"Sometimes we outgrow each other, sometimes our goals change and sometimes life just takes us someplace else," Jennifer VanHal states about leaving a trainer. Photo © Impulse Photography

An Exhibitor’s Insight: The Emotional Side of Changing Trainers

After reading the GoHorseShow article, Five Things to Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Relationship with Your Trainer, I thought to myself, what if it was just that easy? A simple set of talking points that determine if we stay or if we go. Then I asked myself, why does our relationship ever have to end?

When making the difficult decision to leave a trainer, here are some things we want our trainers to know…

This is emotional for us.

No one ever really prepares you for the emotional side of changing trainers. We know that this is a “business,” but it’s a business in which you create personal relationships. We trust you with our horses, and if we are parents, we entrust you with our children. We learn about your families, we celebrate your milestones and you observe ours.

Chances are, our trainers know about significant changes in our life before anyone else, because often those life changes affect our show plans. We choose to spend holidays away from our actual family to show with our horse show family. You become like a second family.

Trainers, we are in your program because we choose to be. You welcomed us in with open arms and helped us achieve our goals. Sometimes we outgrow each other, sometimes our goals change and sometimes life just takes us someplace else. Often, we don’t want to end our relationship with you, just our professional one.

We know you’ve worked hard for us.

We know you’ve worked hard to meet our goals and expectations. But, we also know you are only human, and there are only 24 hours in a day. We know your phone starts ringing early in the morning and doesn’t stop until late at night. We see the most natural part of your job is training our horses; everything else is just coming with it. We know we are not your only client, yet you manage to fit us all in.

We ask you to sell our horses and find us new ones. We often send you out with an impossible wish list, yet you work hard to deliver. You are brilliant planners who need to make everyone’s needs and schedules match up.

You’re coaches who have to create teams, then watch those teams accomplish things, and sometimes you have watched them move on. Running your own business is hard, we genuinely understand we ask a lot of you.

We’re not just leaving you.

Leaving your trainer is never easy, but we are also leaving behind our teammates. We’ve celebrated our most significant accomplishments together, and let’s not forget our most devastating losses. We know when our teammates need a hug and when they need a moment alone. After all those long days and nights together, we have become, well…a TEAM.

How do you leave your team behind? No one says that when you change trainers, you have to stop cheering on your former teammates. Celebrating other people’s victories will never take away from your own. Even though we aren’t in the same barn anymore, we can still be on the same team.

We want you to be proud of us.

Trainers, we want to make you proud, even after we have left. If you’re lucky, like I have been, your former trainers have left a stamp on you. They have taught us something that we will carry with us forever. Maybe the lessons we’ve learned from them haven’t even been about horses; perhaps they have shown us about ourselves.

One thing I am most proud of to this day is a comment I received from a former trainer. She said she was “proud of the person I have become.” That honestly makes me feel better than any award I ever could have received. The lessons I learned from her have not only stuck with me as a rider but as a businesswoman and a mother. May we all be so lucky to have trainers like that.

Sometimes we don’t get it right, but we do try.

I know I have been guilty of this and I would like to chalk it up to immaturity at the time. But, I would like to think I learned from that.

Sometimes, as clients, we just don’t go about leaving in the right way. Maybe we should have said more; perhaps we should have just said less. Maybe we didn’t listen to your advice, or perhaps we had unfair expectations. Maybe life just changed and we had to change with it. After all is said and done, the reasons we need to leave won’t magically go away.

Even after we’ve talked them out, the world doesn’t stop turning. Sometimes, we still have to move on and make a change. How do we know what is the best way? Honestly, we don’t. We just have to follow our hearts and remember everyone will always be part of our story. Sometimes we just have to write new chapters.

We appreciate it all.

We just want you to know this hasn’t been easy, it’s not something we take lightly and we might not always go about it the right way. But, you have made YOUR mark on us. We appreciate it all. We don’t want our relationship to end. We want our paths to cross again. We want YOU to be that person we look back on and say, “Because of them ____”

About the Author: Jennifer VanHal was born and raised in rural Minnesota, she now resides just outside of Houston, Texas. As a wife, mother, and entrepreneur, she has been able to combine her unique passion for fashion along with her love of horses. Jennifer works hard to bring fun and affordable fashions for everyone with “The Unbridled Boutique” and “UnbridledTX“.