I don’t remember what the date was, but I will never forget the first time I met Cori Trout.
I was searching for a trainer to help Chroi and I along our journey to becoming a driving team, and I called Cori- someone I’d never before met or spoken with (do you have any idea how scary that is for me??)- and asked if she might be willing to come evaluate Chroi for suitability for driving (since I didn’t want to try to train her for something she wasn’t going to be happy or willing to do).
Cori came out to visit us on a hot Arizona afternoon. My first impression was “Wow,” as she hauled driving training gear out of the back of her car, “is that really necessary?” It wasn’t a critical thought; rather, I was pleased and impressed that she’d come fully prepared. I also felt sheepishly inadequate and stupid as I showed her the (not nearly as cool) “gear” that I’d been thinking I’d train Chroi with.
She tacked Chroi up with her stuff and took her out to the arena to start seeing what she could do. Then the proverbial fit hit the shan.
No no no, not with Chroi. Chroi was great. What happened? My boarding barn’s owner came out to feed and saw Cori and I working together, and immediately raised her hackles.
She had a policy of NO outside trainers coming in. Period. And I, of course, thought I was outside of that policy since the barn owner was not a driving trainer. She only trained horses for the pleasure ring, and I was not even remotely interested in her training.
“I need to speak with you!” she yelled at me from across the arena.
“Okay!” I called back, trying to sound nonchalant and friendly even though her tone of voice both scared and shamed the crap out of me. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Whatever she wanted to say to me could wait until Cori and I were done.
I felt every single baleful glare and disapproving scowl she threw my way while I tried desperately (and very poorly) to save face in front of Cori and prayed our time together could just go smoothly. My heart was pounding with anxiety and I felt abysmally embarrassed.
Cori, much to her credit, seemed to take it all in stride. She was the picture of professionalism and graciousness, even as I sunk my foot ever deeper into my mouth as I tried to find a way to smooth things over.
My barn landlady didn’t want to wait a few minutes. She strode over to the fence nearest us and demanded that I come speak to her immediately. She proceeded to chew my tail. Did I realize how much it embarrassed her for me to have someone else on her property to train my horse? Did I realize how offensive it was? Did I not know the rule?
In my panic and humiliation I tried to explain Cori off as a friend who was helping me, rather than as a paid professional. I was ashamed of myself for lying. I was ashamed of myself for putting Cori in this position. I was embarrassed because I had wanted to look cool and competent, and oh boy was I anything but!
Barn landlady huffed and stormed off, and I later saw her standing just a little too close to another boarder, their heads together except for the occasional pause to look at Cori and I in the arena. I was certain she was gossiping about the whole affair, right there in front of me, to another boarder.
I wanted to disappear into a deep, dark hole.
Cori finished up with Chroi and I put her away. We walked to our vehicles, where I finally decided to just be honest and be done with it all. I had been in the wrong. I apologized to Cori, for putting her in such a bad position and for lying about her being a “friend” and not a professional. If a prospective client had ever put ME in a situation like that, I don’t think I would have handled it with half the aplomb that Cori showed.
During that conversation, my barn landlady came over to apologize as well. She realized that Cori was there to help me work with Chroi in a way that she herself couldn’t (although she claimed to be a driving trainer, I’ve never, ever seen a single piece of harness in her tack room) and she said that Cori was welcome any time. It was gracious of her, and I appreciated it. I was still irreparably humiliated, though, and I was glad knowing that Chroi would be in a new barn in the not-too-distant future, when my family relocated.
It wasn’t just Cori’s handling of an ugly situation that convinced me; I very much liked what I saw and learned as Cori put Chroi through her paces that afternoon. If Cori was willing to have Chroi and I as clients, I knew I wanted to hire her.
So, on June 22, 2017, in the middle of all the chaos of my life, I sent Chroi off for some beginning harness and driving training.
Don’t ask me why. Like every other thing surrounding the addition of Her Unicornliness to our family, my timing was horrible and it was a ridiculous thing to do. Wouldn’t saving the money have been much more prudent?
My thinking, at the time, was to get Chroi to a place where she’d be cared for and worked every day while our family went through moving- both the physical transition and the emotional. Since one of my “big” goals with her is to get her driving a cart, I thought I’d at least get her started. It was better, in my mind, than leaving her to rot in her pen while I dealt with everything.
Fun from the First
When I picked Chroi up from Heidi (her previous owner), getting her into the trailer turned into a two hour disaster and I was very unhappy with how the situation was handled. I was, however, too afraid to speak up about it, since the owners of the boarding stable were doing me a kindness in picking her up for me.
Lesson learned. I will not stand aside again and watch such a scene spiral into disaster.
I warned Cori ahead of time that Chroi might be hesitant to load. Sure enough, when Cori arrived to pick Chroi up, Chroi wanted nothing to do with going into the trailer. It was Training Day 1.
Moving right along: Week 1
Cori’s next steps involved introducing Chroi to movements from the ground to introduce whip cues that will be using in driving. Cori asked for Chroi to yield her shoulders and hips. Chroi absolutely resists moving her shoulders- she won’t turn on her haunches. It took her a while to catch on, but being the awesome Unicorn that she is she of course eventually got it.
In Chroi’s first week of training Cori worked on teaching whip cues and yielding, and she introduced PVC “shafts” and the noise of a tire dragging around Chroi.
Chroi barely batted an eyelash.
Cori also continued to work on trailer loading with Chroi, and it was brilliant. Her goal was more than just getting Chroi in the trailer- it was to get her comfortable with going in the trailer, as well as teaching her to be attentive to her handler. That meant hanging out and relaxing in the trailer until she was “asked” to come out.
Weeks 2 & 3
Cori continued to work on whip cues and longeing, both on a single line and on two driving lines. She needed to fine-tune some manners when it came to unrequested direction changes. Chroi got more work with PVC pipe “shafts” and tire noise.
Cori introduced rope traces and the concept of pressure on the harness (the kind of pressure a cart might make).
Finally, Chroi graduated to pulling the tire! I felt like I’d been waiting for this moment for my whole life!
After weeks of working on ground manners and desensitization to both the noises and feelings of things dragging both from and around her, Chroi got her first feel of actual vehicle shafts in her harness. Cori hooked her up to the forecart, unhooked her, and hooked her up again several times. Cori messed with the shafts and the traces. Chroi simply stood like it was no big deal.
It was fantastic while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end eventually, right? Our thirty days of training with Cori seemed to go by much too fast, and Chroi was brought to her new home. I was, and still am, incredibly nervous about working with Chroi on my own- I feel like I desperately want Cori around to hold my hand!
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt
I’m so pleased with Cori’s work with Chroi. Cori is the most thoughtful, patient, and sensitive trainer I’ve ever met, and I learned a great deal from being able to watch her work with Chroi (and other horses). I also learned a great deal about professionalism just from experiencing her impeccable professionalism. I had the privilege of getting to have some actual “lessons” with her, too, for which I am incredibly grateful.
I simply can’t say enough good things about Cori. Another trainer might have had Chroi pulling a cart in 30 days, but would Chroi have been given such a strong foundation in groundwork as a base from which to grow? I don’t think so. Cori’s careful attention and sensitivity to detail made me extremely happy with her training. Cori wrote me: “If base feels like it is mushy the finer work isn’t going to come together well.” I couldn’t agree more. I spent my youth training and competing in dressage, and from that background comes my belief that basics are the foundation of everything and you can never spend too much time on working them. You can’t take a training level horse and force it into a frame and call it a piaffe, it just doesn’t work that way. I feel like Cori was worth every single penny I spent, and I can’t wait to give her my money again for future training.
If base feels like it is mushy the finer work isn’t going to come together well. -Cori
Please visit Cori’s website CERT Horsemanship and visit her on Facebook. “CERT” stands for “Cori’s Equine & Rider Training.” She specializes in riding and driving lessons for all ages and skill levels and covers Western, English, and Trail Riding disciplines. C.E.R.T. also offers lessons in cart and carriage driving. Cori holds degrees in Equine Science and Art Education. She has over 20+ years experience working with horses and riders. Cori has achieved Level 2 certifications with the American Riding Instructor’s Association in:
– Basic Horsemanship
– Recreational Riding
C.E.R.T. currently has students ages 5 and older.
For more information feel free to contact Cori via one of the links above!