I have this one friend who says this to me whenever he wants to tick me off: “Are you going outside to ‘play’ with your horses?” Play? PLAY!?! He makes it seem like I’m on the sofa popping bon bons while watching soap operas! Now I know he’s doing it to rile me, and I must admit that it does to a certain degree, because I know he knows my job is not easy. Just like I know he’s not just a construction grunt worker (though, it doesn’t prevent me from poking a stick at the great ape with a tool belt on my more ebil days…LOL). But a trainer’s life is not easy and yet some people actually still believe I ‘play’ with horses all day and what they wouldn’t give to be outside doing that with me. Good Fricking Grief. They don’t EVEN understand. The first triple digit day and they’d be running for their corner office with air conditioning.
Mind you, on those days, I do try to rearrange my schedule so I’m only working early morning and/or late evening, sometimes deep into the middle of the night. I’ve been at times accused of being a vampire! When I tell people I’ve been up since 4:30 (A.M!… or o’dark thirty as we trainers joke) to work horses, they reply I’m crazy! LOL And what about those mornings during the winter when your nose and fingertips are freezing to metal and the mud is sucking the knee high boots right off your feet from the previous week of rain, and yet those horses STILL need to get out of those stalls? Oh, and don’t forget the colic last night that started at 8:00pm and only just resolved at 5:00am making you half an hour late for morning chores, by the way, like feeding and mucking and riding and lessons besides the fact you feel like crudola from lack of sleep.
Oh, yes, then somehow this playing with horses is not so much fun anymore.
I’ve had people ‘tagging’ along with me, supposedly ‘helping’ me out for the day, but I always manage to leave them huffing and puffing in the dirt. They inevitably ask, “Do you always walk so fast?” Well, um, yeah. Unless I want to be out here all day and night and still not get all the work done. Yes, I always walk so fast. (Big help these people are… *grin*)
Oh, and speaking of walking… somehow every ranch a trainer works on has its arena diametrically positioned at the opposite end from where the horses are stalled. Every one. THAT took some planning! LOL And lots of walking the property to see how it could be laid out to be so aerobically fitting. And the horses you work are there just to add the resistance training, muscle-building weight to all that aerobic walking. Pitting yourself against a creature who outweighs you 10:1 and either reacts explosively (in the opposite direction, of course) yanking you around like a fish on a hook or just plain dragging you flailing and screaming to the tasty bit of weeds under the fence is certain to add that extra bit of muscle to your frame. One step further, while riding, while setting yourself atop that thousand pounds of potential, the one horse won’t stop (pulling, pulling, pulling,) and the next one won’t go (kicking, kicking, kicking,) So much fun! Who needs a gym membership? *grin again*
Oyyyy… and all that walking is just a barrel of monkeys when that thousand pound moose steps on your foot, breaks a few toes, and YET, you must STILL get ALL those horses out of their stalls every day, stick a foot in the stirrup and preeeess against the ball of your foot, feeling the edges of bone grate together. Lovely! And don’t forget that tennis elbow ain’t just for playing tennis anymore! My chiropractor once accused me of playing too much golf because of the twisted position of my ribcage commonly referred to as ‘golfer’s ribcage’. *chuckle chuckle snort snort* I told him I didn’t have time to play golf. Mine was acquired from pitching manure across a stall with a heavy pitchfork.
And all of these are just the physical aspects of being a horse trainer. What about the emotional? What about when you are giving a lesson to some sweet, normally well adjusted, bright confident woman, who suddenly stops her horse and bursts into tears about her ‘inadequacies on horseback,’ or ‘will she EVER get this’ or ‘her husband is a rude obnoxious jerk!’ What? I look around, over my shoulder, back to the waterworks on horseback… Where did that come from? And the next thought, ‘What am I suppose to say to that?’ “Yes, he is?” I don’t think that will go over so well… So rather than working on circles and leg yields, I’m now being paid as a shoulder to cry on…. sigh… and ya know, I just don’t like people that well! Kick him to the curb, I say! (JUST KIDDING! If you knew me personally, you’d know I can commiserate with the best of them.)
And then there is the horse that woke up on the wrong side of his stall that day and fails to deliver the sparkling rendition of ‘Trained Horse’ you expounded, ad nauseum, to your client that their horse was aspiring to. Talk about stress. As the trainer, I know the client is thinking, “And just what am I paying this yahoo money for every month?”
Oh, yes, all giggles and kicks then! LOL
When I was a child, I thought I wanted to be an equine vet. When I realized the cost and length of schooling, I ditched that aspiration right quick. Too long before you actually were able to do what you wanted to do. So I quickly changed my goals to becoming a Horse Trainer! …drum roll please…All day PLAYING with horses! Dream job, right??? …sigh…
Unfortunately, very little about training horses is, well, about training horses… LOL
I imagine if I were wealthy, living the life of Riley, riding horses would be a hoot all day. I’d pay someone else to feed the horses and clean the stalls and put up an enclosed, heated/air conditioned football sized arena in my backyard, next to the beach of course, so I could ride through the waves at leisure, (like rich people do… *grin*) and, of course, pay someone else to get the horses out of their stalls when I wasn’t feeling quite perky enough to do it myself. Oh, yes, that would be dreamy, thank you very much.
Regrettably, and much to my sorrow, I was born into the life of mediocre middle class and having to work for a living. (Drat my parents, they need a stern talking to!)
Anyways, having resigned myself to working for a living, and having ‘picked’ horse training as my career of choice, I now had to learn how to deal with people. My clientele. The people with the mula whom I have to convince to share the wealth… with me. LOL
Now, let me be clear here that I am not a ‘People Person’. If I lived on a deserted island, and the only touch with humanity I had was the helicopter pilot who delivered the staples of my existence, I’d try to find some way to get that helicopter automated!!!
This is why I say, so little about training horses is about training horses. It’s all about the people. Every horse in training is owned by someone who has their own agenda, their own wants, needs, desires and goals relating to why they are giving me their money to ride their horse. I have to juggle the owner requirements with the horse’s ability to fulfill them. Every riding lesson I give to someone, I have to balance danger vs. fun vs. learning. Talk about stress!!! If the rider falls off, they sue. If a rider feels like they aren’t learning enough, they quit. If the horse is taking too long to respond, it must be the trainer’s fault.
So, why do we do it? Why do horse trainers put up with the heat and the cold and the broken body parts and the crying and the stress? Because we love horses. We breathe their furry warmth and think ‘Yes, there is no better smell in the world!’ We think about them nonstop; about how to make their lives easier with humans; how to make humans understand them better; how to create a utopia of harmony between a horse and its rider. (Or at the very least, to teach the horse not to care if their rider is a little dense and just not getting it. :P Likely, trainers have some genetic predisposition that allows them to ignore the fact that their job is the least-like-‘play’ job chosen on purpose because of some warm, fuzzy beast. LOL In the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s only and always will be, just about our own joy in horses.
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QUESTIONS or COMMENTS about Article? Or maybe you don’t agree with my unsubstantiated declarations and have unearthed previously undiscovered proof of how the life of a horse trainer is all fun and games. Go here: A Trainer’s Life: Playing with my Horse all Day at the Community Center to have your say!