Sunday, August 14, 2011
I heard a horse trainer once quip "I love the horses! It's the horse people I hate!" Yikes! I cringed at the time, thinking of the lovely clients I have had over the years.( you know who you are...xoxo)But it got me thinking. I have had the odd challenging client who's last words to me where at best, awkward and at worst, rude. But I chalked it up to the biz and kept on. Not my personal problem...or was it? I'm thinking it boils down to good communication and as John Lyons so sagely told us, client expectation management. What that means is like any good relationship, both parties are understood. Questions are asked, agreements are reached, sometimes concessions are made, trust develops and the horse benefits fully from the two humans working it all out. This may sound like a "no brainer" to most of you but believe you me, two people can be using the same words and not meaning the same thing . Expectation management is tougher in some ways. In its simplest form its a diary or road map of progress. This sometimes butts directly up against what a client wishes for. The tricky part is to present this to validate the wish but insert reality in such a way that it is still "all good". In other words "yes! we are working toward that lead change, that trail ride, that show date, and if we don't make this one right now, we will be there surely in the future. Not to worry, it takes as long as it takes after all." When John told us this in CO so many years ago, I said: well, OK then;closed my eyes took a deep breath and exercised my faith. Until I had what I call(no offence gentle readers) my "come to Jesus" moment with John one early dawn before class started though,that faith was tested daily. I chaffed at the vagueness, the open ended feel of it. I approached him with my defenses up and hiccuped my way shrilly through my concerns. Ending with crying on his shirt front about how much the learning meant to me. He said little, but patted me gently on the back and gave me one his soul piercing looks and said" don't worry" and from then on I didn't, TRULY, didn't worry. I don't, however, want my clients to suffer the boot camp type experience that I did, After all they are not on their way out into the world to train horses for a living like I was. I like us to have dialogue, I like to be able to reach a person at their level and make it as painless as possible. Sometimes it does require a bit of faith, and it definitely requires those afore mentioned good communication skills. When I get a new client I explain the way I work, the time and cost. I give them weekly updates of what I feel is the most important progress with the horse. I really try to convey where the horse is and where he will need to be to achieve A, B and C of the clients wish list. I want above all for the horse and I to be safe and happy. After these things I evaluate the client skills and interactions with the horse so I can better formulate a game plan to unite horse and rider where they want to be. Its a tried and true method.;0) Sometimes though, I find myself arriving for a lesson and there is someone else on the horse in the arena, there is a note on a stall door, or a vaguely insulting voice mail. Its heart breaking for me. Not because my little ego is bruised, or because I see my income decrease unexpectedly but because, I have poured my heart and soul into that horse and failed to touch the owner. To quote a line from the movie, Cool Hand Luke "what we have here is failure to communicate!" and its a two way street. If there are questions ask them, if there are concerns voice them..to your trainer. Not to your barn mates, not to your hair dresser and not to your facebook friends. Building a wonderful horse is a serious endeavour sometimes one will hear things one would rather not. In the end it is a journey that should be thoroughly enjoyed by all involved.