By Abigail Boatwright for The American Quarter Horse Journal
The relationship between a trainer and client is a special one. The trainer imparts expert advice, guiding and coaching the rider to be the best they can be. When the trainer is your child, or your child’s spouse, that makes for a unique twist on the trainer/client and parent/child dynamic. These two Select riders enjoy this familial-yet-instructive relationship, demonstrated at the Adequan® Select World.
Debora Smith of Bellefontaine, Ohio, hired AQHA Professional Horseman Dewey Smith to train her before he’d ever met her daughter, Tammi. This was over 20 years ago. As time passed, Dewey and Tammi started dating and got married 15 years ago. So now, Debora is coached for halter events by her son-in-law. That could be a recipe for disaster, except it’s not – it’s been a positive relationship, in part, because of the trust that exists between all three equine enthusiasts.
“She’s very easily coached,” Dewey says. “You just tell her what to do and she does it, because she doesn't think that the horse won't do what she's asking. She's confident.”
Dewey knows Debora’s strengths and weaknesses. He knows the type of horse she can handle, even when she tells him otherwise.
“She had two rules: She didn’t want to show a baby or a stud,” Dewey says, laughing. “She's won the Congress with a baby stud. She's been reserve world champion with a 3-year-old stud (One More Clu) and she showed a 3-year-old stud here (at the Adequan® Select World).”
But that young stud, Whoisit, is just the right partner for Debora. Sired by Heza Secret Agent, he’s out of Telorah U by R F Telstar. And at this year’s Adequan Select World, Debora led the sorrel stallion to a gold trophy in 3-year-old stallions.
Some of the benefits of training family are light-hearted.
“She can’t fire you!” Tammi says jokingly.
“She pays real well in home-cooked meals and babysitting,” Dewey adds.
For Debora, knowing that her trainer has her back is the best part of training with family.
“I know if Dewey gives me one to show, it's ready for me to show,” Debora says. “Otherwise, he knows my capabilities and not; and so I feel confident that when I go in there that the horse is broke for me to be able to handle it. And I know he’s there for me. I know he’s watching out for me.”
Christy Arrington and Vickie Kent
Vickie Kent was a horse trainer, once upon a time. Her daughter, Christy (now Arrington) grew up riding alongside Vickie, then learning from other trainers and building up her own training operation since the late ’90s. Vickie returned to amateur status 18 years ago and spent time learning, under the tutelage of a variety of trainers. When she turned 50 and became eligible to compete in the Select amateur division, she’d receive help at shows from other trainers, and Christy would help her at home. About four years ago, Vickie began training with Christy and her husband, Ricky, full time.
“No matter who you are, you always need someone on the ground, someone to watch you and help you,” Vickie says. “Christy has always given me confidence. She'll tell you what's wrong. But then she also tells you what's right.”
Vickie and her husband, Ronnie, and Christy, Ricky and their son, Clay, live just about a half-mile from each other in Graceville, Florida, across a hay field. They all work with Vickie and Ronnie’s homebred horses: Clay breaks the colts, trains and shows them in western pleasure as 2- and 3-year-olds and then Christy and Ricky train the ones they keep in the all-around classes.
Christy uses technology as her back up for training sometimes.
“It's been difficult at times,” Christy says with a laugh. “I have learned that the video is your best friend. We video the ride and we'll go over it together, and that way there's nothing to argue about because it's right there.”
Spending time together is the best perk of the training relationship, both women assert.
At this year’s Adequan Select World, Vickie rode Won Lopin RV Machine, a 2009 chestnut gelding by A Good Machine and out of Ill Be Dun It by Zips Poco Pine. She competed in trail and western riding.