Hi there - I'm new to the board, and am in the process of searching for a h/j trainer after spending 15 years as a WP person, but I'm a little unsure as to the appropriate etiquette when looking for said trainer. Initially, I'd like to take lessons and lease a horse at the new barn, then start the search for one to buy after I get a bit more experience in the new discipline. So my questions are:
1) Is it appropriate to schedule a "trial" lesson, and is that what people generally do with potential trainers? I'd like to visit the barn, meet the horses, and see what the trainer's teaching style is like, but I wasn't sure if it was acceptable to schedule a trial lesson, or if I should go ahead and schedule a series of normal lessons.
2) Since I don't show, I've been using referrals from friends as the source of trainers, and phoning them, but not getting many calls back. I don't want to just show up at the barn and interrupt whatever the trainer is doing in order to introduce myself, so what is the best way to contact them? Is it possible that there are quite a few trainers that aren't interested in taking on new clients, especially non-boarders?
Any suggestions would be much appreciated - thanks!!
Try to go to a local show and check out the trainers who are there. Listen to them school their clients. If you think you might like them find out who they are. (Most shows that have stalls will have plenty of things with the farm's name on it lol) That's what I did to find a new trainer and it worked out very well. I went on the websites and e-mailed the trainers that I was interested in (getting in touch with me via phone is hard because I have a weird class schedule and work schedule). I did go out and watch a couple lessons but ended up only really liking one trainer. I did take a trial lesson with him and it went really well. I just said that I wanted to make sure my horse and I were a good fit with the way he teaches, he didn't seem to care.
Websites can be very helpful when searching for a new trainer because it can tell you a lot about the trainer and the people that the trainer usually works with (ie: is it more of a beginner lesson barn or does it concentrate on showing and travel a lot?)
I've done the trainer search a few times over the years so I know how tough it can be lol. And then when you finally find one you like she goes and gets a better job and moves out of state! Although she did recommend trainers to us before she left lol. Anyways good luck!
1) I think that this is definately appropriate. Personally, I wouldn't want to drop $200 or more on a series of lessons just to find out that the trainer and I don't get along for one reason or another after lesson #1. Also, I know from working FOR trainers, that they may have a student show up that doesn't want to TRY and WORK to improve. I KNOW that they wouldn't want to be stuck forcing said student to drop their stirrups and trot for the next 2 months.
2) Put yourself in the trainer's shoes. Most of them (at least the good ones, in theory) are VERY busy. It is very hard to get a hold of them, especially on the phone. Do the trainers you are calling have e-mail addresses? Maybe e-mail them. Sometimes the only time they have is 10:00 pm, which is really not an appropriate time to be calling someone to discuss business. On the other hand, if you REALLY want to ride with a certain trainer, and you can't get a hold of her, then it shouldn't be unacceptable for you to show up at her farm. Even if you just show up, say hi, and drop off your number. This shows her you really are interested in riding with her. Also (zipping up flame suit), this is a good chance to see how the barn is kept/run on a daily basis. Some trainers will clean up and make sure everything is spotless when they know a new client is coming to the barn. I would rather see what the barn looks like sans prep and cleaning, especially if I'm also going to be boarding there eventually.
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Have yet to find ANY barn-Western, Huntseat, Saddle Seat, Ayrab, QH or just an all breed boarding barn-that minds anybody dropping by for a look see during normal business hours. Not one ever minded a bit.
Pick a time they will likely be teaching if you are interested in lessons...usually a week day, NOT Monday, many are closed. Maybe a Tuesday or Thursday around 4:30 to 5:30pm or a Saturday around 12noon. Avoid Sundays and after dark if you can and you do not know their normal hours for lessons.
OBVIOUSLY if there is a locked gate and no trespassing signs, you need to make an appointment. But of there is a sign by the road that states they give lessons and no gate? They are open and you are welcome.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
As a trainer, I *insist* upon a trial lesson for any new client. I tell them this is necessary to ensure our program will be a good fit for them and vice-versa. I'd be wary of a trainer who requires you to sign up for a package off the bat.
Dropping by depends on the farm. Since mine is small and relatively private (mostly boarders and just a few lesson horses) and I know my clients value our quiet atmosphere, I much prefer when potential clients make an appointment. A busier lesson barn probably wouldn't see this as an imposition at all though.
Definitely schedule a trial lesson!! It's a great way to know if you and the trainer will get along. Like many others have said, there are few places who will mind you dropping in unannounced if you're polite and understand that they are busy people (which I'm sure you are/do understand! ) I'm a huge advocate of dropping by when they don't know that the potential new client is coming by... you can see how the trainer "really" is, because some people put up a huge act to reel new people in. The only trainer I didn't drop in on is the only trainer who's ever made me cry during multiple lessons. But I'm sure you're going to find someone great!! good luck!
I think dropping by is acceptable, but be considerate. If they are busy teaching ask if it is ok to watch and then talk to them after the lesson, or if they would prefer you just leave your name and number for them to contact you about lessons.
Thanks for the suggestions, I was concerned I was being too upfront in asking for a trial lesson, and that it was off-putting to the trainer for me to request it. The barn I'm currently riding at (h/j facility in a totally different and more east-coast style state) has a scheduler, so when I was looking for a trainer here, I was able to call and schedule a lesson immediately, but back home in the midwest, I've been calling trainers directly, which is a bit intimidating. Thanks again, and feel free to post any other thoughts on new trainers and the search process!!
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Call up and ask for a trial-lesson. Totally O.K. Also, a pretty decent rule of thumb is if the barn has a sign up (like a big one with the name on it) it is ok to drop by and look around. That is what I did at my current barn. We then scheduled a trial lesson.
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When I've looked for trainers in the past it is very frustrating to not have one call me back, in my opinion if they are busy or are at a show I can wait a few days for them to call but otherwise I'd like a call within a week, even if they have to use an assistant to call.
I seem to have better luck with THEM showing up on time for a lesson and focusing on me (and not the high dollar client, the horse they are riding, their children, etc) if they answer the phone or get a hold of me. Email or phone, I don't care. Even if I have to play phone tag or it's a "I'm at the barn every wed - friday til 10pm stop by" kind of call.
Not all barns are great at returning calls. If its a "lesson barn" then stop by. If they advertise in local publications like welcome wagon or little monthly "our community" publications, or the yellow pages with words like "lessons" or "accepting students" then stop by. Don't expect to be waited on likey royalty but you should be treated politely. Introduce yourself and let them know "who you are" in terms of your riding experience. Saying "I rode for 3 years with Betsy at Barn X" (if Betsy is reputable) offers a hint of credibilty and might help someone there place you as familiar.
Ask if you may speak with the owner or manager. If they are teaching, sit and watch. See how you like the lesson, the horses etc.
If they are busy and don't immediately have time, ask for permission to look around. See how the horses look. Are they clean and happy? To the clients seems happy, friendly? Is the barn safe and in good repair?
I'd prefer to be able to take one trial lesson, not have to spend alot on a package. You may try a couple of places and you may have to compromise. One barn may have a nice horse that you really like but the trainer at another may be more your style. You have to decide what is most important to you based on your goals.
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enjoytheride - I agree. It's frustrating to know that there's a trainer with good references that you'd like to meet, but you can't seem to get a hold of them. That's how this whole thread got started, because there are three that I'm trying to contact, but none are returning my calls and/or emails - I was wondering if it's something I'm saying, or if it's just that they're super-busy. All three are at smaller (under 30 stalls) facilities that they own, not big lesson barns - meaning they're not only training but managing the barn & boarders as well, so I'm assuming it's the "super-busy" answer.
There's actually one trainer that I've spoken with and was super-impressed, and that a friend rides with and loves - but unfortunately she doesn't have lesson horses, and my 27-year old QH isn't really interested in a new jumping career at this point...
Darn it, OP, why didn't you post this 3 days ago?!! Only one H/J association in the KC region runs a winter show series, and the finals were this weekend...........probably a dozen different local trainers there (and several COTHers, too ), and you could have hung out on the rail all day by the in-gate. Might have helped you narrow your search down, and let you make some direct contacts.