Coaching Is More Than Just Teaching
I can't tell you how many times I've been told "Don't be friends with your clients. They're clients. It's a business relationship." I realize these people don't mean you have to be cold towards your clients, but they simply mean treat it as a customer service relationship. Nothing personal, nothing outside horses, just do what you're paid to do.
Here's the thing - I don't work that way, and I don't think I would be successful if I did. When the people you coach don't feel supported as people FIRST, they are not going to feel confident as riders. They are not going to feel comfortable enough to be the grown woman crying because she just can't get past a certain challenge. They are not going to feel confident in their own ability to make decisions, if they don't feel that you trust them and truly believe they have good intentions. You cannot communicate that to a person you hold at arm's length.
In every other sport, we idolize those coaches who are able to inspire their students to do better even beyond the playing field. The football coaches who produce good men first, and players second. The gymnastics coaches who inspire strong women first, and gymnasts second. Because at the end of the day, it isn't truly about being good at the sport. It's about doing something we love, and improving ourselves through its lens.
Does it make the goodbyes perhaps a little messier? Sure. But I will take that risk, if it means I get to truly help people grow as an individual AND in their partnership as a horse. So we get pizza together. We drink wine together. We talk about kids and horses and families and today's crazy world, and they are some of my absolute best friends. Because as much as my title is "horse trainer", it is also listener, friend, teacher, and student, and I wouldn't have it any other way.