Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Breakup - Part 8

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

The gal that Paula had suggested I sell Kaswyn to had ridden him unsupervised 3 or 4 times. Before I let her ride him on her own I had gone over how I do everything for him, like grooming, tacking, warming him up, cooling him down, and putting him and the tack away. She seemed competent, so I put my worries aside and let her have a shot. One day after she had ridden him I began grooming him and saw a sore on his withers. I checked the saddle pad and it had a dirty spot with hair on it where it rubbed his withers when she had ridden.

I was immediately sorry that I had let her ride him without me or Paula there. What had happened was she had failed to pull the saddle pad up and away from his withers as I had instructed her to. This caused the saddle to push the pad down onto his withers while she rode him and made an open sore there. It also looked as if the saddle had been too far forward. This was actually two problems in one. First, she didn't have the saddle or pad in the proper position as I had instructed her. Second, she didn't notice the sore when she cleaned him up and put him away, or if she did notice she failed to call me. Both equally bad in my book.

I called Paula and told her the situation wouldn't work. She understood, saying that this gal did still have a lot to learn. She wasn't giving up on getting me to agree to sell Kaswyn to her however. I told her that since I had a show coming up that I didn't want this gal riding him or taking any lessons on him until after the show. Paula thought that was a good idea.

Incidentally, Kaswyn now has a white patch of hair right where the sore was. It's a constant reminder to me of my mistake of trusting someone with Kaswyn.

The show I was planning on going to was an open show, but it was also a team competition. Anyone can enter the show, but if riders want to they can enter as a team for an additional fee. There are certain tests that everyone on the team has to ride over two days, and the lowest score of the four team members is dropped from each day. In the end the team with the highest average is the Champion team. Usually riders with the same trainer form a team together, so everyone has the same coach. Since Paula didn't have any other students who wanted to be on a team, I had ridden in the show the previous year on Zoey's team. It was understood that I'd I'd be on the team but coached by my own trainer. This hadn't been a problem the previous year. I think we came in 5th.

This year, as the show approached, I was talking to Paula about her coming to coach me. She told me that she didn't want to go to the show. She had many reasons - I was her only student going to the show and she didn't want to drive 35 minutes to the show every day just for my rides, she was afraid the weather might get bad and she hated to drive in bad weather, and she didn't think I needed a coach. I was surprised, and hurt. I had always paid her whatever she asked to get her to coach me at the shows. It wasn't my fault that I was her only student going to the show, and I really felt that I needed someone to coach me.

We had conversations back and forth about this for a week, and finally she said "Well if you really insist on having a coach, just let Zoey's coach work with you at the show. I really don't think you need it, but if you're scared to show without a coach then see if she'll coach you."

I called Zoey, who was ecstatic. She gave me her trainers number, and I called and asked if she'd be willing to coach me at the show since my trainer could not come. She said she would, and then we set up a lesson the week before the show so that we both would know what to expect at the show from each other. She had seen Kaswyn and I at the shows, of course, but she wanted to find out what we were working on and what we could use help with.

Zoey came with her for our lesson. When we got into the arena, the trainer Justine asked if she could get on Kaswyn to see what he was like. I was leery of letting someone I really didn't know on my horse, but she was a trainer so I handed him over. Kaswyn was very tense and nervous, since this trainer was only the third person ever to be on his back. As she did a little warmup with him, Zoey and I stood at one end. She started saying how this was perfect for Kaswyn and I, and that if my trainer wouldn't come to the show that I should just ditch her. She said she'd never heard of anything so ridiculous, and that her trainer would be the best thing that ever happened to our training.

I told her to just calm down, that I wasn't ditching Paula. Overall I liked Paula as a trainer. We had great lessons, she was always kind and considerate to Kaswyn, and I had even gone to her apartment to watch dressage videos and have long discussions about dressage theory and training with her. As a person I liked her too, and considered her a friend. I wasn't as close with her as I was to Blair, but I felt committed to our student-teacher relationship. So this situation with Justine was going to just be for the weekend, and I made sure that both of them knew that. Justine was fine with it, Zoey a little less so.

Justine finished her warmup and rode Kaswyn over to us. I asked her what she thought, and she said "Um, he's kind of stiff. More so to the left. But I think we can work through that." I agreed with her, but I didn't think there was much that we could do about it. I hopped on and we started our lesson. It was pretty eye-opening. She had me doing some different things, concentrating more on loosening the stiffness and tension than I usually did. At the end of the lesson Kaswyn seemed a bit more supple, but more importantly Justine and I both had an understanding of how we both worked so that we could be productive at the show.

One lesson with Justine under my belt and then we headed to the show. Friday evening she schooled us, and then she coached us before each test on both Saturday and Sunday. At one point Justine was coaching another student in the warm-up and I was talking to her about her opinions of Kaswyn. I told her what Paula had said about his ability to only go to Second Level, and that Paula suggested I sell him. When I said those words, emotion washed over me and I started to cry, saying "But I don't want to sell him. Do you think I have to?" She put her hand on my shoulder and told me that she thought my horse was very talanted and that I shouldn't be so quick to give up on him and sell him. That made me feel better, but I also felt like a bit of an ass because I really didn't know Justine and here I am, bursting into tears in front of her. She didn't know it then, but I'm not a weepy person and generally people don't see me cry unless I'm really overwhelmed by the situation.

I was amazed how different my horse felt after four short days of working with Justine. He was working better over his back, I was riding more effectively, and I felt that I had actually made a lot of progress in a short amount of time. Not only that, but our scores reflected it, and our team came in first place. As our team was up on the podium taking our Championship picture, I knew I had a problem. I hadn't planned on getting a new trainer, but I could not ignore the great progress we made in such a short time. Zoey was elated, saying that Justine had made all the difference, and that I really needed to think about switching trainers. She was right, I did need to think about it. I just didn't know if I could do it. I knew that Paula would be very hurt, and that she already had a healthy case of paranoia about other trainers stealing her students. If I was going to do this, I needed to be tactful about it.

I thought about it for a few days, trying to put Paula off, who had been calling me wanting to hear all about the show and set up our next lesson. Then I made my decision. I was going to break up with Paula.

To be continued...

Part 9


Beckz said...

Man I really don't envy you haven't to change trainers. I haven't really had a consistent relationship with a trainer ever, so I come and go as I please.

Rising Rainbow said...

I read about the rub and Kaswyn's whither and it reminded me how much similiarities there seem to be between his story and Dandy's.

Although the problem with a scar on Dandy's whither is just recently with Rachel. I know the feelings you were feelings, I'm right in the middle of them now.

Then to work with a trainer for just a short time and see such in improvement in your horse. That's another fix to be in.

If input about my experience over the years helps, over the years I've learned that trainers who are paranoid about others stealing their clients, usually are losing clients because they aren't getting the job done. They just don't realize it. Sad

Jackie said...

There's definitely a lot of ego involved for many people who train horses. Rising Rainbow is right though: if a trainer is consistently losing clients, there's a typically a reason. Sometimes it's hard to do what's best for you if it hurts someone else's feelings, but it takes a strong person to do what's right and to do it tactfully. I'm looking forward to hearing how it all turned out.

I don't know that I could ever have ditched my trainer, considering she was my mother. :-)

dressagemom said...

Ohh, yeah, kinda hard to break it off with your mom and still maintain a friendly relationship. Unless it's a mutual decision made in the best interest of your horse and riding career. I don't know a mom who wouldn't want the best for her kids, regardless of ego.

Jackie said...

That's very true! I did get to work with another trainer for a time, and that was all mom's idea anyway. If we could have afforded one, she would have been happy to pass me on ... but she knows her stuff and it really brought us close, so I don't mind a bit.

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