1. “Your horse is the devil.” You’d be surprised how often I’ve heard this from the mouths of horse trainers, and it’s just not a good idea. Your clients don’t want to hear that their horses are demons on hooves, and the truth is no horse deserves this label.
Horse trainers must decide, before entering this profession, that all horses are redeemable. You must approach each project with a positive attitude and the full intention of delivering whatever changes you have promised the client.
Say Instead: “We’ve hit a few snags in the training process. Your horse is sometimes resistant, which is usually evidence of fear. We’ll keep working on it.”
2. “He did okay.” When a client asks you about a horse training session, you’d better be prepared to give her a comprehensive overview of your process and the results. Clients want to know, in detail, how their horses are progressing. Generalizations and blanket statements need not apply.
This doesn’t mean you have to give an hour-long monologue about every step the horse took during your session. But it does mean describing how you approached the problem, the horse’s response to your techniques, and your goals for the next session.
Say Instead: “I’m really pleased with the progress.” Then describe what happened. At length.
3. “My assistant tells me….” If you are hired as a horse trainer, you’d better be the one doing the training. Period. You’ve been hired for your expertise, your experience, and your abilities, and your clients shouldn’t have to settle for your assistant. This is just bad business.
The only exception is when you receive permission from your client beforehand, in writing. For example, maybe you run a big horse training business and your assistants work with the horses every other day. This is acceptable, but only if your methods are clear in advance.
Say Instead: There is no alternative except, “When I worked with your horse today…”
4. “Don’t ride your horse.” This is becoming a common request among horse trainers who are afraid that clients will “screw up” their hard work. It won’t happen, and telling clients not to ride their horses is a mistake.
First, it’s an unreasonable request. Your client isn’t paying for your horse training services so he can look at his horse; he’s paying you so he’ll have a better equine partner.
Say Instead: “Why don’t we schedule a riding lesson for the day after our training session so I can work with you on what your horse has learned.”
5. “I think reining would be a better fit.” It is difficult for some riding instructors to separate themselves from their clients. They want to mold their human clients into whatever they think would be best for the horse. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work.
If your client wants a cutting horse, you either need to turn the animal into a cutting horse or decline the project. It’s that simple. All horses have limitations, but it isn’t your job to tell the client what he or she should do with the animal.
Say Instead: “If you’re sure you want to cut on this horse, I think another trainer would be a better fit.”
6. “He needs at least another month of training.” That statement might be true, but it’s up to the client to decide for himself. In your urgency to secure another contract (and therefore more money), you might be tempted to push your clients toward buying more services from you. This is a bad move.
Your job as a horse trainer is to do the best you can with the time you have. Set goals and make sure you achieve them. If your client is pleased with the results, he will hire you on for another month because he sees that you deliver value.
Say Instead: “If you would like another month of training, we can nail that counter canter and increase the precision on rollbacks.”
7. “Your last trainer really screwed up.” Badmouthing another horse trainer is poor sportsmanship. We all have different ideas of what works and what doesn’t, and it might be true that your client’s last trainer made mistakes. But it isn’t your job to point them out.
Disparaging other horse trainers will make you look petty and self-important. It also means equestrian professionals will be hesitant to work with you in the future—and to give you referrals. Follow your mother’s advice and avoid saying anything if you can’t say something positive.
Say Instead: “I work a little bit differently, but I’ll keep you in the loop and we’ll figure out the best methods to achieve the results you want.”