Thursday, August 13, 2009

Newsworthy Again! Plus, A Very Important Issue...

So very cool, today there was a writeup in the local newspaper on us for the second time in the past three weeks, this one included a picture of one of my students!! I am so blessed to have awesome clients, fabulous students, incredible horses and the best support network of colleagues, friends and family any trainer could ever ask for!!

Here's just one of the smiling faces from our last show on August 1st:

That said, on to other things.

One of the issues I have been wanting to touch on, which relates in many ways to yesterday's post, is ethics as it relates to the horse industry in general and horse trainers specifically.

I can't count the times I have been approached by someone, involved in a discussion with folks or otherwise engaged in talking about the fact that so many trainers just seem to want to suck every last dollar out of their [often unsuspecting] clients without delivering what the client is paying for. This boggles my mind, because it so often hurts those of us who are forthright and honest, in turn damaging every trainer in some way.

For the life of me I also cannot figure out why any client would allow themselves to be taken advantage of or abused. Just for a blue ribbon? Some points? Bragging rights? To me it's no better than trainers who abuse horses just for the sake of winning in the show ring. This very issue is also why so many people have flocked away from the show ring and into other horsey endeavors, along with the politics and frequent conflict of interest, whether real or merely perceived.

Do a lot of folks just not get it?? Apparently not.

Why is this sort of thing acceptable to so many? Why on Earth do people allow themselves to get suckered in? Both with themselves and their horses? Whatever happened to personal responsibility for yourself AND your horses?

We know the breed associations are not going to do anything about these issues, and often neither are the other sanctioning bodies. Breed associations exist for one reason ~ to make money registering horses, or enrolling horses in their programs. They are unconcerned about holding anyone accountable for anything, unless they have something financial left unpaid. The same goes for other sanctioning organizations, though sometimes they will take moderate action in cases of drugging, for instance, or extreme instances of abuse toward a horse.

Alright, enough on that rant, though I could go on forever about this subject.

My policy has always been to do the very best by my clients and their horses. If someone ever feels that they are not getting what they have paid for, I'm quick to offer refunds or rectify the situation immediately to the customer's full satisfaction. If someone needs a referral to another trainer because I for whatever reason cannot deliver what they need in the way of training or instruction, I always do my best to ensure they find the right trainer or instructor for their needs.

What I have long wondered is, why can't more professionals in this industry be that way?



  1. Quick comment before I go tutor, an acquaintance of my about my age (50 ish) just got tossed (not fall/slid off like I do,)off a school horse. The horse put his head down and gave a big bronco style buck. This was a a big name trainer school barn.
    In my heart and soul I believe the trainer wanted to get rid of the woman because she said she didn't want to show, but learn to ride for fun, companionship and exercise. The BNT by the by charges $1000.00 to take a horse to a local Thursday night through Saturday night (with in 100 miles) show. I was just astounded. I do not ride with this far as I can tell, the place I ride at is similar to your Sunlit Farms. Very family friendly and wants to help you achive your goals. My teacher has an every 3 months sit down chat with me to review what I want to do and how I am doing. Complete with photos and videos!

  2. Kaede, my own opinion is that possibly your intuition is correct. Was your friend riding this bucking school horse for the first time?
    It's sad how today's horse economy seems to give some trainers excuses to set aside their ethics towards both horses and students.

    Kudos to your teacher, I'd love to see your photos and videos!

  3. And the picture, awww, yeah, cute girl proud of her Painty! Love to see hard-working, deserving kids taking great care of their beloved horses and achieving their goals--nice!

  4. It was the first time on that horse. I believe it was the third month of twice a week riding. Just long enough to feel it was her fault for not preventing the buck. What made me suspicious, just after a show with an academy division.She didn't go and told the teacher/trainer she still wasn't interested in showing.

    Littledog, after what has happened on other blogs I'm terrified of posting pictures of anything. People do bone headed things or leave junk in the yard/barn. A photo is taken then posted. It's the stupidity that gets taken out of context and then all hell breaks loose.

    I ride in a borrowed saddle that is a bit to small for me (I need a 23 inch saddle, hard to come by) on a one eyed paint, who is not always immaculately turned out. Poop stains are hard to remove in the winter. I've read blog posts that shred folks for clipping in the winter or blanketing without clipping.

    The last thing I need in my life right now is a crackpot hunting me down because I'm riding a dirty horse, in a too small saddle, who deserves to be retired because he is missing an eye.

  5. Oh, is $1000.00 is to split an academy horse with an another rider.

  6. Actually Littledog, that is a Half-Arabian Pinto, though she is by a Paint stallion! :)

    We decided that it would be easier for her young owner to show her in a stock-type show halter, and since the mare is quite stocky, it works. Easier than having the little one have to learn how to show an Arabian Halter horse at her age, though her other mare is a Purebred Country English (saddleseat) horse, when she competed in Showmanship with that mare before it was in an Arabian show halter!

  7. I agree with Littledog, Kaede! Big kudos to your instructor!! Sounds like you have yourself a gem!

    Many barns (trainers/instructors) don't go to that much of an effort to keep their students happy, nor do they chart their students' progress to much of an extent. That always frustrates me, because often when I have a new student come to me they don't even know what their real skill level is, or what level horse would be inappropriate.

    I always sit down with my clients or students before we ever begin lessons or training, and we discuss their goals and so forth, then we have periodic reviews of progress. For training horses, I also track daily progress, and send written Monthly Progress Reports out to clients (especially helpful to those long distance clients). Videoing lessons (and shows) is an awesome tool!! It helps the student so much with a visual aid to how they are progressing, and it's easy to point out problem areas or where the rider needs more concentration. I love using video ~ photos, not so much, because they are only capturing a moment in time.

  8. Btw, I can't blame you at all for not wanting to post videos and/or photos publicly, because you are always prone to being torn apart for whatever you put out there.

    Case in point, GoLightly putting a link to the client horses page on my website, and ripping on a customer's mare for a set of photos taken the day she came to me.

    My website has been torn apart, too, on many occasions (mostly through commenters on the FHOTD blog who for whatever reason weren't fond of me).

    These days I hesitate to identify the facilities I train out of or who my clients are, because I don't want them getting harassed simply because they are affiliated with me.

  9. That is so sad Kaede, if the trainer you mention (BNT) who had the student acquaintance of yours put her on an unsuitable horse just to get her out of his barn! I think that sort of thing is reprehensible. :( It is never excusable to do something of that sort in my book, but unfortunately there are trainers and instructors out there who have no ethics and no scruples.

    On the show fees, they really vary by training barn. For some BNT's, $1k is not unheard of for a big show, though to just share an academy horse that's a ripoff IMO. I do not charge an "all inclusive" show fee yet, I still pro-rate and charge separately for various things. In fact, I'll add a whole other comment just about fees...

  10. For reference purposes, I thought I'd put up a comment which outlines my fees, charges and costs. Beware, this is pretty long (and as such is split into two parts)!!

    Preparation fee for each horse at each show is $35, and that includes clipping, hoof preparation (which means the dreaded hoof sanding, or if unnecessary, just cleaning and buffing). If it's a one day show, that also includes bathing the horse and all grooming products used on the horse for the show. If I need to body clip the horse (as in a Wintertime, early Spring or late Fall show) I charge an additional $150.

    I charge "exhibition fees" for each class I personally show a client's horse in, for small local Open or Schooling shows it's $25 per class or section (if classes are split), lower level rated shows ("A", "B", "C") are $40 per class/section, AHA Regional or NSHR District Championship shows it's $100 per class/section and for AHA or NSHR National Championship shows it is $250 per class or section. Usually at the Regional and National level horses are in far fewer classes overall, likely not more than two or three maximum, unlike a smaller show where it would not be unusual to have a horse in five-eight (or more) classes over the course of three to four days. Also, there's no exhibition charge for clients and students showing their own horses, of course.

    My coaching fee for students showing (which includes me warming up and schooling the horse at the show, each day, for each class) is $50 per day. To do a "schooling only" show where the horse is not going to be shown, but we do all the prep and get the horse there, the only purpose being to ride and work the horse on the showgrounds, the fee is 50% of whatever the class exhibition fees would be if the horse was shown. In other words, if the horse would compete in four classes, the schooling fee would be $50 plus the prep fee of $35, plus mileage and any transportation cost.

    After much thought a couple of years ago I also added a "show cancellation fee" of $75 plus the show prep fee of $35 if the horse was prepped and everything was readied to show, then the owner cancels at the last minute (less than 24 hours notice). This came after I had a few clients that cancelled last minute. A lot of work down the drain, I figured I should be compensated for all that time spent.

    Then I have the following caveats and charges:

    Multiple day/rated show charges include a "Handling fee" per horse of $125 and a "Road charge" of $40 per day (including travel days). These fees are in place to pay for extra feed and bedding costs incurred during horse shows, plus to pay for outside help hired for the duration of the show and to pay for outside help hired on back at home, plus any additional horse housing or travel costs associated with road trips to distant horse shows. Then there is a $25 per class/section "Grooming/prep" fee which pays for all grooming products (including shampoos and conditioners) for the horses being shown. Wouldn't you know I still have exorbitant out of pocket expenses I never charge clients for?

  11. Additionally, the following apply to all major or rated shows:

    "All hotel, transportation & meal per diem costs for trainer and one groom are pro-rated between customers attending show. Hotel costs billed are actual expenses. Trainer Mileage is billed at $.75 per mile directly to and from showgrounds. Meal per diem is $24.00 each for every show and travel day.

    If hotel is utilized, there will be no daily mileage charge between hotel and showgrounds, show mileage only applies when trainer travels between home and the showgrounds.

    Out-of-pocket stall decorating costs are pro-rated between customers attending show.

    Never do I charge any horse transport fees if the client hauls their own horses, though many trainers do. Some have asked why I charge both a horse transport fee and a trainer mileage fee and the answer is simple ~ because we bring a secondary vehicle to the shows to have something to drive around town while at the shows, thus we're incurring miles and fuel in two vehicles. Also, if we stay on site in our own RV, we just pro-rate those charges between clients since they are in lieu of a hotel bill.

    Beyond that, of course all entry fees that are paid directly to the show, plus any farrier or veterinary expenses incurred during the show (aside from OTC medications or remedies used) are billed directly to the client. All prize money, ribbons, trophies and awards won are the property of each horse owner (I was shocked to hear how many trainers charge a percentage of prize money won!), but as trainer I reserve the option of ordering any show photos of each client's horse at my own expense, as opposed to making the client pay for them.

    I charge $1.25 per loaded mile with a $50 minimum for hauling client horses, and $1.75 per loaded mile plus a $75 "hook up" fee and a $125 minimum for all horse transport (including to other than horse shows). These fees are pro-rated between clients attending each show. All pro-rating is done on a per horse basis, meaning if you take more than one horse, your fee will be higher than the one horse I add myself and my own horses in if I take any of them (I know of NO other trainer who does this). For small local shows, transport fees and mileage are NOT pro-rated, but charged to each customer attending if the show is within 25 miles of us, so I do not institute the "minimum charge" in those instances. In fact, I include myself in ALL pro-rated costs if I bring one or more of my own horses.

    You can easily see where it could get quite expensive for an owner, particularly of multiple horses that are competing. This is why I do generally offer big discounts and special deals to my clients. Come to think of it, I've rarely actually charged full price for any show! Mainly just because I really hate the feeling that I may in some distant world be overcharging someone. :-/

  12. SFTS, hah, no wonder I thought Painty was so cute, she's Half-Arab, of course!

    Kaede, I totally understand why you don't want to post your personal horse pictures. I find it sad.
    I mean, here we have a nice, peaceful blog where we discuss horses, the people who read and post here are from various different "horse worlds" but just want to hear about new things, we may agree or disagree (for example, I will never sand my horse's hooves--HAHA--but don't consider the practise such a height of abuse or understand why people on other blogs latch onto that as such a horror.)
    I consider SFTS a basically kind and professional person (in spite of the dramatic accusations on other blogs) and I also consider myself (on the blogs and IRL) as always willing to be kind, to find new things to learn, to tell stories about my successes as well as my faults.
    And sometimes it's fun to fan the flame on crazy people, but soon the fun gets lost and I just want to discuss horses in a sensible environment.
    SFTS, is there any way to make the pictures people post here not accessible to cut & paste?
    We so enjoy the peace here!

  13. LOL Littledog...yep, that's why she's so cute! :P

    Thank you so very much for the kind words.

    I really am trying hard to keep this as an enjoyable, fun, sensible environment for talking about horses, sharing and learning. Disagreeing is fine! I've never had a problem with folks disagreeing with me, it's expected.

    Something I have always said ~ ask 100 different horse people about training, feeding or any of a number of other things in connection with these horses we love, and you will get 100 different answers. They also may all be correct. Whatever works for you, and for your horse, as long as it's not abusive is just fine with me. :)

    So far I have deleted only one comment. The author of that comment reposted in a nicer manner, and it remained up.

    What's the problem? In my opinion, too many people find it far too easy to be hateful and mean on the internet, behind the comfort of their keyboard. Most of those types of people say things online they would never say to anyone face-to-face. Which is frequently the issue a few folks have with me. I say what I mean, I mean what I say and I stand behind my words. A lot of folks don't like that, and try to attack it.

    Oh, well. This blog will not be allowed to degenerate into a hating or attacking blog! Not ever. Of that you can all rest assured! :) :)

  14. On the issue of photos ~ I don't think Blogger has the capability to prevent folks from saving images (right clicking), but even further than that, these days with so many applications dedicated to screen capturing, you don't even need to actually save the image itself. Just screen-cap and then you can use your own image program to have the best way to deal with that is simply not to post pictures publicly that you don't want out there in the public domain (regardless of the copyrights held on any photos ~ a whole other issue).


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