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What You Learn Being a Horse Trainer’s Kid – with Nya Kearns and Alexa Black

Not all of us are as lucky as Nya Kearns and Alexa Black, both of whom have grown up in the equine industry under their parents’ guidance. Many exhibitors come from families involved in the equine industry, but being a trainer’s kid is rare and gives you a unique perspective of the industry. Kearns and Black shared their experience to provide us with an inside look into their world.

Barn = Home

One benefit of being a trainer’s kid is the amount of time you get to spend at the barn. Most riders wish they could get more time at the barn, but Black and Kearns agreed that there was no lack of time at the barn growing up. “I would spend all day in the barn when I was little — the whole workday!” Black said. (pictured right)

Kearns understood the advantage that the continued access to the barn gave her. “To me, the greatest benefit of coming from a horse trainer family is the constant access to the barn,” Kearns said. “Home and barn become pretty much the same, so it’s a huge part of everyday life. The opportunity to ride, practice, and be exposed to all kinds of horses is truly priceless.”

For Kearns, that time also translated to family time. “I’ve learned to admire and appreciate the day-to-day stuff at the barn with my family,” she said. 

Constantly at Shows

Even if they weren’t showing, Kearns and Black spent their childhood traveling to different horse shows with their families. 

“I didn’t have a choice in going to shows,” Black said. “I always had to be there because both of my parents were there. Being at the shows at such a young age automatically had me interested in showing once I was old enough.”

The Kearns family spent time at shows all year round — even Christmas. “My childhood was pretty much anything but traditional,” Kearns said. “We spent a lot of holidays on the road, and at horse shows, so I didn’t experience a Christmas at home until I was 12. There were times when I was younger that I had wished we could’ve spent more time doing the traditional holiday family activities. However, we were still always together on all the important holidays, and that’s what’s important.” 

As she grew older, Kearns (pictured right) learned to appreciate the unique childhood she experienced. “Of course, I wouldn’t change anything, and I appreciate having the opportunity to travel and go to horse shows with my family more than ever,” she said. “Now, I wish we could spend all our holidays at horse shows.” 

A Strong Work Ethic

All that time spent at the barn doesn’t mean you’re always on your horse. It often means you spend time feeding, cleaning, and mucking. 

“When I was a child, I was working and helping in the barn, even from a young age,” Black said. “I learned how to feed and clean stalls when I was 5 or 6.”

Working with Quirky Horses

Sometimes, being a trainer’s kid means being a guinea pig. You don’t always get the perfect horses, and more often than not, you have to ride green or quirky horses. But, Kearns and Black knew that made them better riders. 

“Over my youth career, I worked with a lot of green horses as they got started in the all-around events, and you learn that all horses are different with their own set of quirks,” Kearns said (pictured left). “Some come along faster than others, and what worked for one may not work on another.”

Black understands the unique perspective being a trainer’s kid has given her. “I’ve learned to notice a lot of different techniques and understand how things work in the horse industry from having trainers as parents,” she said. 

While it can be frustrating not to have a “push-button” horse all the time, Kearns thinks that working with the quirky ones taught her the most. “When it comes to showing, sometimes it’s going to be unpredictable and not always go your way when you want it to,” she said. “Though in the end, it’s one of the most rewarding things to be a part of the beginning stages and watching a horse go on and have a successful career.”

Special Memories

Having your family right there with you at the big shows makes for some memorable moments.“My favorite memory was this past year at the AQHYA World Show when my grandma came to help me prepare for the showmanship,” Kearns said. “And while we spent a lot of late nights seriously practicing, it was also filled with lots of laughs and light-hearted moments.” 

Knowing your mom and dad are essential in the process of getting a title makes the big wins even more sentimental. 

“My favorite memory at a show with my parents would be the 2012 Congress,” Black said. “I won the Small Fry Horsemanship. It was so fun having my family help me with the win and be there to celebrate.”

Overall, being a trainer’s kid has its benefits and burdens, just like anything else. But, Kearns and Black appreciated their one-of-a-kind childhoods and the things they have learned along the way. “You know that they (your parents) are completely, 100% invested in you and your success,” Black said.

About the Author: Olivia Bradish has been an equestrian for 13 years. She attends the University of Michigan and works for The Michigan Daily. Olivia shows the all-around events with her horse, CSR Roan Bar Penny, known around the barn as London. They enjoy showing in the showmanship, horsemanship, equitation, and trail.