In the Saddle with Kelly Beaubien
With show season winding down, I figured it would be a great time to get a recap of the season from a trainer’s point of view.
With show season winding down, I figured it would be a great time to get a recap of the season from a trainer’s point of view. Most of us know what it’s like to go out into the ring and show, but not all of us have stood on the other side of the rail for weekends upon weekends instructing multiple riders.
Kelly Beaubien, of Williamston, gives us the details in this interview!
Q: How and when did you know that you wanted to be a horse trainer?
A: When I first began college, I wanted to be a writer. I had spent most of my youth writing short stories, poetry, articles for school, so I always assumed that horses would be a hobby and writing would be my career. After I graduated from high school I was asked to volunteer coach for the Milford High School and Huron Valley Middle School Equestrian teams, which eventually turned into me giving lessons to students on the team. That eventually expanded to other teams, friends of students, boarders at the farm I worked at, etc. Gradually I began to realize that I was pretty good at this whole riding instructor thing! However I didn’t want to be just the average horse crazy girl with a little bit of knowledge offering lessons, I wanted to have real credentials and marketable skills, so I applied to MSU’s Horse Management Program and was accepted even though it was the middle of the year.
Q: What does a typical work day look like for you?
A: No two days are ever the same with horses. Just like people, they can wake up on the wrong side of their stall and have that “don’t mess with me today” attitude. I have a schedule of which horses need to be worked each day and which horses are scheduled for lessons. Usually training horses are worked in the morning, sometimes for short rides, sometimes more intense workouts depending on what stage they are in their training or if they have a show coming up. I always let the horse tell me what they need from that particular session. If a horse is having a fussy day, or maybe they were ridden really hard the day before, we may just walk and work on simple stuff. Regardless, I try to make each training session productive in that day’s goals.
Lessons usually begin around 2:00pm, and from there on its one horse after another in the arena with their rider until about 8:00.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: I have two answers for that. The first is when I’ve been working with a horse that suddenly gets it. They’ve worked past confusion, sometimes they get frustrated and want to argue with you, maybe they’ve had bad experiences with previous trainers and are carrying some emotion baggage with them. But a special day will come when they just full-on get it and want to give you more. That’s when I know that as a trainer, I haven’t just taught them how to look fancy, or carry their head a certain way, but I’ve motivated them to try something that was hard and helped them succeed. That feeling is way more rewarding then knowing I’ve intimidated a horse into cooperating with me.
My other favorite is the moment a student becomes proud of themselves. I think too often youth who are competing at horse shows focus on either the ribbons or what they and their horse didn’t do well. Before every class I always ask my students, “What do you want your horse to do in this class” The correct answer is a straight forward, positive statement, “I want my horse to pick up the right lead when asked.” Rather then, “Not counter-canter”. My students don’t always leave the ring with a blue ribbon, but they always have something they are proud of from their ride. When they pick out those moments instead of the junk they want to fix, then I know I’ve done my job as a teacher.
Q: What is your least favorite part?
A: Anyone can wake up one day and decide they are going to be a horse trainer, or a riding instructor. Because there is no real governing body handing out certifications or licensing, anyone can call themselves a professional in this industry. Unfortunately that also means that there are varying levels of talent, honesty, and skill in our professional world. Newcomers that are just starting out in the horse world may have a difficult time being directed to truly honest and talented professionals because there is so many options to choose from. Another angle that can be frustrating is competing with other professionals who cut corners in their training process. The average horse owner is going to be way more willing to send their horse out for 90 days with the hope that it will be a finished product at the end. I don’t cut corners, I don’t just focus on the finished product. I’m way more concerned with the horse’s mental well being during the training process. So to truly have a finished product that will last season after season, its going to take me longer then 90 days.
Q: What is something that you wish more people understood about your career?
A: Everything takes time with horses. Progress takes practice, repetition, and time. To me, there is no such thing as the “90-day Wonder”. True training that will last takes time. I know I sound like a broken record, but I can’t think of any other way to say it. Even with riders who want to be better, or advance to a high level of riding: it takes dedication, inside and outside of the ring. New parents in my lesson program ask me all the time, “How many lessons does my child need to take before they are a good rider (or go to a horse show, or ride on their own, or have their own horse)” Building skills is not something you can put on a timeline. I have relative goals for each student but its never based off of a monthly calendar. Each horse, or rider, advances at the pace their mind and body allows them to, I just help mold it along the way.
Also, people don’t work in the horse industry because they are going to get rich doing it. Horses are incredibly expensive and to have a career doing this full time, its because that person is passionate about the advancement of the industry, not advancing their bank account. I hate to say it, but this job is really about the love of the animal, not making money.