Whether you are moving, changing disciplines, or just outgrowing your current training program finding a new trainer and/or program can be both stressful, expensive, and really impact some of your long-term goals as a rider. As you begin your own search, I’d like to share some of my own tips and experiences. I’ve changed programs for all of the reasons listed above, and I have been very fortunate to land in some amazing barns and work with incredible people.
Where do you find a coach?
Three ways: word-of-mouth, social media, and the horse-show. First and fore-most ask around. There are forums and Facebook pages. People will come out to gossip and give you input. As a blogger, I’m fairly involved with social media and Instagram to the point that I can watch someone in a show-jump round and tell you who they work with. Even through Instagram, by searching your local show-ground tags, you’ll see videos of others riding. And, if you notice an accomplished rider or group of riders competing at your level with success send a DM, “Hey! I just moved. Who do you work with?!” But, my favorite place to coach shop? Volunteering at the horse-trial. Volunteer at your local horse-show. I’m fairly quiet, but deem myself pretty intuitive. I’ve a handful of coaches I’ve decided not to work with strictly after noticing repeated students leave the warm-up stressed, un-prepared, or deaf after a screaming match! And you can use your discretion. Every student will have a bad day, but you’ll notice a trend. The riders on well-suited horses, prepared, have an amicable workman relationship, their coaches are the numbers you want.
What does a “good” coach look like”
I believe that one rider can be completely successful with one coach over another, and you can take a completely different rider and have them successful with the latter. But, there are a few underlying areas that are important to me before I pay for a lesson or suggest a coach to another rider. A “good” coach understands safety for both the rider and the horse. This means that when you request to move-up before you’re ready they have feel an obligation to inform you when you’re not ready. A “good” coach will inquire about the horse’s well-being before yours. A “good” coach charges what they’re worth. (Trust me, You’d much rather be down a few pennies and have your horse full of hay this winter than in the cheapest barn with the opposite.)
How to choose the right coach for you?
I think usually the two largest factors used are budget and level of expertise. We usually want to maximize our dollar while working with the most competent trainer we can find. But, jump-height does not always correlate to teaching ability and a strong coach knows what he/or she is worth. As a Senior Accountant I expect an annual raise to match my growing expertise; it is not too far-fetched to expect a strong and experienced coach to demand the same. So what other aspects are important? Finding a coach that can help you reach your current and future goals. As a working-amateur/professional I like having a barn-family where I keep my horses. Not only was I looking for a program that I could grow as a rider, but I like having peers to compete and ride with. I still compete a bit on my own schedule, so I also needed a program that allowed me the freedom to do that, but matched the level of training I need at home. Whether you are competing multiple weekends a month or not at all, it can be frustrating to find yourself in a program where your peers and/or trainer are all on a completely different goal-path. Can it work? Yes. But it can be frustrating to desire to travel without any other guidance, or the opposite. Perhaps you’re unable or don’t desire to compete at all but wish to lesson and can’t seem to schedule in your coach which leads me to…
Your Goal is Not Everyone Else’s Goal and that’s ok
Whether you are a young rider or working amateur, we all have different confidence levels, skills, means, and aspirations. And it’s important to realize that you do not have to mold yourself into a rider you don’t want to be. When you are looking for a new coach or program, it is important to find someone who understands where your are and want to be as a rider. They may be able to offer further opportunities, but are able to provide for your current requests and needs. I’ve felt the tinge of jealousy and bitterness in a program where I felt other riders were far surpassing my current competition aspirations, and then later I found boredom and some loneliness preparing my horses to compete in a different barn.
When I chose to move to Atlanta just over a year ago, I spent about five months planning my move with my horse. I had five cities within a days drive to my parent’s and Auburn football games, and then I pin-pointed the number of competitions within a four-hour drive. After I chose my city, I started barn hunting. One critical part for me is the move wasn’t only a social and career move, but I wanted to find a program that I could consistently work on myself as a rider and produce my horse to a higher level, which became my focus. So for me personally, I sought after a coach who had a resume of producing upper-level riders, came recommended, and had a teaching style I work well under. I compromised on commute from work and convenience, but for my personal goals right now this is where I want and need to be.