Monday, January 19, 2015

Dear Professionals,

I don't usually post rants, as I'm more of a "live and let live" type. There is no one set program that fits every horse and human, so I generally just smile and then keep doing my own thing. But, there is one phrase I hear over and over from equestrian professionals that just annoys the crap out of me....

"He/she stole my client!" (This statement is usually accompanied by a petulant pout that I like to call "Cat Butt Face" and an accusatory finger wag. Bonus points for a foot stomp.)

Every single time I hear this sentence I envision a scene in which a rival professional, under cover of darkness, infiltrates the barn wearing all black and a full face mask. They sneak down the aisle, casting furtive glances over their shoulder for the owner. When they finally find the clients, they snatch them up, throw them over their shoulder like sacks of grain, and then race out of the barn cackling maniacally.

That scenario sounds dumb, doesn't it? Clients are human beings with free will, you can't steal them like a sack of grain. So why do some professionals treat clients like that?

Now, I know there are sleaze balls out there who will trash talk their peers in an attempt to weasel their way into a client's pocketbook, but if you have a good relationship with your clients based on mutual respect and excellent service the weasels are going to come up empty more often than not.

Occasionally the weasel will win and a client will leave to go with the silver-tongued devil who promises the moon, stars and a spot on the USET. In those cases, you have to ask yourself if that's the type of client you really want anyway.

"Sorry, Current Trainer, but Dr. Sleizeboll has a cool accent and says my riding is totally good enough to get into this year's Pan Am games, so I'm going to train with him."

Sometimes your clients will leave you for someone else for reasons that aren't yours or anyone else's fault at all. Maybe the commute is easier for them somewhere else, maybe they gel better with someone else's style, maybe their astrologist told them they should only work with Scorpios or the pet psychic said that their horse prefers red barns. (Those last two probably go under the "Clients You Don't Want, Anyway" heading.)

However, if you find that your clients are routinely jumping ship like rats from the Titanic, maybe you need to sit back and ask yourself why that's happening. If you're throwing tantrums and Cat Butt Faces around whilst accusing everyone else of "stealing" your clients, that could be turning your clients off.  Maybe if you didn't treat them like property they wouldn't be so easy to steal. 


  1. You've hit the nail on the head with this post. As a professional riding coach and horse trainer, I know it's all part of the business to gain and lose clients.

    When you work closely with people and their horses, you establish relationships - even friendships. So, it can be easy to take it personally when someone leaves for another coach/trainer. I have found the best response is to wish them well (sincerely) and keep the door open to the possibility of working together again in the future or getting future referrals.

    If I'm offering what the client wants, they'll stay with me. But, if the time comes when the services I offer no longer meet their needs, or their personal situation changes, then they need to move on. That's the best thing for everyone.

  2. I have 'stolen' a few clients without meaning to, and I think this is exactly what I would say if one of the other trainers tried to say something to me about it.

  3. Yup. So very true. Very few people can be "stolen", but there's sure a lot who can be "lost". ;-)

  4. A major part of "stolen" clients I've seen are that the current instructor isn't meeting a student's needs - the student stopped progressing but wants to keep going, the student caught up to the level the instructor shows, the instructor just can't deal with the horse, or the "I've spent the last two years trying to get the horse on the bit, but this other trainer had me getting him on the bit in twenty minutes!" (I've seen this) . What I rarely see is an instructor telling a student that they've surpassed the instructor's ability to teach or the horse is out of their ability to fix, and need to find a new instructor. I know that doesn't happen often, but I'm in a 3* event rider's barn that's full of high aspiration students. A lot of the people she's acquired (myself included) fall into one of those categories. Some professionals just aren't willing to pass the student on (understandably since if you're not teaching you're not making money) but then hold on to them to the detriment to the student, then get pissed when the student is "stolen" by another trainer.

    1. Ooooh this is a really good point. It takes a GOOD trainer (and personbeing!) to admit that your students have surpassed your ability to teach!

  5. I agree. It's hard to not take it as a personal rejection but working with horse people should develop a thick skin.

  6. Wonderful post! I have never been "stolen" but I have sure quit taking lessons with one instructor when they are not a good fit for me.

  7. Haha. Love the "CatButt Faces". Very apt.

  8. lol cat butt faces. We have had people blow through every trainer in our barn, usually with a Trainer Beware sign on their back. Otherwise, other than the usual barn gossip/ smack talking, that seems to occur naturally when lots of people with different training in the same sport coexist, our barn gets along pretty well.

  9. Good points. It's hard to find a good trainer in the first place and I used to take clinics to "try out" trainers. I was very picky as most riders should be. If a client leaves a trainer, it's usually because that trainer is not giving the client what he/she wants.

  10. Not every trainer "clicks" with every rider or every horse!

  11. Haha! You can rant anytime because this is awesome!! Everything you said is completely true and the visuals (cat butt face and sneaking in under the cover of dark) are hilarious!!!

  12. Haha! You can rant anytime because this is awesome!! Everything you said is completely true and the visuals (cat butt face and sneaking in under the cover of dark) are hilarious!!!


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