Since the press release (yes, really) officially went out today I guess I can share the news that's been circulating around the Barniverse for a while now, on the off (or less than off...) chance people have figured out where I ride. My barn has a new assistant trainer.
To revisit a time not long ago, in fact exactly (...to the day) 13 months ago, my barn owners moved from our then-head trainer, a lovely and successful local Grand Prix rider, to Monsieur Frenchman, who rides on the Team and Nations Cups and competitions of that ilk. At the time, I had a *really* hard time with the news, not helped by the fact I was totally blindsided by it. I loved our trainer, and had what I felt was a good relationship with her. She taught me a lot - literally, how to jump a horse, since I had never done such a thing four years ago. I rode my first hunter courses, first jumper courses, first hunter derby, first equitation round... you name it, I did it with her. She was masterful at finding horses that fit riders and gave them confidence. I was horribly sad to see her go - despite understanding why, and in the end, understanding that it was for the best.
I was dubious and suspicious of Le Frenchman, which, looking back, is pretty funny. My attitude was all, "I will try this out, and we will see how we feel about it after X months, and if I am unhappy, I will follow ex-trainer." The barn attitude overall was extremely similar, with clients grouping in little clumps and trying to talk each other into staying. "We'll just give him a chance," we said. In the end, there were several defections, and about five of us that stuck on. The barn felt very small for awhile.
I mainly remember the period in between ex-trainer's departure and New Trainer getting all settled in and comfy as an absurdly stressful period of life. First, I was angry. Then I was sad. Then I was despondent. Then I accepted it, and started to work without stirrups a lot more often in preparation for New Trainer's arrival. (We had about two months in between ex-trainer's departure and New Trainer's arrival, you see.) I fortified myself by preparing as best I could, but knowing I would be a *terrible* rider relative to what he was used to. I became angry at this thought pattern, thinking to myself, "it is not my choice he is coming here, it is not my fault that he thinks I will be a terrible rider. I did not ask for this."
The day he started, he did an in-barn clinic for the farm's riders. Words cannot describe how hard I worked the several weeks prior to his arrival. I lived without stirrups. I polished everything I owned until it had a mirror shine. I bathed my horse twice the night before the clinic. If nothing else, I was determined to look good while splatting flat on my face.
It was during the first fifteen minutes of my first lesson, when he corrected my Gee-I'll-Just-Take-A-Nap-On-My-Horse's-Neck posture - literally made it disappear forever - with the simplest of instruction that I started to consider just how lucky I might actually end up being. The ensuing two months before he departed for Florida confirmed that I was, in fact, the luckiest person on the face of the planet, and with his patient and ever-simple assistance found within myself the ability to jump fences bigger than I ever had and ride better than I ever could. It also lit a burning, competitive fire within, which I've touched on elsewhere, to do something really great within the industry. I can't really say enough good things about Monsieur Trainer.
A year later, the original Assistant still hung in. I am more pragmatic about original Assistant's departure. It was/is a different relationship than that I had with ex-head trainer, and it also helps that I've known this was coming for a lengthy period of time. I'm even looking forward to the change.
But for some reason, I still feel down about it, and irrationally stressed out. A lot of the same feelings I felt last year are coming back to haunt me. Trainer has been gone for about a month, and our progress has been slipping backward steadily. Assistant is done with lessons as of today - I had my last one, with her, this morning. On Tuesday, we have lessons with Trainer and New Assistant. I'm nervous. I'm going to polish my boots, and I've already picked out my outfit. I don't know very much about New Assistant, other than she can ride circles around me and everyone else in the barn, with the sole exception of Trainer. I suppose that's the point, after all. But I don't know how she is as a coach or a person. You'd think, with the underground gossip network that I have my finger on, I would know a lot more. But here we are.
In closing, I feel very pensive, stressed out, and not very funny today. Sorry for the wall of text.