Several months ago I began my search for a new coach and trainer. I had thought long and hard about selling Sierra vs investing in her. Truth be told, when I purchased her in June 2018 I thought I was buying a relatively broke show horse and I quickly learned that is not what I brought home. Regardless, there was just something about her and I wasn't quite willing to return her just yet, so I stuck it out but everything fell into shambles in March 2019 when our first show season began. I spent what felt like forever, clinging to the notion that the minuscule increments of improvement as each show passed meant one day we could look back on these near-death experiences and laugh. As the show season wrapped up, I decided I liked Sierra too much, and I was too stubborn to give up so I began scouring the internet for a trainer. While Dressage primarily has my heart, I wasn't set on a dressage-specific trainer, but rather someone who met the following criteria:
- Had experience with OTTBs
- Was willing to travel to me for clinics as well as host me if I chose to travel to her barn
- Have availability to take Sierra for 1-2 months sometime this winter
- Be willing to create that trainer-client camaraderie that I missed
- Be willing to treat me like a priority, not a name on a list and was dedicated to ME and my horse
- Believed in a well-rounded training program
- Was affordable
- Was located within 6 hours
- Was willing to work with me knowing that our relationship would be at least 75% online based given the distance
There was extra bonus points to be awarded if they offered online lessons and could take her to a show or two in the time she was with them for training. I spent days upon days searching and answering responses to my ISO ads, speaking to references, asking friends for their opinions and finally I landed on Carol Ann Bennett with confidence. She ticked every box plus my 'extras', and is located about 5.5 hours away which is still quite a distance, but close enough I could head down on a Friday afternoon to spend a weekend with her at her barn. She is now a focused Jumper, but spent many years dabbling in different disciplines including Dressage.
As the months passed, she and I talked back and forth about my hopes and dreams; short and long term goals. I frequently sent her video to review and we concluded I would send her Sierra sometime around Christmas for some tune-ups and to get well acquainted with her so she can better coach me. She had asked if I could try and organize a clinic in my area before send Sierra down to get to know her and I better, and even though it was a last minute thing I was able to pull it off and fill all the spots and allot myself 3 sessions as well. I was nervous heading into the clinic as I wasn't sure how it would go. Was I making a mistake? What if I HATE the way she coaches and I had to somehow come up with a viable excuse to terminate our friendship we had spent the last several months building? What if it was so severe that I no longer wanted to send Sierra down to her? I was kinda freaking out, guys.
Friday afternoon came and Carol Ann walked through the barn doors as I had begun tacking up Sierra for our first lesson and my eye was immediately drawn to her bright red "The Horses" toque which she seemed to wear with pride. For those unfamiliar, "The Horses" is the branding used for Horse Racing in Alberta, and that alone eased my worried mind and we settled into casual conversation while she snuggled Sierra and I rummaged around, nervously tacking up.
While I will do a general breakdown of how the weekend proceeded, I will cap this post by saying it was a merciless yet memorable weekend that in just a few days, had managed to completely change my view on just about everything. I was on the verge of tears on both ends of the spectrum several times and for now, i'll leave it at that.