If you are considered a young professional in the horse industry, you may have quite a challenge in front of you. I am constantly looking around and wondering what hands our future is going be in, and I’m seeing a gap. Who is going to be the next up and coming competent group of professionals? I worry. If you are coming from a substantial amount of means then it doesn’t matter, I guess. I can’t relate. However, if you are not coming from means, and you are graduating out of the junior ranks, when you finally realize how difficult it actually is in this world, it is pretty easy to get discouraged, decide to marry rich and be happy deciding on being an amateur. Being a young professional sucks. The reality of expense, and failure hits home pretty quick and pretty hard. I certainly can’t solve any problems for you, but I can encourage you to think outside the box.
Think about where you came from, are you pretty confident you are going to mimic your trainer for the last undetermined amount of years?? Did you have a trainer? You should probably not bank on mimicking anyone, but better develop your own personal style along the way. Adapting to the environment is probably going to be more help to you than trying to make everyone around you adapt to you. When I see people unable to grasp the needs of people around them, I think wow, what a long road they are going to have. Know what you can do. I stay away from anything under 14.2 hands and humans under the age of 12. There are many more capable trainers for those things. And when I see young professionals who don’t drink try to teach adults? No chance. Those guys come with a certain wine obligation. I love my adults, but they are trained with grapes, not accolades.
Your job will be 80 percent problem solver and less than 20 percent ribbon winner. People are attracted to friendliness and capability more than extreme talent, especially in this current millennium. There is actually no guideline, no road map, so your personality will have to prevail in the end. What can you handle, what can you be humble about, what can you have foresight with? In the wake of bad press for some horses this year, here in the States as well as worldwide, there will probably be yet another shift with the majority of the horse world with more focus put on horse welfare, because too many people have witnessed too many horses winning or just showing at some strange and bitter cost. It is on peoples minds. The amount of classes a horse can go in will be addressed, the amount of horse shows a year a horse attends will come under more scrutiny in the future. Certainly not overnight, but it is probably coming soon enough. There are so many more adults and children riding these days, the importance of riding is going to head in the direction of letting people have fun, loads of fun. Your personality will dictate the amount of business you can generate. The shift of horse welfare will ultimately be on your shoulders in time to come. Parents are going to look for better role models when thinking about who their kids spend most of their time with, so not only will horse welfare get more attention, kid welfare will ultimately have to be in the spotlight, too.
When people ask me about being a working student, I always tell them please go work for the person with the worst reputation, so you can learn how NOT to do your business in the future. Be on that struggle bus for loads of time, because you are learning far more than the fancy stable down the road has to offer with all those ducks neatly laid in a row. In less than ten years no one will remember you did your time at that place, especially if you don’t brag about it every four seconds. This is reality folks, the horse business is painful, learn how to solve the hardest problems in the most difficult situations. This is the material that can harden you for difficult situations in the future which there will be plenty of. I absolutely came away with so much more information from those dark and seedy stables than I did from the stables involved with the highest levels of showing.
The saddle thing is a big issue with me. I cross the ocean a lot. I drive to other barns a lot. I pack a helmet, boots and half chaps. When I see professionals bringing a saddle on a plane, it absolutely scrambles my brain. What do you think, they don’t have saddles over there?? DO NOT DO THIS. If you can’t ride in every kind of saddle on the planet, something is seriously wrong, and if you haven’t ridden in 100 different saddles by the age of 25, you are really behind. It will be YOUR job to determine if a saddle is not fitting a horse properly, someone out there will depend on you to recognize this fact. So ride in all the saddles available!! I have had to jump horses in dressage saddles, western tack, bareback pads, you name it, this is what we call feel. If a customer says a particular saddle fits the horse and you pout because you can’t use your own Butet, it might be time to rethink your profession. Your body is mostly liquid, it can adapt to the strange saddle, as well as the horse. And if you blame the saddle for chipping a fence….? Actually, never mind, I can’t help you.
Recognizing when there is an issue with a saddle only comes from extreme knowledge of all types of makes and models. You will get to a certain age when you can make your whole barn ride in a certain brand, and even a certain kind of stirrup, but until you are truly invested in the sport, I am not going to recommend you start with dictating it’s the Butet or the highway. (no offense to Butet, you all make a lovely saddle, it’s just your name sort of rhymed with highway) Try to remember customers come from all walks of life, having the ability to recommend an affordable safe saddle to the client on a budget will be one of your greatest assets.
Diversify to different disciplines. This is pretty crucial and I only see glimpses of this every once in a while. Truly great horsemen can ride in more than one discipline. Whether it be Dressage, Eventing, Arab, Morgan, Saddlebred, Western, there are so many things to do out there to help give you a better knowledge of horses. One of my truly gifted idols rode Saddlebreds before becoming one of the most famous hunter and Grand Prix riders ever. There are other Grand Prix jumper riders that can ride a Grand Prix Dressage test. Hunter riders that can do reigning. We need this more, not just a handful. Buddy up with an eventer and give it a try, you never know when said eventer is going to want to find a new job for his horse who hates cross country, and BAM, you have a very cool equitation horse. Make time for it, encourage your students to try it, it will open doors for you, guaranteed. If you think you are going to look foolish out there all awkward in a new discipline, you could be right, but chances are everyone else will see the big picture and applaud you for it. Do not forget about the Thoroughbred. These horses taught so many of our riders in the past how to ride, we lost them for decades, and now they are growing back into our sport, even in the upper levels of showing. I cannot emphasize enough that the ability to ride a TB is one of the true dysfunctions of todays young professionals, by no fault of your own. We did it to ourselves by dismissing them for so long, and now we have loads of people unable to teach other people how to ride a TB, or even riders unable to sit on them. This will resolve itself in a few years, but you will have the advantage if you start riding that TB properly now. I’ll give you a hint, sit still and put your heels further down.
Learn how to put on a horse show. At some point, you will be asked to help run a show, get in on that knowledge now so you are not scrambling with all the rules and guidelines down the road. One of the biggest advantages in the industry is having an understanding of every facet of sport. This will come in handy when you are sidelined from an injury and worried about income. All sides of showing are important, and when you are asked to participate in putting together a fundraising show, you won’t be blind going in, you will actually be able to get the show off the ground.
There is a very good reason we keep hearing about equestrians in the industry today lacking depth, or breadth or even 1/10th of the same knowledge as Jimmy Williams. It is easy to start the shift back to better horsemen for the future. All the information is right in front of you. Go get it.
Born in Elsinore and raised in El Monte, Williams showed horses for his father–a horse-trader and racehorse owner–at Los Angeles auctions when he was a child.
“I learned to ride all kinds because he sold all kinds,” Williams said. Williams became a quick-change artist showing 75 to 100 horses a day–starting with fancy hunt duds to show thoroughbreds and ending with Western garb for quarter horses and stock horses.
“Dad carried a handful of rocks. If I rode sloppy, I’d get hit with one. He wanted me to sit straight, like an old Spaniard,” Williams said. “He taught me to ride like a gentleman.”
At 12 he began racing at fairs and became a stunt man in movies at 22. The handsome young Williams was under contract to 20th Century Fox as a stand-in for Tyrone Power for two years until the war interrupted his movie career.
After Williams was wounded in Italy, he was transferred from the infantry to the 2610 Remount Station near Florence. It was there that Williams learned dressage, a form of training in which the rider is able to control the horse in intricate maneuvers with very slight, imperceptible movements.
“A conversation with a horse is only the distribution of your weight,” Williams explained. “You lean forward, he goes up; you lean back, he stops.” Williams teaches his students to ride with no hands, getting the horse to respond to the pressure of their legs or feet.
Although Williams went back to the movies for a short time after returning from the war, the “hurry up and wait was too much like the Army” and he returned to his first love–he opened a training stable in Escondido. With the techniques learned in Europe, Williams was able to train horses in half the time.
“It takes three years to train a horse and about the same to train a rider,” Williams said, though he emphasizes that horse, rider and trainer never stop learning. “I’m still learning. I’m better this year than I was last year.”
“It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that counts” is one of Williams’ favorite sayings. Fond of proverbs, his own and others’, he has them plastered on his horse trailers, pickup, golf cart and in his house.
Decorated in early Will Rogers, his ranch house at the riding club is a small hall of fame, sporting walls of pictures of former students, champion horses and three California governors presenting awards to Williams. He has a wall unit crammed with tarnished silver bowls, trays, cups and chafing dishes he has won over the years.
Piles of Silver
full article is here, well done, author.
I know we will never have another legend like Jimmy Williams, and I don’t recommend throwing rocks to achieve better position, but he thought outside the box every dang day of his life.