Friday 11 December 2015

Hoping Santa brings peace, joy, and some duct tape for that client's mouth. Christmas at Coach C's

Season's Greetings everyone,

You will have to excuse me if I seem a little worn out. The new man in my life has a strange addiction. One possibly more expensive and time consuming than horses.

He loves Costco. Just driving into the parking lot is like entering the gates of Hell to me, but somehow being a part of the crush of walking dead zombies pushing carts through the giant roll-up garage style doors gives him a thrill.  So, I did my best to join in to the fun. I am now exhausted from all of the raw, unadulterated consumerism in action.

Luckily I can always find my companion in the crowd at Costco in Brampton as he is the only one who is 6'1 and Bart Simpson blond.
Being a condo dweller now, I was able to resist the pull of Christmas decoration club packs (for example "pine made of plastic" door thingys in large multi boxes. Just how many doors these people have? And how much time do they blow on make-work door decorating projects?) but did leave with enough toilet paper to wipe my butt through 2016 and a huge 1 kilo tub of grated Parmesan cheese sufficient to bog my colon into producing only small hard goat poo niblets for the foreseeable future - thus reducing my need for toilet paper. Ah, Costco, you trickster you.

Where was I going with this - oh yes. Barns. And Christmas. And Ms. V's new home at Coach C's.

On arrival back in Canada, probably the last week of Novemeber or so, not only was I once again allowed to ride my horse, but I was also invited to attend the annual Coach C Christmas party.

The timing was perfect.

First - I had only been there less than a month, so I escaped the strange tradition of having to purchase an extravagant gift for my service provider. Since really, I had received very little service thus far.

For some reason I do not fully understand, in every other customer/service provider relationship in my life, it is the role of the service provider to purchase a Christmas gift for their customer, to thank them for their year's worth of business.

For example, I will return to Costco sometime next week to hastily purchase $500 or so dollars worth of meaningless decorative baskets which I will then spend a day or two driving all over the GTA to hand out to my customers. I will note, while dropping off my uninspired choice of gift, that these customers have already received at least 40 other decorative basket thingys from 40 other sales people in the industry, as we all seem to be obliged to partake in some sort of chocolatey Christmas inspired payola scheme.

Upon my departure, the buyer that I left my payola with will perhaps crack open the basket and eat the chocolates or other good bits, then leave the shitty hard candy and tea bags for other less fortunate office dwellers (I know this, having been one, and scavenged the dregs of Christmas basket loot along with others desperately searching for something chocolatey), and presumably when even the least appealing items have been picked clean, the glitter coated watering can or whatever strange item the stuff was shoved in will get tossed in the garbage.  Ahhh, Christmas.

But just like so many other aspects of the client/service provider relationship - in the horse world, things are different.

Only once have I ever received anything bigger than a Christmas card and a cookie or something else trivial from a coach (one took pictures of everyone's horses and gave customers framed prints - nice thoughtful idea, probably didn't cost much).

Not that I am complaining, I am not a Joy-Joy-Joy person and I could care less if I do get a gift - but it would be nice if this tradition of non-giving at Christmas went both ways.

Because for some strange reason in the equine world, the expectation is that although you have spent $15,000+ on board and whatnot this year keeping your service provider in business - you will now be expected to buy THEM something for Christmas.  (Coaches out there - do you actually expect a gift?  Or is this just some peer-pressure inspired thing that clients do to themselves?)  Watch for it on COTH (if it hasn't already started)...threads on "what to buy my coach for Christmas"  It is bizarre.

Sure, I played along. I bought the obligatory Keg gift card or two. But really - think I gave my coaches a whole year of a very special gift, each and every day - I paid my bills, and did not whine about trivial bullshit.  When I decided my program didn't fit with theirs - I packed my bags and got the Hell out without a fuss.  Merry Christmas. You are welcome.

More importantly though - the Christmas party gave me the chance to get to know my stablemates. And their families. And dogs. Etc.

Oh. My.

I seriously cannot imagine a job I would be less suited to than the coach/stable owner at a full service training facility (especially one where you also live on the premises somewhere, or in poor Coach C's situation, where one's home is joined right on to the barn).

It is like having an irritating extended family of in-laws in your face, at your house, every day, expecting you to be simpering and engaged and drippy sweet friendly 24-7.

But wait, I am getting ahead of myself, aren't I.  Back to the Christmas party. There were hors d'oeuvres and wine, decorations, music and lots of conversations dominated by people you would not listen to, given a choice, in any other social situation.  And peals of  that showy, hearty guffaw type laughter that says "I am way fucking funnier and happier than you will ever be". Yep, typical Holiday fun.

Motard was with me at the time, telling the chin-up story, which of course got a lot of said hearty guffaws, since the horse world is much akin to high school, and hearing about something weird that someone in a competing clique did is always great fun.  Having just returned from our near-death sailing experience, we also gave the loudest and most pontificating parent the opportunity to let us know that:

A. He knew more about sailing than we did and would have easily managed the tropical storm, probably with a shaken not stirred martini in one hand. Maybe both.

B. Because of his exceptional nautical skills he would have bought himself beautiful sailboat long ago, but instead purchased his lovely daughter a Young Rider horse

C. In case we were too slow to extrapolate this out all on our own, he pointed out that this meant their horse was VERY EXPENSIVE

I said TWO olives!  TWOO!

And so on. And through it all, Coach C had to jump around replenishing cheese and crackers an pouring wine, and checking in on each and every guest, as any good host does. To top it all off, horses were prepped and ridden during the events as entertainment, so not only was he expected to eat, drink, and be merry along with us, but also to cajole a piaffe or two out of a stone cold Warmblood or get a Dutchie who found the whole party atmosphere just a tad on the terrifying side to do something elegant and impressive without losing its shit.  All while laughing and smiling being his imp-like over the top friendly self.

I was incapable of dealing with even one set of in-laws without wanting to punch Big Jud the Motard mom in the mouth many, many times, let alone a whole gaggle of this sort of twisted "you have to be nice to me, as I am entitled to your suck-up skills no matter what sort of ninny-like behaviour I exhibit" fun. I have no idea how any of these trainers deal with it, along with all of the other stresses of running a business, without turning to alcohol or harder drugs, or having mental breakdowns.

Well actually I do know the answer - the answer (which has recently been proven to us all again) is that fairly often, they don't.


  1. LOL classic. Love that you are back in action again. Best Xmas card, and I quote...
    "Life is tough
    Times are Hard
    Here's your f*****g Christmas Card."

    End of Xmas exchange.


  2. Merry Christmas!
    Also, I love Costco. The Bacon! The Butter!

  3. This is why I'm always conveniently busy for the barn holiday party. ;)

  4. Poor Neil. Or perhaps more accurately, poor Cindy. Wasn't she in Germany at the time too?

  5. Well, I'm a lowly eventing coach, so I don't quite play in those sorts of sandboxes, but since you asked -- NO, I don't expect gifts from my clients. Kind people have occasionally given me bottles of wine, Timmie's cards (both of which speak to what's nearest and dearest to a coach's heart, other than the critters themselves), horse-themed Xmas ornaments, and the like, which are lovely but not at all expected. Best prezzie ever: one student showed up with a round bale on Xmas eve and put it in the paddock for me! On my part, I make truffles and cookies every year, and sometimes I find the time to make horse cookies as well, and I distribute those to the clients I do see around Xmas (many of my students are arena-less, so by December they have generally made themselves scarce). I really don't expect anyone to make a big deal out of it.

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  7. Brilliant! There is so much I can relate to in this post that I don't know where to begin! Looking forward to the next one.

  8. Five months, Curmudgeon! We miss you and your stories!

  9. I miss your posts, you're so hilarious. I want to know how you and your mare got from TL and First to riding at the level you achieved!