past and I did learn from each one. Some things to do and some things to never do. When I started my blog a long time ago, this was one of the first things I posted about: how to find the right trainer for you. I'll say again it's one of the most important things. Keep having fun and learning.

  5. What a great post. I'm so glad you found Sensei. You've made so much progress with his help and found such a wonderful horse. :)


Thank you so much for your positive comments. I love you hear from you!