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I thought about this post, as I've recently re-connected with Elaine Banfield. She is just about the biggest name Dressage coach/trainer in my province, and luckily for me, she also happens to be an old family friend. Old as in she grew up learning how to ride with my mom and aunt from my grandpa, haha.

I got the amazing chance to work with Elaine back in 2004 when I joined her crew as a working student. As time progressed, it turned into more of me being an all around go-to person and general manager of the place while she was gone. I didn't have big show dreams, and I convinced myself I didn't like my lessons because Zierra didn't like them. So I stopped taking them and just comforted myself in working from dawn til dusk at her stable (which I loved just as much).

But I've always regretted it - especially now that I'm working with Jynx. My narrow minded young adult brain was fresh off the farm and threw away an enormous chance to learn a ton because I focused on "not wanting to show Dressage". I never stopped to realized how useful and absolutely necessary that sort of free advice and training was in my future even if all I ever did was train green horses.

Anyway, we've re-connected and me and Shay-la are going out on Mondays now to exercise horses for her. I am jumping at the chance this time - I am not going to let this unbelieveable opportunity pass me by again. Elaine is so humble, she actually mentioned that she wasn't able to pay us! I feel like laughing, I should be paying HER for this chance!

So what about you? Are there any big opportunities you've had that changed your life? Any that you passed by and regretted? Any that are possibly in your future that you haven't thought about yet? What things do you take for granted?

And a shameless plug, here is Elaine's website:
Elaine Banfield Equine Services
 

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I can't say I regret missing something. I look at it as if I don't have opportunity now I'll have it later. May be not with this particular trainer but with someone even better. :D What I regret though is spending my time and money on "trainers" who basically know nothing and didn't teach anything me or my horse.
 

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When I was 18, I loaded up my horse and drove halfway across the country to take a position at a barn just outside of Houston. I had quite a bit of experience for my age, and it didn't take long for them to overload me with horses to work and lessons to teach. As much horse experience as I had, I lacked the life experience, and when I didn't like what I saw with the horses(which my opinion hasn't changed today), I reacted in the wrong way. I ended up leaving that barn, but if I had been able to stay and change things, I could have really started quite the career. The owner of the barn had actually offered to pay my way to get a business degree to completely take over the stable of over 120 horses. Quite a bit for an 18 yr old mind to handle. While there, I met someone who had a strong background in reining, cutting, and team penning. She took me under her wing, let my horse stay in her barn, and hauled us all over with them. It opened up a new world of expectations to my brain that had brought up "hunter style" and the experience is something that has really shaped who I am today. She offered to get me a job exercising horses and working with one of the top cutting horse trainers in the country, yet another opportunity passed and I turned it down to come back home. Looking back, where would I be now if I had taken that position?

When I got home, I went back to my little hole where I had worked for years, taking in lay-ups from Wellington and rehabilitating them to get them ready for the show ring. The horses were nice and people traffic was minimal, I got a lot of hands on experience and didn't have to worry about what scared me most, the people. I continued taking retraining projects for myself, trying to do everything to not make myself stand out. When the woman who owned the barn sold it and moved to AZ, I kept my happy little home with the horses and went on to do whatever odd jobs I could just to get by.

Being intersted in behavior problems soon linked to physical problems, which I took courses in Ocala to understand more about the musculoskeletal system and saddle fit. As a teen, I had been top 10 in the state in 4-H horse judging, and already had a good eye for reading horses. What I was learning about there body made perfect sense. Yet, once I ventured back into the horse world, I found myself working with top dressage trainers and still being disgusted by their horses physical weaknesses. This pushed me to keep looking. I called my current trainer on a whim, asked about a working student position and offered to pay for my first lesson to see where she could use me. I remember that first lesson where she was just as surprised as I was when she said "You can actually ride". At the time, I had no idea the extent of her background. She has pushed me into barn management, teaching clinics, teaching lessons, taking on the most extreme of horse cases, and really never giving me the chance to back out.

Looking back, where would I be if I had kept that job at the big barn in TX when I was 18? Where would I be if I had taken the chance with that cutting horse trainer? Where would I be if that kid in school hadn't made fun of me for getting good grades to the point where I purposely bombed so I wouldn't be valedictorian? The fear of success and the fear of opportunity have been haunting me my whole life. It has always been best to stay where no one could see me, if they couldn't see me, then I couldn't dissapoint them.

I've passed up a lot of opportunities, but I know if I had taken one of those roads, I wouldn't know nearly as much as I know today. I'm determined not to sit on the sidelines any longer, not to mention, I don't think that the trainer I work with now will let me fade into the shadows. I found the right opportunity, now its just a matter of running with it.
 

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For the last ten years I had pretty much given up on having a carreer with horses and cattle and worked in maintenance at two different food processing plants. I thought I was taking a good position as supervisor of the maintenance crew but it turned out that is not my cup of tea and I lost my job last june. Since then I have developed a good horse training business and starting in June I have a job taking care of 2000 cows on Forest Service land. I thought that getting canned was the worst thing that could happen but it has turned out to be pretty good so far.
 

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Just one. Missed the opportunity to ride with the Lipizzaner Stallions for a summer when I was a teenager. Not my choice though, my parents wanted me to go to college and they thought if I did this I would never go to college. We will never know.
 

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I'm pretty sure my parents couldn't have kept me from that! That was a huge opportunity. How did it come about?
 

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At the moment I have 2 futures ahead of me, they fork but double back on each other.

1) Move to GA, go to grad school, go Pro (as in get paid to ride, I wouldn't teach but I'd still have to kiss my Ammy status goodbye), and ride at a small breeding farm while attending school.

2) Move to FL and ride/work with my trainer's niece who is a former Olympian.


I'm hoping on doing them in that order, 1 then 2, then maybe put my Masters to work and get my ammy status back after the probation period is over.
 

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My coach's coach is Robert Dover. She is training with him in Florida for WEG right now.
She was an excellent coach before, and now being trained with arguably North America's most influential dressage master of late (he competed in the 6 consecutive Olympic games, etc.. etc..) she is going to be faaaaaaaaantastic.
I am so excited for my upcoming clinic with her next week! And I am so thankful that I was able to get on her student roster before this happened, because now it's going to be even more impossible to start training with her.
I'm also applying to ride in a symposium with Jan Ebeling, which should also be excellent as he has what now, 3? horses going in international FEI competitions! I rode at his place about a year and a half ago and I'm excited for him to see my horse!
 

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Just a very minor miss out in the grand scheme of things. At the end of last month I had the opportunity to attend my very first horse clinic, it was Buck Branaman doing a three day clinic. I was so excited. I booked and paid for the full three days. I made it the first day but when I got up the next day I discovered that my three year old daughter had the chicken pox so I never made it to the rest of the clinic. Oh well.
 

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Just a very minor miss out in the grand scheme of things. At the end of last month I had the opportunity to attend my very first horse clinic, it was Buck Branaman doing a three day clinic. I was so excited. I booked and paid for the full three days. I made it the first day but when I got up the next day I discovered that my three year old daughter had the chicken pox so I never made it to the rest of the clinic. Oh well.
that would have broken my heart! How did you like the day that you were there?
 

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*sigh* - Where I live there are pretty much no opportunities. Especially in my area of interest - ASH events and cow work. We get no clinics, we have no BNT (The closest campdraft trainer is about 45 minutes out of town and is swamped with work) and we don't have as good a working student/apprentice/intern system as you guys have.

It's what torments me - I love living here but it is NOT the best place to be to advance my riding/training/knowledge.
 

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I went to Florida (18 hours away) for a working student position under a grand prix trainer. It didn't fit me, and at that point I was done with horses. I was selling everything off except my gelding, a saddle and a bridle, and I was going to be done. Then, I went to Pensacola for a bit, to rest and recover. The place worked me so hard, I could barely walk in the morning.

It took me a good 15 minutes to gain semi-mobility when I rose, and my ankles hurt for MONTHS after that. I went to a chiro after that, and he saw my ankle (i have no arch anyway) and put me on some pretty hardcore archsupports and told me I absolutely had to wear lace ups for support, or I was looking at surgery in 5 years. Either way, when I was in the WS position, I lost 22 pounds in a mere 30 days. Needless to say, I was sour.

The people in Pensacola, who banded together so quickly and pulled together their every resource to try and find a place for us to put our horses was exactly what I needed at that time, and that gave me a sense of sanity, and the will to move on.

However, the trainer I take lessons from isn't busy enough for me to come and help - though he has said he would if he had the clients, but everyone is slow around here.

What I'd kill for more than anything is a western pleasure internship that wasn't with a BNT, but someone on a smaller scale who still held credentials.

QuickEdit: I've had the opportunities to ride with Lynn Palm, observe countless clinicians and gain inside advice from the best. They might seem really closed up about their techniques, but I've found if you approach them with a /good/ question that makes them think and shows them you've been thinking too, they're really eager to give you information/advice. I've also gotten some really flattering comments from these great horse people, and it's encouraging.
 

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PaintsPwn, if you don't mind who was the trainer in Fla? I'm assuming it's GP dressage. (you can PM me)
I know a lot of working student positions end up that way (especially in Europe!), which really sucks!!!
 

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God my posts have been horrible organized.. My mind just isn't awake...

PM'ed ya ;D
 

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that would have broken my heart! How did you like the day that you were there?
It was a good day. Sadly, just enough to wet my appetite. Buck certainly knows his ****. I would definitely like to be in a position to take my horse one day. At $700 a day though, it is something I am really going to have to plan for.

A lot of Buck's teaching was done by feel, he would set a task for the riders then watch them. When a horse and rider accomplished the task he would then explain what they should be feeling, how the horse moved etc. This would be great on a horse but not quite so easy to imagine sitting on the bleachers. There was one really important point that I took home from my one day. Buck said he treats the horses legs and feet like his own when he is riding. He wants to be able to move and place each foot of the horse exactly like it is his own foot, that is the level of control to expect. That is what I am aspiring to, it is a very valid point of view I think.
 

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Just one. Missed the opportunity to ride with the Lipizzaner Stallions for a summer when I was a teenager. Not my choice though, my parents wanted me to go to college and they thought if I did this I would never go to college. We will never know.

Is it too late now? I had a friend who rode with them when she was about 28 or 29 or so. Several years after college. If it makes you feel any better she didn't love it and was happy to quit.
 

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I missed out on the opportunity to work as a working student/train with Ruth Hogan Poulsen in VT. I was pregnant when she contacted me on yardandgroom.com. It was a really horrible time for me, but she was very patient and told me I could come out any time, whenever I was ready. I ended up placing my daughter for adoption and I was just a mess. It probably would have been just what I needed mentally, but I passed on the opportunity. I still talk to her on occasion and I've expressed that I still want to do it at some point. She still says I'm welcome whenever I'm ready... so I guess it isn't a miss, but my life has branched out into several commitments, including my boyfriend who I live with and will probably marry. I'm in Wisconsin, and Vermont is pretty far from me. It would be a strain on my life right now, which really sucks.

BUT, I'm thankful for everything that has happened to me in life. I'm extremely happy now, and all of the crap wasn't in vain.


As for things I've experienced-- I've had many. I trained under an extremely bi-polar woman. I learned a lot, but she pretty much made that adoption situation a very difficult one in many ways. When I took leave to have my daughter, she had to hire two people to make up for all of my work. Basically she just talked crap about me and my horse and my decision. She'd come down to the barn one day and be super happy and nice, and the next she wouldn't talk to you for an entire week... nice. Very stressful.

I also went down to manage a 48 head farm in the south. It was extremely dysfunctional. I was doing all of the barn chores, teaching lessons full time, treating the many injuries that happened.... ugh. The place was a mess when I got there, and I did a lot of landscaping, repairs, trained many horses to fix their problems...... oh man I worked my **** off. The BO had only been in contact with horses for 5 years total, and she didn't know nearly as much as a person owning a 48 head facility should know. All of the lesson horses were in harsh correction bits, saddles that didn't fit, omg I could go on and on and on. I had my horse there with me, and when I decided to throw in the towel and leave, they stopped feeding her at all. They separated her from all of the other horses completely. She was attacked by coyotes several nights in a row, I'd move her and they'd move her back. It was awful. I didn't get paid but a total of $300. I'm still owed about 2500. I filed a complaint with the state, and she sent back a rebuttal saying I was fired (I quit) on september 1st and left that day (I quit September 20th, left October 4th), that I intentionally harmed horses (actually all of the crap laying around harmed the horses, and the blatant inability to understand horses and how things work), that I stole money (HAH! I watched her hand the $400 in advance lesson money to the hay guy), etc. Oh man that place was terrible.


Out of all of the bizarre places I've worked, and all of the crazy lesson students I've had, I've learned so much about the industry and what its like. I've been a vet assistant, a trainer, a student, a lesson instructor, a farm manager, a saddle fitter, a business owner, man it's been a long road. I've seen some amazing things though that totally trump the bad, and for that I'm thankful.
 
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