I’ve known many, many AOTs over the course of my life in horses, and there seems to be a common undercurrent that runs through the conversation whenever I talk to them, and that is that “trainers don’t like/respect us.” My own personal experiences and feelings couldn’t be further from that, and I want to share my perspective to hopefully encourage a more positive outlook from my fellow AOTs.
1. Trainers are the people who hold our industry together. By virtue of their very profession, this industry exists. They work hard to bring new people to the breed. They bring multiple horses to shows. They attend many shows each season. They drive breeding and sales. Whether you like it or not, shows are ultimately put on because of trainers, and most of the horses we own and enjoy were purchased through and started by a professional.
2. We learn from trainers. Most trainers I know are very willing to share their knowledge, whether it be during a lesson, a clinic, or just a friendly conversation. AOTs should always be striving to improve, and who better to learn from than those who do this professionally, day in and day out? They usually have a much broader base of knowledge to draw from, having experience with many more horses than we do. Get to know the trainers in your area and establish a professional, working relationship with them.
3. We put our horses in training. This might surprise some people, but over 25% of the AOTs who took the survey also have at least one horse in training, and many of them have multiple horses in training. Being an AOT isn’t an “either or” decision – not every horse is suitable for an AOT, and not every AOT wants to work every horse they own. I’ve had horses in training in the past and absolutely will again in the future. I encourage all AOTs to take lessons and use the services of a professional whenever needed.
Trainers deserve our respect. They work very hard every day in the heat and cold; they are the driving force behind the industry we all enjoy. We need to do away with the “us vs. them” thinking and understand that in most cases, they’ve earned those coveted stalls at the show or the tricolor ribbons hanging above their tack curtains. (This is not to say that AOTs don’t deserve respect, too. Quite the contrary. We work hard every day, too… We work hard in our professions. We work hard in the barn training our horses. We support the industry by attending shows, joining associations, buying horses, and many other ways.)
I’ve had the pleasure and honor of getting to know many trainers over the years. I have yet to meet one that made me feel unwelcome or disrespected. We are all competitive by nature, but don’t let that competitive spirit drive a wedge between you and the professionals who keep this industry alive.
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