Showing without a Trainer: Exhibitors Share their Experiences
Although they take away our stirrups, make us run a lot for showmanship, and maybe even raise their voice from time-to-time, many of us love the time and advice our trainers dedicate to us as riders. There is no doubt that having a professional trainer helps in just about every facet of showing horses. One might even argue that it is impossible to be successful in the show ring without a trainer’s guidance. Well, not so fast. Some very successful amateur and youth exhibitors are able to ride at home and travel to shows without a professional to guide them.
We interviewed some riders who have achieved success without the consistent, long-term guidance of a trainer. They outlined both advantages and disadvantages to working independently. Furthermore, they expressed their gratitude toward trainers who help them at shows and offer advice when they need it. In the end, they all shared common ideas amongst the four of them, such as their value of dedication, family, and patience.
Sarah Rosciti of North Scituate, Rhode Island, is an amateur who has been on her own for six years. She recently took her three year-old hunter under saddle horse, All About That Blaze, to her first NSBA World Show. Sarah had a successful show with a BCF Top 5 and she also placed in the Top 10 in three classes. “I’m pretty sure I’m the only non-pro that brought their home-trained three year-old,” Rosciti proudly told us.
Her other accomplishments in the show arena include AQHA Champions, Superiors, and all around awards. “To me, it’s not all about the awards,” Sarah says. “I love working with young horses and showing with my family. I enjoy working with babies from their first breath, to their first time under saddle, to their first show.”
She expresses her gratitude towards other trainers who have helped her along the way. Since she has a lot of young, green horses, Sarah is grateful for any help she can get, especially at shows.
“Tami and Garry McAllister, along with Pierre Briere, have helped me this year with my all-around horses. Dawn Baker and Keith Miller also have given me some tips and tricks for our hunter under saddle horses. I really value the professionals within this industry because of their willingness to help non-pros like myself. At one point, I was struggling with getting more trot out of one of my horses, so I messaged Brian Isbell since he is known for that. Even though he did not know me, he was willing to walk me through what I should do.”
Sarah finds it beneficial to work without a trainer because she believes she knows her horses better, especially because most of her horses are so young. Since she spends the time breaking and training them, she feels that they ride better with her because of familiarity.
On the other hand, Sarah recognizes the burden of not working with a professional. “It’s a lot of work doing it on your own because of all of the packing, preparing, and riding. It is a huge time commitment to be working on your own, and unfortunately, it is easy to doubt yourself along the way without some extra advice from an expert.”
Reserve World and Congress Champion Alexis Taylor of Grafton, Ohio has ridden and shown her whole life without a trainer. Her parents had started out with Rusty Green when he first began training, but she has never personally had a long term trainer. “For weekend shows, Tyson Furlong helps me with the over fences classes. He also works with me at the world show and Congress,” Taylor says. “Last year at the 2016 world show, Tonya Green guided me in the Hunt Seat Equitation, which led me to a top five placing.”
When she compares working with a trainer versus working without one, Alexis recognized both benefits and downfalls. “I have the advantage of my horse being at home instead of away at a trainer’s, which allows me to ride every day. However, the downfall is that I have to figure out problems on my own. It would be nice to have a trainer for extra advice when I can’t quite figure out what is going wrong while I’m riding.”
She also recognizes that there are disadvantages for her while she is at a show. Since she is on her own, she has to figure out the best time to practice, when she should be up in the show pen, and much more. “When you’re with a trainer, everything is scheduled out for you, which takes away some of the stress of a busy show day. Having to plan all of it yourself is more challenging.”
Aside from the obstacles she may face in her time on her own, Alexis does not plan to have a trainer in the future. “I’ve grown up without a trainer, and I would not change a thing,” she says. “It’s something I, along with my parents, take pride in and love to do.”
Morgan believes that working with her horses every day is beneficial in the show pen. “A huge advantage I’ve noticed is how well I know my horses. If I am running late to the pen or if the class does not go as planned, I am able to work through any rough spots since I deal with them at home alone.”
All of Morgan’s daily work in the barn paid off this year when she showed at the Nutrena East Level 1 Championship Show. She explains, “This year, I won the Rookie Amateur Western Pleasure, received third in the Amateur Aged Mares, and earned a top ten in the Level 1 Amateur Western Pleasure, all with my mare, OHK Classie Chassie.”
When asked about the difference of showing with and without a trainer, Morgan explains, “I don’t think there is one big difference, but rather, there are hundreds of little things. These include zipping up your chaps, checking you in at the gate, wiping your boots, and all the other finishing touches when going into the show pen. It’s extremely helpful to have that extra set of hands for preparation.”
Karissa is a 13 and under exhibitor from Bowling Green, Ohio who has shown without a trainer for seven years. “I occasionally receive help from Beckey Schooler, but only at the shows she attends,” she explains. “A few years ago, I leased a horse named Assets Miss Reba, who was owned by Hailey Thorton. For the year that I leased Reba, I trained with Jenelle Pogue.”
During her career without a trainer, she values hard work and responsibility, which certainly shows through all of her successes in the show arena. “I won the 13 and under all around at the Buckeye Classic in both 2016 and 2017, along with at the NOQHA Summer Six Pack. Also, I’ve won an Ohio year end all around award for the past three years.”
“I consider my dad to be my trainer,” she explains. “I love having a family member as my coach because he truly understands my strengths and weaknesses. Although my whole family takes part in horse shows, I do all the barn work and preparations with my horse, Home Field Advantage.”
Karissa realizes that she misses out on specialized advice from trainers who focus on certain classes such as western pleasure or trail. However, since her horse is kept at her house, she has the advantage of riding every day, which keeps her strong and in shape.
As she looks ahead, Karissa does not plan to work with a trainer and says, “I enjoy spending time with my family through this sport, and I would like to keep it that way in the future.”
Although each of these riders recognized the downfalls of not having a trainer, they are willing to go the extra mile to ensure their success in the show pen. They equally expressed their gratitude towards all the professionals who have guided them. However, the riders enjoy the satisfaction of earning their awards independently.
Let these riders be an inspiration to you to persevere through any obstacles you may be facing. For everyone who shows, we know that this is not an easy task. These riders deserve an extra award and pat on the back.
About the Author: GoHorseShow writer, Emily Ambrose of Chardon, Ohio is in the 12th grade at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, commonly known as NDCL. She trains under the guidance of Seth and Amber Clark from Pierpont, Ohio. Emily avidly shows her horse, Play For A Minute, known as Ralphie, who is an 11-year-old quarter horse appendix. Her love of showing has been strengthened with the support of all of her friends in the Quarter Horse community and will continue her passion through and follow the completion of her college career.