When the Boss Is Away

For trainers who take clients on the road, who takes care of the ones at home?

With blood, sweat and tears—and rewards—you’ve built a successful training and teaching business. And, if you’re like most of your colleagues, you’ve toiled your share of 12-hour days and seven-day weeks because you chose to have your hands on every part of the operation that bears your name and reputation. You are responsible, after all. But, at some point, you realize you’re not a pie that can be cut six ways, and delegation of duties must occur. Knowing how others have handled this career turn may help.

Only One of Me

Can you be all things to all people? Andrea Guzinski is owner/manager of Cedarhill Farm in Waxhaw, near Charlotte, N. C., specializing in hunters, jumpers and equitation; clinics and camps also play a part here. Guzinski took over the operation from its original owner, “did the lesson program and was looking for someone else to do the ‘big people,’ but I never really found the right person. So I made a go of it.”

How time flies. “I did ‘it’ for almost 20 years,” says Guzinski, “and I did keep people pretty happy: teaching all week, going to shows on the weekends, coming home on Sunday night and doing it all again.” When she was away, she worried about her people at home. “I had part-time instructors that would help and fill in; but the bigger kids that had their own horses, always wanted me.”

Sound familiar? Guzinski felt she had “to rush home and teach them. I burned myself out, and got really tired of it.” No wonder: Doing the big shows—Harrisburg, Washington, Palm Beach—was “very exciting” but the pace took its eventual toll.

Then, a year ago, she hired Brenley Allyn, just in from Seattle, Wash. Allyn started by hacking and now is head trainer. “We work terrifically together and it’s great that she’s taken over the teaching,” says the more-contented boss.

Guzinski is also ably assisted by Caroline Foto, who was a client before college and who returned later to join Guzinski’s team, “much to her parents’ dismay,” laughs Cedarhill’s owner.

Both employees are relatively young—in their mid-20s. “I can trust Caroline, who has a work ethic not many young people have these days; she’s responsible and dedicated, too,” says Guzinski. She shudders to recall going away in “the old days” when things went wrong, “or once, an aged school horse died; and it wasn’t because I wasn’t there—I’d call and check daily—it was just luck.”

Now able to be an owner more than a teacher, with as many as eight people supporting her, Guzinski admits, “I’ve been fortunate to have good staff,” but says that previously, “there’s no question people would be disgruntled if I wasn’t there.”

Like She Never Left

She’s an enthusiastic ambassador and volunteer, training, breeding and working for many years on behalf of Lusitanos for the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and International Andalusian Lusitano Association (IALHA). Jane Creagh of Plainfield, Vt., and Vermont Lusitano has taught for 25 years. “I’m a big believer in taking care of barn help,” she says. She cites her employee, Constance Hare, “who comes in and I can leave my barn knowing that it will be like I never left. She is so wonderful, and I appreciate the great help.”

Coaching 10 clients during her summer season, she says, “It’s not just the two of us who hold things together, my husband helps too; I rely on the family.” Creagh works hard to communicate with her clients at all times. “If I have horses in for training, and students taking regular lessons, and I have to leave town, my clients are pretty understanding.” As Guzinski once did, Creagh says she’ll “make up lessons on either end of my trip to get time in with those horses.” She also works with another local teacher/trainer who comes in to teach, and Creagh’s agreeable clients will even trailer to that trainer’s location: everyone’s a team player.

“I have experienced ‘disasters.’ There’s nothing worse than being out of the country and getting a phone call that something’s happened when you’re not there,” Creagh says. Like the time a gate got left open with stallions on the property: “Luckily, it was fine.”

She credits her on-site network for “making things run pretty smoothly. The week before I leave, however, I make sure I have plenty of everything on hand. I call the vet to tell him I’m going, so when he gets a call from my helper, he tries to make that a priority, knowing I’m not on the farm to make decisions.”

Not Your Fault

At Performance Plus Arabians in Sioux Falls, S.D., Deb McGuire has been eloquently speaking “Arabian” for almost 40 years. Her 27-heated-stall barn caters mostly to youth, and she’s journeyed to Nationals every year since 1993. She attends regional shows, too, some 10 to 12 total outings a year. McGuire teaches Western, English, hunter, show hack, “everything but driving, reining and trail,” she says. She also serves on the board of the Arabian Horse Association (AHA).

When we caught up with her, she was on the road to an Ohio show, trailer behind truck. “This has been the worst year of my life,” she confesses candidly. “Every time I go away, a horse gets hurt or one goes lame,” and just as in Gazinski’s case, “it’s not because of the person left behind. It’s just how things go, in spite of the best-laid plans.”

For 15 head of show horses, says McGuire, she employs one main groom who’s also the barn manager, and six part-timers who “do various jobs. One is a programs assistant who also rides for me.” Four run the riding academy.

Showing on the road means McGuire has to establish a certain comfort level first. “Most of my kids can ride their own horses pretty successfully when I’m gone; I encourage them to do so once or twice a week during that time.” She does rely on some of her adults “to help kids on weekdays.”

For clients that live farther away, being away “makes it more difficult for them.” Not surprisingly, “they like me to be around when they ride.”

So how does a trainer rub the magic lamp and—poof!—make reliable, honorable help appear? “Frequently, you just have to hope you find the kind of people who are as driven as you are; then you have to delegate. Good finds don’t happen as often as you’d like,” reflects McGuire on her past roster of help. “Some are really committed, some are just not. That’s true of the world in general. It seems younger people aren’t as responsible in their jobs and don’t want ownership in anything, so you hire people that just want to play with horses. But, in the end, you have to have people who really want to work.”






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