Equestrians - we can do better (?)
This may come off as a rant but there really is a point! I own, ride, show, have my own barn but I do not provide boarding and I do not instruct/train/coach others. I have friends that ask me if they can keep their horse at my place or if I give them instruction. I always say, no sorry but here is a list of a few programs that, from what I have seen at shows, may be a good fit.
Recently I sent a friend to a barn that seemed good. Nice barn, indoor/outdoor arena, at shows students seem happy and successful. Friend easily meets up with the Instructor/barn owner, and according to friend, meet up went really well. After touring the facility, she drops the Instructor/owner a note for next steps to join the program. No response. She tries again, no response. About 2 weeks later, she gets a text that Instructor will get back with her ‘tomorrow’. Nothing happens. Another week goes by nothing. A month later, no return text, calls, emails – nothing. Friend is obviously feeling a little low wondering what did she say or do, the whole emotional roller coaster.
This is where I get on my soapbox. We need professionalism in the equine industry and by that I really feel that some sort of certification for horse trainers, instructors, and even barn owners, is needed. While certification will not make someone a better communicator, I get that, it may show that instructor/trainer/barn owner went through the process of learning how to teach, coach, trainer, and manage a program. They will probably pick up some skills on how to communicate positively with riders and owners. In my friend’s example, all that needed to happen was some communication – ‘Hey, nice to meet you but our program is currently full’. Or’ we do not have any open stalls at this time’. This ignoring or ‘ghosting’ or whatever it is called is not appropriate by anyone but definitely not by someone who is a ‘professional’. If a barn owner/instructor cannot send a one sentence response to a potential client, then how do they handle hard conversations with students or deal with emergencies? By completing some sort of certification program, they can at least demonstrate, I would hope, that they have some barn/horse management skills, and have passed of some proficiencies that show they can teach and care for horse/rider. Anyone can wake up one day and decide that they are an equestrian pro and start putting beginner riders on a horse just purchased yesterday at an auction. This is not good for the industry. The only equine professionals that have certification in my area are a select few Eventers. And yes, those are the ones I ride with. But for hunter/jumpers, not so much. I am now at a loss as to who to refer friends to. I say try Eventing, but that seems to be scary to many. Several friends tell me they need to always have their instructor present so XC seems horrifying. This makes me a little sad. We take lessons with professionals so that we can go out on course whether H/J or XC and be successful.
We all know that horses carry more than just riders. They carry our goals, our emotions and connect us to others. As an industry, all equine professionals need to positively represent the equestrian community. Everything equestrian is always under the microscope -developers want the equestrian land on to build on, activists watch our every move from what bit we put in a horse’s mouth to how riders behave at horse shows, and then people in general. Those people that want to get involved with horses may see the negativity and emotional roller coaster that happens to their equestrian friends and decide to even go there. To keep the equestrian industry viable and be around for generations to come, we need to do better. Is certification of equestrian professional the answer? Would it at least help?