In my twelve years in the Saddlebred industry, I have met many wonderful people - customers and trainers alike. I have made many friends, and my children have made some life-long friendships thanks to their involvement in this sport as well. We have been blessed with a trainer who is encouraging, professional, and expects our riders to demonstrate good sportsmanship at all times. Unfortunately, last night, I observed the worst example of leadership, sportsmanship, and overall tact that I have ever observed.
We were at a horse show, and Jordan was competing in her championship class against five other riders. This was an equitation class, and each rider was required to perform a pattern. As I stood on the rail waiting for Jordan to attempt her pattern, I was shocked to hear a "big-name trainer" openly making negative comments about the girls in the class. Many of these girls were new to equitation, and some of them were riding horses that had never done a pattern before; however, he felt the need to openly criticize and revel in each rider that made a mistake as he waited for his rider to do her pattern. True, he was speaking to the mother of the girl; however, he was speaking so loudly that everyone around him could hear what he was saying.
I have thought about this all night, and I feel compelled to write this open letter to all trainers, whether you be an equine trainer, football/baseball/basketball/dance coach, etc. to remind you of a few things:
1. Every child (not just the kids who ride for your barn) are involved in this sport because they love the breed and they love the sport. This should be an enjoyable experience for them, and they should not be subjected to a trainer from another barn openly criticizing their performance. Many of these kids are showing in the ring for the first time, and mistakes will be made. You have to start somewhere, right?
2. ALL of these kids are involved in this sport thanks to parents to have supported them with a lot of time, energy and MONEY. Your riders are not the only ones who have a lot invested in competing in this sport. We, as parents, do this because we love our children and want them to have a good time and enjoy this experience.
3. When you open your mouth and make negative comments about those other exhibitors, you open yourself up to criticism from those who are standing around you and hear what you say. You should also remember that that mom who's standing on the rail next to you filming her child and hearing you criticize her kid could be a potential customer, or could have some influence on a potential customer (i.e., share the experience with others who might have been considering placing their horse in training with you).
4. Whether you like it or not, when you take on the title of "Trainer", you are also taking on the role of a LEADER. One of the definitions of leader is to act as a guide; show the way. It is YOUR responsibility to set the example for others around you (especially the juveniles who are watching you closely and following your example) by exhibiting kindness, courtesy, and good sportsmanship. Do you REALLY want people saying, "So and so is a jerk?" Is that really the reputation you want to have in this business?
You know, it's fine to jump up and down on the inside when one of the kids in your rider's class makes a mistake - you just don't show it on the outside. What's wrong with going up to one of those kids after the class and saying, "Good try"?? Provide some encouragement to these young riders - they are the future of the industry you are working so hard to promote.
A Horse Show Mom
On a side note, the evening did end well - the mother of one of the kids who showed against one of our riders came over to thank her and our trainer for our kids being so courteous and supportive of her daughter. Her trainer also came over and said it was refreshing in this day and age to find exhibitors who were kind and thoughtful. My faith in this industry and people in general was restored, and I was reminded that thankfully there are only a handful of rotten apples out there. :)