IMG_0439How does a person define success in this industry? It’s a question I’ve been struggling with thanks in part to a series of events which have unfolded over the past few weeks. Although the set of circumstances seem unrelated, I’m certain they spring from a central or common issue. Do my values as a trainer and coach compliment your agenda as a rider and competitor?

The question seems innocent enough until you probe a little deeper. Some riders simply want to learn to ride, plop them on a horse and they’re happy. But what happens when a rider starts setting their sights on competition? That’s when the answer to that unwieldy little question starts to get a bit more complicated and each person’s definition or interpretation of success can either make or break a working relationship.

No matter at what level you ride, train, coach, or compete, your goals and aspirations have a very real impact on everyone who works with you. Horse, rider, or coach, we’re all in it together! So what does that mean in real terms? It means that everyone involved in the process of competing needs to sit down together and decide just how each of our goals are going to be achieved. I realize that this piece of wisdom seems fairly standard, but success is a tricky thing and the methods and motives used to attain it can call into question whether the end does indeed justify the means.

For me, it’s all about the training. I love nothing better than assessing a horse’s suitability for its job and then developing that potential. It takes time, patience, and an unwavering commitment from everyone involved to get the job done right. It also means no gadgets, no gimmicks, and no sedatives. It’s not the easiest road to success, but it’s the only one I’m willing to take and that’s why it’s absolutely crucial that I am open and honest with my clients about my approach BEFORE we start the process.

I need to explain to potential clients that my definition of success is intrinsically linked to getting the job done in a way that ensures their horse is clear and present for each and every training session. They should also understand that in order for this approach to be successful, they need to think long-term and trust me and my methods. And, above all, put their horses’ schedule ahead of their own, and that’s not an easy thing to do these days.

No matter how difficult, I’ve learned that being honest about what you find acceptable in terms of achieving goals is important to developing trust and maintaining a healthy working relationship. Clients and coaches need to come clean about what they’re willing and more importantly, what they’re not willing to do in the quest for success. Knowing where you draw the line and what you’re willing to do to achieve your goals is as important as aligning yourself with someone who respects and shares those values.

So, how do I define success in this industry? For me, success is and always will be achieving my goals while respecting my horses, my clients, and my values.