February 2016 - The Gallop: Looking Forward
Written by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 02 February 2016 07:56
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Busy show and school schedules make it tough to pass horsemanship on to the next generation.

by Kim F. Miller

From barn aisles and back gates to convention meeting rooms and bars, the question of who will shepard the hunter/jumper industry into a healthy future has long been a hot topic.

Hope & Ned Glynn’s 52-horse program Sonoma Valley Stables hums along with the help of several carefully chosen assistant trainers. Kylee Arbuckle and Elizabeth deGolian, pictured here with Hope at Thermal, are two relatively new hires. In addition to riding talents and extensive horsemanship experience, both have an attribute Hope values highly: a college degree. The daughter of Southern California professional Christy Arbuckle, Kylee had catch ridden for Hope frequently as a junior. 'I think she pretty much always knew she wanted to be a trainer, and I told her that once she graduated college, she’d have a job with me.' Kylee graduated the University of Georgia last spring with an accounting degree and Hope happily upheld her end of the deal. Elizabeth responded to a riding position advertisement and came highly recommended and with a degree from the University of South Carolina. Both new assistants rode for their school’s NCAA equestrian teams. 'That was a bonus in my view,' Hope notes. 'But the fact is it was much more important to me that they had gone to college, period.'

The recent scaling back of such horsemanship legends as George Morris and his protégé Karen Healey may have turned up the intensity and increased the number of “where have all the good horsemen gone?” queries. Yet there are plenty of trainers toiling under the national radar who are poised the carry the sport into a sound future. Perhaps not as many as veterans would like, but they’re out there.

We polled several West Coast professionals for suggestions on who they viewed as the “next generation” of caretakers – those capable of and willing to preserve and promote well-rounded horsemanship as equally important to show ring success.

A look at several of these recommended Next Generation-ers starts on page 12, but first let’s get a lay of the current hunter/jumper landscape from the perspective of some top pros.

Karen Healey is the first to say there are plenty of bright spots in the form of up and coming trainers. But the nature of the today’s sport has made it harder to be one of them, she observes.

“For the younger generation, all they know is horse show, horse show, horse show,” says Karen of a business model born of having multiple show options nearly every weekend of the year. The expansion has happened at every level of the sport: from more local and regional competitions, to longer multi-week A show circuits.

Too often, competing takes the place of learning. Rather than being a place to apply lessons learned at home, shows are a less effective learning ground with ribbons being the goal and often at the expense of advancing horsemanship.

The culture includes bill payers, mainly parents, wanting tangible rewards for their investment of money and time. The scenario is not limited to the equestrian world and it’s related to the reality that kids of ever-younger ages are increasingly busy with multiple activities. Thus, there’s less time for hands-on horsemanship and even less for the informal, experiential and observational forms of learning that come from long days spent hanging around the barn.

A fixation on the tangible results of ribbons contributes to lack of ambition, Karen adds. Trainers and students are often content to keep winning in a division from which they should have moved on. “Trainers want to keep their clients happy and what keeps clients happy, in too many cases, is winning.”

“That bell’s been rung,” states Karen, who shuttered her training barn in Somis at the end of last year, after 35-plus years at the very top of the hunter, jumper and equitation ranks.

She’s now reveling in the opportunity to work with students on horsemanship lessons, rather than schooling sessions directed at winning the next class. She’s famous for crack-of-dawn lessons during long circuits like Thermal. “I always tried to do actual lessons. I’d notice the kids were starting to slide a little after the first two weeks because we weren’t teaching them. They were just going into the ring.”

The culture isn’t changing, Karen notes, so trainers have to. “What we have to do now is figure out how to deliver real horsemanship instruction within the structure of what’s been created.” 

Ignored Opportunities

One big challenge is increasing participation in existing programs designed to help riders, from juniors to pros, advance their abilities and knowledge. These include tiered riding challenges like the North American Young Riders Championships and USET Show Jumping Talent Search. And efforts with a broader scope like the USHJA’s Trainer Certification program for professionals and its Emerging Athletes Program for young riders with or without professional aspirations.

The number of professionals who “poo-poo” these opportunities is disturbing and it stems from insecurity, Karen surmises. “Trainers who don’t want their clients to know what they don’t know, rather than taking advantage of an educational opportunity that could help their student and themselves.”

“Take a week off, let your assistant teach some lessons and sit yourself down at one of these clinics,” she advises.

Hope Glynn concurs. “There are trainers who are too protective of their clients,” says the top professional who runs the 52-horse Sonoma Valley Stables with her husband Ned. “We always encourage our students to do things like the EAP because there’s always something you can learn from everybody.”

She doesn’t worry that a client might get exposed to another trainer and leave her program. “We are confident of the quality of the product we provide and we just keep doing that.” Losing the occasional client to the “new shiny penny” is a reality for even the best programs, Hope notes, and not something that would cause her to discourage students from seizing every learning opportunity possible.

Sonoma Valley Stables hosted EAP sessions last summer and Hope is an especially big supporter of the program because it provides affordable access to some of the sport’s best trainers and stable management experts.

Aspiring trainers should educate themselves beyond the horse world, too, urges Hope. “The weakest part that I see among young professionals is that they usually don’t have good business sense. As an industry, I don’t think we emphasize that enough. Having good basic business and accounting skills is important.”

A college degree tops Hope’s recommendation list. “It allows you to be a more educated individual We need to understand how to manage our own money as well as give clients confidence that we have the sense to manage theirs when buying, selling and owning horses.”

She and Ned are UC Davis grads: he has a degree in economics and finance, and Hope’s is in Spanish and communication with a minor in political science. Their education has been critical to their success and Hope’s additional training as a mediator has been especially helpful in managing a large, high-end training barn.

Trainer Certification

The USHJA’s Trainer Certification Program was first proposed in 2004 and officially launched in 2010. It was developed to “preserve the American Hunter/Jumper forward riding system by offering a comprehensive educational program based on that system and providing increasing levels of certification for professional horse trainers.”

“While various professional industries have accreditation and certification processes and standards, this is a relatively new concept for the equine industry and the hunter/jumper sport,” explains the USHJA’s Louise Taylor. 
“Professionals who complete the USHJA Trainer Certification program demonstrate their commitment to professional development and education. They are a growing group of individuals dedicated to upholding the highest standards of horsemanship, instruction, management and business ethics by which USHJA encourages all professionals to strive to achieve.”

There are currently 558 certified trainers: 84 of them in Zone 10’s California and Nevada. Certification lasts five years.

The application process includes background screening, recommendations and successful completion of either a live TCP clinic or online training offered on Bernie Traurig’s EquestrianCoach.com website. Passage of an open book test is the final step to certification. Reflecting veterans’ belief in and desire to support the program, Bernie is a certified trainer himself, as are Karen and several seasoned Zone 10 professionals.

The extensive Trainer Certification manual was developed from collective trainer knowledge and books by great horsemen including Harry D Chamberlain, Gordon Wright, Vladimir S. Littauer, Anne Kursinski, and the US Pony Club’s Manual of Horsemanship. As part of her personal mission to promote her coach George Morris’ teaching in every way possible, Karen was a leading force in creating the Manual.

Generally considered a great idea, the TCP has had its growing pains, acknowledges committee chair, Shelley Campf, a longtime industry volunteer and veteran trainer based in Oregon.

Emphasizing the TCP’s educational origins, Shelley notes that the manual has met with universal approval and appreciation. There has been flak, she acknowledges, over the issue of levels of certification and the slow roll-out of additional phases of the program. Much of these phases are data-driven and, hence, complicated to implement and especially for a team comprised of non-profit staff and volunteers.

The next tier is helping certified trainers market their businesses and helping customers find a trainer whose specialty fits their needs.

Technology plays a big part in this phase and the results are already taking shape on the TCP’s searchable database. Prospective clients can currently search the database by location, trainer name or business name. Trainers provide information on their emphasis (i.e., hunters, jumpers, equitation, ponies, beginners, etc.), facility amenities and other categories. Graphs built from USEF competition results in various divisions corroborate trainer’s statements in a quantifiable way.

The next priority is refining the searchability of the TCP online member directory for increased consumer friendliness. Much of its effectiveness relies on trainers inputting sufficient information and on the USHJA and other organizations and individuals for promoting its existence.

Giving Back

Promoting participation in such programs is one of many ways to spur growth for the sport. Giving back to the sport is equally important.

Hope Glynn echoes the comments of many in noting a dearth of involvement from tomorrow’s professionals. “Our sport has had a one-percent growth rate for the last 10 years,” she relays. Looking beyond immediate financial benefits to contribute to the greater good is critical to the sport’s long-term growth and to every professional’s ability to stay in it successfully over the long haul.

As the owner of a large and successful barn, and as a wife and parent, Hope figures if she can find time for volunteer work, so can and should others.

Hope and Shelley advise initial involvement in local organizations, of which there are many in Zone 10. Observing veterans in action and helping grow the sport locally is a great place to start.

(Nominations for USHJA Zone committees are open through March 1. Visit www.ushja.org or e-mail Erin Keating at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more info.)

“I’m excited about the future of our sport,” Shelley says. “Our big focus is on growth. There are a lot of people who are enthusiastic about trying to make things better.  This is not the old boys club that it has been for so many years and the changes that we are trying to make are exciting.”

The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 949-644-2165.