If you’re like me, you often find yourself trying to figure out how you’re going to get in the ring without help. It’s certainly possible – but it’s much easier if you have someone to help with the little things. Holding your horse for mounting. Pulling your pant cuffs down and dusting off your boots. Taking off any warmup equipment. Taking down the horse’s tail. There are lots of things that are difficult to do yourself, and getting on and off your horse to take down the tail and remove a martingale or pair of chains isn’t always the best idea in a crowded warmup ring. So how do you go about finding a trainer to help you?
But first off – let’s talk about whether or not it’s even within the rules to do so. Per USEF rules, for Arabian and Morgan exhibitors who are showing in AOTS classes, professional assistance at shows is prohibited. All persons helping must be amateurs. For Saddlebred exhibitors in AOT classes, professional help is allowed as long as they do not warm up or otherwise work your horse 90 days prior to showing. (Of course, non USEF shows are free to make their own rules, so check with them if you have any questions.) However, and this goes for all breeds, if you are NOT showing in an AOT/AOTS class, pro help is fine. They can even warm up your horse or coach you on the rail. It’s when you’re showing AOT/AOTS that the restrictions apply.
So… back to asking for help.
Who can you ask?
To start with, do you already work with a trainer? If you’re already taking lessons or working with a pro, it makes sense to ask them first if they would be available to help you at the show.
If that is not an option, I would suggest taking a look at our AOT-Friendly Professionals list. This list is updated regularly, and features trainers from the Arabian, Morgan and Saddlebred breeds that are happy to help AOTs in a variety of areas, from lessons to shows.
If there is not a trainer available on the list, the next step would be to reach out to trainers in your area. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send them a PM on Facebook. Every trainer I’ve asked for help has been very friendly, and the only times I’ve been turned down is if they aren’t going to the show, my class time isn’t convenient for them, or they have another customer in my class and want to avoid any conflict of interest. You’ll find that most trainers are willing to help out a fellow horseman in need!
How do you ask?
When I’m talking to a trainer, I usually start by asking if they’ll be at the show. If they are going, then I ask if they’d be available to help me during a particular session (say, Friday evening performance). Most trainers have a general idea of which are their busy sessions and which are slower. If they say yes, then I will be more specific about which class I’m in and when I would need help. For example, if I’m in class 10 and want to get on my horse when the class two classes ahead of mine goes in, I would want them in the warmup ring or by my stalls by the time class 7 is reversing.
What do you ask for?
Whatever you need! And be very clear about it. If you want their help from the time you mount until the time you dismount, make sure they understand the time commitment. If you want help on the rail, or them to ear up your horse for the victory pass (always think positive!), or only take your tail down in the warmup ring – communicate your needs well in advance. You don’t want them to think you only need help in the warmup ring and then disappear when you were expecting them to help you during the class.
As an aside, I would like to advise that you be ready for the trainer. Be respectful of their time and willingness to help you. If you want them by your stalls when class 7 reverses, be standing there with your horse bridled, your coat and gloves on, mounting block by your side when class 7 goes in. Barring any last minute emergencies, you should be ready to go when they arrive.
Should you pay them?
Absolutely! Never expect free help. I always tell the trainer I will pay them for their time. Some of them already have rates; others don’t. For those that don’t, I usually offer the cost of a lesson for their help during a complete class (from the time I get on until I get off). I’ve also had many trainers tell me not to worry about it, in which case I will send them a thank you gift after the show. A bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers is a nice touch.
Trainers are usually willing to help, so I encourage you not to be afraid of reaching out. The worst that can happen is they say no. The best that can happen is you create a new relationship with someone in the show horse industry!
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