Your trainer is the equine expert that you’ve hired to help you with your equestrian endeavors. But so many trainers are just showing up to teach, and then leaving. What about the rest? Who is helping you with that other stuff?
Good trainers should be watching a horse’s body condition and help make suggestions on adjustments to nutrition. A horse should have soft lines – no pointy hips or shoulders, and a nice topline. You want to be able to feel the ribs but not see them. If the horse is developing fatty pockets, cut him back. Plenty of good roughage is the best nutrition for a horse, and balancing roughage and concentrates can be tricky. Ask your trainer.
Trainers should help students form weekly conditioning schedules based on the goals and competition schedules of each client to ensure the horse is fit to do what’s being asked of him. Proper conditioning prevents exhaustion, poor performance, and injuries. Even dressage horses need to be conditioned!
A trainer watches their client’s horse move more than anyone else. They should pay attention to any asymmetry, tightness, or discomfort in any of the horse’s gaits. They should help troubleshoot the issue, or recommend when the vet is needed.
Horse and rider need to be structurally aligned to perform at their best. The work completed during training should be constantly moving towards symmetry and alignment. The horse should be aligned when unmounted, and during work, as should the rider. It is a long, tedious process to correct crookedness, but it is the responsibility of every trainer and rider to address this. It is unfair to ask a horse to move well if there is a lopsided rider on its back.
A good trainer will question why you’re using a certain bit, or a certain training aid. They will assess the fit of the equipment and whether its function is appropriate for the horse. If a piece of tack is not safe, or if it is making the horse uncomfortable, a good trainer will bring it up, and help fix the issue.
What you want to hear vs. what you need to hear
Sometimes the truth hurts. Nobody ever accomplished great things by being told they look good. A good trainer should be HONEST. However, it is also the trainer’s responsibility to know their students and can deliver criticism constructively. This means they communicate with every client differently. Some people appreciate the drill sergeant style of teaching, while others need things to be put in a more positive context. Good trainers know their clients and can adapt their teaching to optimize instruction with each student.
Have thoughts on this topic? More to come on this subject, and I'd love to have your comments!