Training people to the top of the equine industry is what gives me most pleasure at work. But how hard it is.
Once upon a time there was a young Adam Kemp. We were lucky enough to have him with us at the Talland School of Equitation to train from Pony Club up to becoming a Fellow of the British Horse Society (BHS) and an international rider.
Adam stayed long enough to help develop Talland. We worked so closely and the hours passed so quickly, that just thinking about those times brings a smile.
Both my children, Charlie and Pippa, were easy to help to international level — there were no kid gloves there either. Junior rider Caitlin Burgess was 2019’s Talland success internationally. She sadly didn’t stay long enough to gain top qualifications here, but moved on to a leading dressage yard.So how long is long enough? It takes seven years to train a top doctor or lawyer. I need a minimum of three years to produce the equestrian equivalent.Proper career structures are at last becoming established in our industry. Talland already has “Tier 4” status, meaning we can legally take overseas students for BHS courses, and they can quote our credibility when applying for visas.On the home front, we’re already further-education compliant — and in the process of becoming accredited as a government-recognised higher education centre. The latter will put the BHS assessment structure on a par with universities.
Sadly, there’s no degree status attached just yet, but I feel sure this will come in the future. The BHSI remains the qualification that sorts the wheat from the chaff.
‘The takers take’
On the way up, there’s still little money to be earned; it can mean years of hardship. On the other hand, it’s a big ask to give a pupil so many years’ loyalty.
Some students move on for money, some taking your business with them. Then there are those who give you, say, two or three years — and then leave to “set up on their own” just down the road, but actually changing trainers and doingthe same to them. Many a trainer has given heart and soul, money and horses to a protégé to compete, only to find that the takers take — and some take off with the horse!
Adam has been the only one who, to date, stayed long enough. But the rewards are his. I remember when he was lucky enough to earn £15 a week; now he lives mortgage free, working when and where he likes. Recently I asked Adam exactly how long he was with us, to which he said: “14 years, seven days a week, 15 hours a day, and I don’t regret a single minute of it.”
He gave us three years’ notice, by the way, and still sends us business.
When Adam left, he said it would be decades until I found another like him. I continue to try to prove him wrong.
Perhaps prospective trainers should listen carefully at the interview stage. Asked what they want to achieve, many would-be pupils say, “I want to compete at the Olympics”, a few say, “I want to teach well” and almost none say, “I want to be a top groom.”
Ref Horse & Hound; 14 November 2019