Hero and Sharon! Thanks Sis!
In my opinion, my sister Sharon is a "dream" client. I've been lucky enough to have a couple of those. This blog post is a quick, "Thanks, Sister of Mine". Thank you for understanding what horse training is all about and letting me do my job! For understanding that it takes as long as it takes. And each small moment of training snowballs into a great, big gigantic good horse. And most importantly for enjoying the small moments of training, as much or more, than the shiny ribbons!
I'm guessing that each trainer would define a dream client differently, but in my book, a "dream client" is someone that "get's it".
A dream client is someone who understands that preparing a horse for a career as a show horse (or any kind of working horse for that matter) is so much more than the time spent and decisions made while on his back. It's about developing a horse that is happy and comfortable with the lifestyle. It's about day-to-day management. It's having the same standards of behavior each and every time you enter the stall. It's about having consistent standards of behavior. You can't expect one standard of work at home and then another at a different location.
Being at a horse show (or any event away from home) is a study in the "anti- routine". It is several days of expecting the unexpected. An exercise in being adaptable. Training for a horse show is about doing everything you can to prepare your horse for what you think will happen and even more important, preparing your horse for what to do when (NOT IF) things go completely whacky.
When at a show your horse may have to work in the rain. He may not get his dinner on time. He might have to have a class early or a class really late at night. He won't get turn out time. His buddies will have to stay at the barn while you go for your class and he may have to stay all by his lonesome while everyone else heads to the arena. The two of you may have to unexpectedly wait (and wait and wait) for a class after you've already warmed up. Then no waffling around about going back to work. You might have to go into the arena without your usual warm up routine because classes before yours have suddenly been cancelled.
The point I'm trying to make is that always sticking to a strict comfortable routine with your horse at home is not doing him (or yourself) any favors if you want him to understand the topsy-turvy world of horse shows.
Therefore, my "at home management policy" is as follows: sometimes Hero works while the others are eating their dinner. And even though it's much easier to just always turn Hero out with Juan, I don't do that. Sometimes, (hopefully at least 50% of the time) I turn Hero out by himself. Because someday he'll have to go into that arena, all by himself!
Sometimes I turn out in the morning. Sometimes in the afternoon. Sometimes in one of the outside turnouts and sometimes in the indoor arena. And while I understand that turn out is good, I also want to have a horse that isn't frantic if he has to stay inside. Let's face it. Show horses live in stalls at shows. So sometimes, Hero stays in while the others go out. And you know what? Because we've done our best to do this from the very beginning, Hero is perfectly fine in his stall with a pile of hay and (if it's hot and muggy) his fan! Actually, being really smart, when it starts to get hot and muggy he'll try to catch your eye to bring him in! If you check out Sharon's shirt in the last photo, it pretty much sums up our philosophy!
Despite the best laid plans of all horse trainers, there are rough outings! If you're lucky you have tons more fun ones than rough ones. And if you're very, very lucky you have one where:1) your baby horse shows how much he's grown up, 2) you get just enough challenges to test him and have him come home a more confident horse than when he left, 3)- Kate nails not one but two showmanship patterns, and 4) Mike has his real camera at the show! That's just about as perfect as it gets! Except for the part where, 5) Sharon not only has a great time and wins some ribbons, she WINS A CRUISE! Welcome back to the ring Sis!