Friday, November 7, 2008

A Mental Change

From the time I can remember, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a horse trainer. I can still clearly remember some sort of a quiz my 4th grade teacher gave us and writing "Horse Trainer" in the future occupation section. That was it. All through high school, I already knew where I wanted to go to college and for what...Laramie County Community College and Horse Science. I didn't even apply anywhere else. My mom tried to convince me that I should find a career that I liked and just do the "horse thing" on the side. Of course, I would have none of it and focused on getting accepted to LCCC.

By the time I got into High School, I was pretty discouraged about the whole Rodeo thing. My mom bought me a nice barrel horse and I made it to exactly two rodeos on him. I won the first one and failed miserably at the second one. Being relatively poor, we couldn't afford to haul to a lot of rodeos anyway, but only getting to go to a couple of them a year didn't give me much of a chance to get any better. Since my mom was(and IS) fanatical about limiting the number of practice runs a person makes at home, I just didn't see getting any better. So I started focusing on the horse show end of it. A lot of that probably had to do with my dad's latest wife at the time. He married a woman who had some extremely high dollar and World Champion horses. No Shit...he found a woman in the bar and she actually had some of the nicest horses I had ever seen up to that point. Unfortunately, the joke became, she was looking for a cowboy with land and money and my dad thought he had found a woman with good horses and money. Well, dad had land and she had good horses, neither of them had a dime. Guess you can imagine what happened to her horses over time...the good ones got old and died and the offspring were never as good as what she started with. Mostly due to my dad's random breeding efforts. He thought all the colts were good enough to be studs and all the fillies were good enough to breed. It was a sad end to a fine breeding program, but I was lucky enough to end up with my old mare before everything was dispersed.

I did catch the horse show bug though and decided that was my future. I knew that I always wanted a good barrel horse...
But, I never really ever wanted to train barrel horses for the public. Barrel horses are soooo personal. Once most of them hit their finishing stages, they just can't be passed around. Besides, who wants to get rid of a winner?

At first I was focused on Western Pleasure horse. That is what I went to college to learn how to train...
A nice Western Pleasure horse has always appealed to me. I love a perfect, tiny little jog and a slow, cadenced lope. Then at college, I started to realize what it took to train a horse to do these things. I heard the horror stories of heads tied up for hours and causing anemia and got familiar with gadgets like running martingales and draw reins. Sheez-this wasn't what I signed up for. I did have to spend my intern working for a WP snaffle bit futurity trainer. They didn't do any of the nasty stuff I had heard about, but I was bored out of my mind. Not one single time in 3 months, was I allowed to just get on one of the prospects and just "go ride". They didn't want these colts to know anything except, go slow with the head low! Yea, for a girl who grew up on a ranch, where you needed to cover ground sometimes and rode in speed events-it was torture. They asked me to stay at the end of my internship, but I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

I figured I wanted to try my hand at reining horses...
Certainly that had to be more fun than WP horses. Yea, I'm sure it would have been, if I could have found a place where the head trainer actually wanted to teach a person anything. Of course, I managed to pick up a few things as I bopped around the country, sometimes working in the horse world and sometimes not. It was always funny though how my non-horse jobs usually led me to my next horse job.

My biggest problem with trying to get to the next level of training horses was that I was really good with colts. The people I worked for, loved the handle I could put on a prospect in the first thirty days. My colts were just quiet, soft and pretty broke. The boss trainer could jump on them and finish them out with no problem. Of course you knew they weren't really going to spend the time teaching me how to finish one out. Believe me, I tried to figure out what they were doing to get to the next level.

The last professional barn I worked for had Halter, WP prospects, Reining horses and Cutters...
I was pretty excited. The owner was a crotchety old bastard, but he knew his stuff. I was really hoping to get to ride a "finished" reining horse and a "finished" cutting horse. Guess what? I never got to step on a single thing except for the prospects and the problem horses that came through the barn. Over and over, I heard...this horse's owner bought this one for a pleasure futurity prospect, this is a reining prospect, this is a cutting prospect. Never once did I hear...the owner wants to see what this one will be good at. From that time period some of the most notable horses stick in my brain; the tiny little pleasure prospect with perfect gaits, that really, really would have been much better off being turned out for year to grow up and then made into a top notch reining horse. That sweet little filly was a reining trainer's dream, natural flying lead changes, a deep, deep stop and a long sweeping lope. It was blowing her mind to have to slow down, she hated it. I hated it for her. The 2y/o that the owners hated because he had coliced as a yearling and when they tubed him, his windpipe was damaged. He was a sweet thing, but panicked if he loped very much-he just couldn't get his air. They blamed the horse because he would never be the futurity prospect they bred for. The ultra sweet and kind sorrel horse, who would do anything for you. He was horribly bench kneed and I told his owner that if he just took it very easy on him until he matured he would probably stay sound-he took him home and because he was sweet and kind-rode the crap out of him and wrecked his knees. The rank, nasty chestnut horse that would purposely run you into a fence or wall. The owner lied and said that the horse hadn't broke his leg by doing this. I spent hours and hours riding that horse up and down roads and in the corn field. He was a POS-but the owner insisted he be ready to go to a rope horse trainer in 60 days. I bet he didn't last 30 days before he was flipping over in the box. No mind on that horse what-so-ever, the owner knew it, the horse had broke his leg, but had no qualms about sending him to us(me) to "fix".

By the time I was done with working at that place, I was done with training horses professionally. I hated horsepeople and I hated the horse show world. I never wanted to ride anything but my own horses ever again. But I missed it after a few years and started taking in a few horses again. At least this time, if the owner wanted something unrealistic I could tell them to come get their horse.

But now? Now I am getting the urge to train again. When I was in Colorado, I saw an ad for a reining horse barn looking for an assistant trainer. It has me thinking a lot about getting back into showing more seriously. Winning and placing at the local shows is fun, but really I can do that on a horse I yank out of the pasture and clip up. I want bigger and better. I am back to wanting to go to the next level. At almost 40 years old, I think I am finally mature enough to handle the pressure. It isn't something I could do in the next year, but what do you guys think...is 40 years old, too old to get back in the game? Will anything I have learned over the past 39 years of being around horses still be effective enough to make it in the big-time? I don't want to hang my own shingle out, I'd much rather work with or for someone who is already training and showing.

17 comments:

Mrs Mom said...

If "almost 40" is too old to get back into things, then you and me is both FUBAR ;)

I say go for it. We are older, and we are WISER. There are more skills to draw on to apply to things, and IMO, hang out YOUR OWN shingle. This way, when the idiot shows up (and you KNOW they will,) you can continue to tell them (in whatever manner works best,) thanks but no thanks and come get your horse.

Just 2cents from another broad who is closer to 40 than I'd like to admit, kinda wondering along the same lines... ;)

ranchette said...

I say go for it too. Age is just a state of mind. Think about all you've learned since you were in high school. Experience, not years, will serve you well if you do decide to start training again.

I'll give you the same advice my best gal pal gave me a number of years ago when I was contemplating leaving the safety of corporate america to start my own business. If 5 years from now, you look back and you've failed at it, will you regret making the decision to try?

My answer was, h#$% no and bet yours will be the same.

Laura said...

No way is 40 too old! You have a wealth of knowledge on breeding, confirmation and training that most people would dream of having! I do think finding a barn with the right attitude would be the key this time around...training for the sake of training and hating the environment you were working in would ruin it all...

Cool! Keep us posted on what develops there!

C-ingspots said...

The question doesn't even deserve an honest answer. The problem with a lot of the nitwits out there is they don't have enough wisom brought on by age or the sense God gave a goose to ride a horse, much less train one for somebody else. If you think you're too old at 40 - you need help and maybe some Geritol...otherwise get your butt out there and do what you want.
In my humble opinion, of course. One last thought - why would you want to work for somebody else where you wouldn't be calling your own shots??

Adventures Of A Horse Crazed Mind said...

Grab a java, its a long one!

First- GO FOR IT!!! You are clearly a well-educated horsewoman with a lot to offer and at the right time in your life where you have the experience, patience, and perspective that you did not have in your youth.
With that being said I have two friends that have been apprentices in big reining barns and both of them have friends who have as well. One is a man, the other a woman. There is no shortage of reining trainers out there today. From what I have heard, no matter what you are told, if you apprentice or ride for a big barn you will be a dogsbody. It is not in the trainers best interest to have you advance but at the same time in the interest of keeping you they will let you go just so far in making it appear that you are advancing and then they will hold you back. It is a dog eat dog world and training is a tough way to make a living. They can’t afford to help others out that then may take clients away from them. The girl I know had an awesome relationship with the trainer she worked for. She gave her heart and soul to her and learned a ton but she would only let her get to a certain level and would make sure that she knew that she was "not ready" to move forward. Both of these assistants got tired for being held back and moved on to hang out their own shingle but without their bosses blessing. Their old bosses talked bad about them to the local horse community and tried to stop them from succeeding because it would hurt their business if they did. It was not "personal", it was "business". The guy has been an assistant at a few barns now and always thinks the world of the trainer he is working with for a time and then always ends up getting taken advantage of. They are both in their 20s. I am sure you have heard this and from the sounds of it experienced it yourself but as you know, you can learn a lot from being an assistant BUT IMHO if you already have a solid base of equitation and you have a basic understanding of reining, you will be able to utilize the top trainers DVDs or audit clinics or whatever and learn just as much that way without having to spend 90% of your time loping colts and just picking things up here and there by osmosis. You might be able to find a great place and I hope for you that you do but the majority of assistants are their to learn what you already know and what you could still learn, these days, is out there on DVD.
I know I am going on here but I have just had this issue touch my friends personally so have a strong opinion about it. The training methods of trainers today are brutal. Talking to some pretty decent trainers, they are saying that there is now way that they can compete anymore without stepping up in what they are asking form their colts and they are just not willing to do that. They are giving up their open status to be able to win non-pro. They tell me that it is twice as bad today as it use to be and that the only real money is in the futurities and the rate of colts that are being burned out of training seems to have doubled as well. Which leads me to my last point (promise)…. At 20 you are willing to accept a lot of things you wont at 30 or 40. It is not that you become close-minded as you get older, it is that you have greater strength in your conviction. You are less willing to just accept things just b/c you’ve been told are and more likely to question why and come up with your own opinion as to how it should be done. In other worlds, the star glasses come off and you are less blind towards things. If I were in your shoes, as much as I would be there to learn, I would have a hard time being told what to do and how to do it 24/7.

So all things considered, you don’t have much to loose by taking a position b/c you could always leave if you don’t like it but if I were you, I would buy as many DVDs as I could afford (e-bay used) of the top names in the biz (they all have them) and try to finish out a horse you already have (maybe one you don’t like much) and can afford to screw-up with and mess up on. Once I had played with and picked out the methods that worked for me, I would try to pick up a nice colt or two with decent breeding and train and show him yourself. While doing all of that I would do what I had to do to qualify as a Non-pro b/c you would have a much better chance of winning and a hell of a lot sooner if you were able to work your way up in the limited non-pro divisions than to have to deal with all the other wannabes and real deal open trainers in those divisions. You could make a name for yourself by winning and then once you have a name, earnings and experience in the industry, move over to training and give up your non-pro status. I have given this a lot of thought b/c I want to do so myself…in my long and far off dreamsJ. Sorry for the length, hope some of what I said offers you something!

kdwhorses said...

You go girl! I say 40 is just a number girl! How exciting!!!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

BEC - Of the many wonderful people who have left good advice on my website, you are the best. You have a gift, you know what you want, make it happen.

20 meter circle of life said...

mmm yea 40 is way to old. Thats why at 37, and I had not ridden in mmmmm over 15 years I bought a un-broke Ayrab and decided to make him a champion!! Now get off your skinny BUTT and make this happen. You have what it takes and you can do it. Shit I am just hitting my stride at 40. You know what it takes to make a champion, you have already seen the wrong way to do it, this is the perfect time in your life.
So when should I fly out to help you pick out you BLING BLING show clothes...
my favoite quote applies here
"life is a buffet, yet most fools starve."
And if you think 40 is still old I may have to come out there and show what 40 year old whoop ass looks like up close and personal!!!!

Callie said...

With age comes wisdom and experience. Smoke them kids!

cdncowgirl said...

"Barrel horses are soooo personal."
-----------------------------------
I agree wholeheartedly. I think most high level horses in almost any discipline are "personal" though. But barrel horses more so.
Perhaps its the split second timing and manuevering? That to compete at a high level you have to do so much and all of it so fast, basically on instinct?

Quick side story, I think it illustrates the point. A local girl bought a horse from the states this spring. For around $135,000. He didn't work out for her. She returned him, he had gotten kicked but wasn't lame. Still she only got about $45,000 for him when she took him back.
I just saw him advertised, on the same site, for $150,000 now.
This horse just didn't work for LC. They didn't click.

Now about putting yourself out there. I think you are more than capable of it. You seem to know what you're doing. I don't know what your financial life is like right now but to get to the higher levels of competition I think that may be your only major obstacle, if it is one.

20 meter circle of life said...

btw come by 20 meter when you get a chance

Andrea said...

I went to the University of Findlay. They have a four year Trainer Degree. The first year you do basic horsemanship, second year colt breaking, third year cutting, fourth year reining and training.

It was way fun. Most of the big name trainers would hire graduates from school and we would work as assistants and mostly colt breakers. The shows were awesome. I worked for Todd Sommers at Congress, he is an awesome rider, but like most male trainers he is tuff. But I think trainers have to be a bit rough around the edges. You don't win or get money by being nice.

I went off in life and got married and had kids. Now I just train my own horses. I miss the big show circut, it was a lot of fun. Those big time horses are NICE!!

There were a bunch of places in Texas looking for assistant trainers. It's a lot of two year old colt breaking, but it gets your foot in the door. Everyone is all about the futurities. I have a bunch of friends who are reiner trainers and pleasure trainers. They are doing awesome!!

If you want it then go for it. I have always just wanted to keep my amature statis. The open classes are tuff, and if you don't have the big name then it's hard to win. And people send their horses to the trainers that win.

So, for me, I like to show amature, and I hope to really get into it when my kids are gone. So, look out for me when I am fourty!! I will probably be in the same boat as you are in. If you love it, then do it.

Mikey said...

I say it's never too late. Look around, see if the perfect opportunity presents itself. The only thing I can say is make sure it makes you happy. That's what counts.
I liked this post because I'm doing essentially the same thing. My body is falling apart, I can't shoe like I used to, and now what? I run thru the list (cutting, reining, barrels, jumping) and can't find anything I "burn with passion" about. Except maybe rescue. But do I want to try to REALLY do a rescue? Lotta work, lotta money to find, build a place, blah blah.
It's hard to know what to do with myself next!!!

sue said...

I heard a story once that went something like this... a lady wanted to become a vet, but at 30, she felt she was too old to try, when asked about it, her reply was, "well I will be about 35 before my schooling is done and I can begin to practice"... the answer..."you're going to be 35 anyways, not going after your dream won't stop you from becoming 35.. and wouldn't you rather be "where" you want, instead of just wishing for it??" I think of that whenever I am thinking about trying something new... BTW... I got my very first horse when I was 39!!!!! I can't imagine how it would be today at age 48.. not to have them in my life!!!!!

Pony Girl said...

I say go for it! Like J over at 20-Meter (she cracks me up!) I got back into horses at her age, after almost exactly the same break. I was not brave enough to get an unbroke horse, though! ;)
My mom got her first horse at age 55, and now her twin sister is taking lessons and thinking of getting a horse sometime in the next year. It is never too late to make your dreams come true! I think about this a lot these days....as I wonder about getting married, having children...owning a ranch someday. I don't want to be 75 yrs old, sitting in this same chair, regretting that I never tried to make things happen. But change is scary.
You are one talented cookie and know your stuff. It will be hard work but you'll be great at it!

Breathe said...

Ask yourself - when I'm 60 will I get in my time travel machine and kick my 40 year old but for not going for my dream?

I'm in my late 40s, and let me tell you, if your life is open to this, if you can make it work, you'll only regret not going for it.

The horse wold you described sounds just like the political world. Or the medical world . or the advertising world. Control freaks and the irrational people are in every business. The key is to steer clear when possible and buck when necessary.

Rising Rainbow said...

Sorry I missed this post when it first was run. Hope it's not too late for my two cents worth.

Since I got started with my first horse just before I turned 40, I think I have a firm grip on the age aspect of this question and in my book, it's only too old if you make it that way.

I'm over 60 now and I'm still going strong, chomping away at the bit on my dream. Even if I don't ever get there, it will still have been worth this journey. I have loved nearly every minute of it....with the exception of a little heart ache here and there, but I wouldn't even trade that.

If it's your dream, you go for it. Don't worry about what others think or say and sure don't let those who try to make it tough along the way stop you.