From Endurance to Dressage
Of course we all pay our trainers, but I've been thinking about what I expect to get for that payment, and what I should get for my money.
Over the weekend, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was in Bakersfield for a two-day clinic. I've been riding with Chemaine for a number of years. Besides hauling to her barn for lessons during the summer, I've had her coach me at shows, I've twice been one of her demo riders at Horse Expo, and I've brought her here for nearly a dozen clinics. Clearly, we have a long standing relationship.
Not only is Chemaine always easy to work with, her style of teaching focuses more on what the rider is doing right as opposed to pointing out what she's doing wrong. This weekend, it seemed as though Chemaine's comments were more superlative than normal. Instead of being impressed, she was super impressed. She pointed out that my hands were especially quiet. And so on.
As we finished up Saturday's lesson (more on that tomorrow), she offered even more praise of my riding. I laughed and protested that any improvement was because of the new saddle. When she insisted that she really liked what she saw, I joked that she has to say that because I am paying her. We both laughed, but it really made me stop and think. What am I paying her for, if not for her opinion?
The truth is, I have a very difficult time accepting praise or compliments. That's the perfectionist in me. If I can't do something perfectly, I don't feel worthy of the praise. Stupid, I know. I have a much easier time accepting criticism; that I feel I deserve since I am not doing it perfectly. So when Chemaine offers praise, especially better than average praise, I am suspicious of its genuineness.
And yet, isn't that what I expect from my trainer, an honest critique of my riding? I have never seen Chemaine give gratuitous feedback to any client. Sure, she always tries to find something nice to say, but after a tough lesson or show, it's usually something along the lines of being a hard worker, sticking it out, having good moments, and so on.
After giving it some thought, I decided that what I expect from a trainer is this: lessons that focus on sound dressage principals, genuine feedback on my riding, someone who supports my riding goals and is willing to try to help me get there, and as a bonus, if we can be friends along the way, the student/teacher relationship is even better. Chemaine checks all my boxes for what I need in a trainer.
That seems like a lot to ask for $75. The reality is that for the price of the lesson, the sound dressage principals is about all I should get. I've ridden with a number of trainers over the years. Sometimes, I got sound teaching, but the positive feedback was missing. Other times, the trainer offered a supportive learning environment, but there wasn't enough "meat" to the lesson. I've even worked with trainers who were positive and had sound basics, but they just weren't able to help me achieve my goals.
So tell me, what do you all expect from a trainer, and realistically, what should we get?
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: