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  1. #1

    Default How to tell current barn owner I am unhappy with lessons and might leave?

    I currently have been riding at this barn for about 3 months. It is a boarding barn but also has a small school, there are only 4 horses and 3 are ponies and too small for me so I only have 1 choice of who to ride. I find this horse is too advanced for me and makes me nervous. Also I don't feel as if I am making progress at this barn. I am thinking of talking to the barn owner (who also teaches the lessons) and telling her that I am not happy with my horse or the lessons. I will probably give her until the end of January and if my situation has not improved I will leave and go to another barn. The problem is that the barn owner and I have become good friends (she even gave me a christmas present) and shes a really nice person. I don't know how I can talk to her about the quality of lessons without hurting her feelings... Also if she doesnt improve the lessons how can I tell her that I'm leaving without hurting her feelings? Thanks so much in advance


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  2. #2
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    Your BO is in a service based business. I am sure she has been around the block a time or two and has had lesson students leave the program before.

    Your first problem is that she does not have an appropriate horse for you to ride. If you do not want to risk ruining a friendship by stating that you are unhappy with the quality, you could leave it at that. Additionally, the reason why you are not getting anything out of the lessons probably has to do with the fact that you are focusing too much on how uncomfortable you are on the horse.

    The long and the short of it is that people ride at different barns with different people because they need to find their match. It took me many years of riding at different barns to find my perfect barn family. As a professional in the community I am still on very good terms with all of the trainers that I have ridden with in the past. People understand (or SHOULD understand) that you need the best bang for your buck and that lesson students come and go...and sometimes come back.
    I WAS a proud member of the *I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday* clique..but now I am 30!!!!!!!!!!!
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  3. #3
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    If this person has become somewhat of a friend to you, here is what I would recommend saying in a private conversation:

    "I've enjoyed working with you but it looks like where is only one horse I can ride and I don't feel comfortable riding him. I feel like I'm stalled because he makes me nervous and I'm having trouble dealing with that. Are there any other ways we could continue working together, perhaps by doing [X]?"

    X could be a suggestion about using a boarder's horse for lessons, pursuing a 1/2 lease or some other thing. Without knowing more about this barn it would be hard to know what to suggest.

    This emphasizes that you like her as a person (ie "I enjoy working with *you*) and makes it clear you would like to find ways to make it work. Then if she isn't able to come up with any ideas, you can leave without feeling like you've hurt her feelings. This somewhat softened approach also prevents you from burning bridges.


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  4. #4
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    Could you try out the ponies? If she has a large pony, they can often carry an average sized adult quite easily.


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  5. #5
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    I agree with STB. I'm 5'4" and have ridden some ponies. As long as they have a nice round barrel, some can take up an adult's leg quite easily. I went trail riding not too long ago on a halflinger, who was definitely large pony size, but very easy to ride. His round barrel made him seem larger than he really was.



  6. #6
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    Be honest and express your concerns about the horse you are riding and ask if the trainer can foresee any alternative. Trainers with very small strings of horses realize that they have limited offerings. If you are not the only rider she has at your level (and physical size) then she may consider looking into another horse, possibly one that suits you and a couple of other students. Maybe there is a boarders horse available that might suit as well. If she knows of your concerns that "Jalapeno" might be a bit much for you, maybe she can tone down your lessons for a time until you catch up with your mount?

    Those (like me) without horse of our own are in a "beggars can't be choosers" situation, but we have to do what is best for our own riding. Small programs can be great but when the one suitable horse becomes unavailable (through sale or lease or illness etc) then a bigger barn might be more suitable.

    Be sure your trainer understands that it's not personal and not a problem with her instruction. Let her know (if it's the case) that if she had a more appropriate horse that you would certainly be staying. She might be able to advise you of options. Who knows? Maybe another rider has expressed similar concerns and she is shopping for a schoolie that could suit you both?

    I know it's tough to leave a trainer you like. I have done it and be blessed in that they understood why I was leaving. (In my case, a boarder I lessoned with asked me to be her backup rider once or twice a week and when she travelled. Boarder was looking for a change to a barn more in her genre and I chose to go where the horse did.) If you are polite and honest, the ball is in her court. If she is sincere, a really a friend, she will understand.
    F O.B
    Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
    Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


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  7. #7
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    Jul. 11, 2010
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    From your post, OP, it sounded like the problem was both the BO's instructing and the suitability of the horse. If this is the case, you can use the lack of a suitable horse as an excuse to move on to a different barn. That way, you don't need to bring up her instruction as part of the reason. If you would actually like to like to, let her know that you would like to remain friends and maybe try to arrange coffee or something (your treat).



  8. #8
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    Jan. 17, 2001
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    California
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    If you have become friends, you should talk with her as a friend as well as a barn owner. Say just what you've said here---that the one horse that is suitable for you size-wise, you feel is too advanced for you. You are nervous riding the horse, and you feel that you aren't able to improve your riding because you are fearful of riding this horse. You might also say that while you think your instructor is nice, you aren't sure how to approach her about what your riding goals are. Then, ask her advice---perhaps she can watch a lesson? Perhaps she can suggest how to talk with the instructor, or you can have a 10-minute 3-way conversation together to discuss your goals? That way, you've explored all avenues, and if it still doesn't improve, you can quietly look at other barns until you find a better situation, and then move, while maintaining your friendliness at your current barn. A nice note with a small thank you gift when you leave is a nice touch (for bo and instructor.) You never know when you might want to return--perhaps gain skill and confidence, and really want to ride the advanced horse---and that way they will be more than happy to have you back.



  9. #9
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    This type of situation can be one of the great things about riding at a smaller barn and unfortunately one of the bad things about it. There is absolutely nothing wrong w/ you feeling overfaced by riding a horse you feel is too advanced. On the one hand that's good that she has a quality horse for you to ride but not good it makes you uncomfortable. Are the ponies too small for you to lesson on? There might be a boarder's horse that might be a better fit for you BUT that boarder may or may not want their horse used in lessons.

    Best thing is just to be honest and upfront w/ the trainer. It is not your problem if she doesnt' have a suitable horse for your lessons and she might be able to suggest another place where you could ride - are there other places around for you to go? Good luck and let us know how it turns out



  10. #10
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    Spartacus, "You might also say that while you think your instructor is nice, you aren't sure how to approach her about what your riding goals are. Then, ask her advice---perhaps she can watch a lesson? Perhaps she can suggest how to talk with the instructor, or you can have a 10-minute 3-way conversation together to discuss your goals?"

    The barn owner = instructor :-)
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  11. #11
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    I totally understand this, but from the other side of the fence - I teach a few students with a very limited number of horses. I often wish I had a different horse to use for someone, to teach a particular skill or help them through a rough spot. So, maybe you can say to your instructor, "I really like taking lessons from you, but I feel like I'm stuck on a plateau riding Sparky because he feels like too much horse for me. Is there any way we can borrow a different horse for me to ride for a while? What's your take on it - am I stuck in a rut with him, or do you think we're getting close to a breakthrough?" Your instructor may be thinking the same thing, or, she may be thinking that you and Sparky need to keep working through the challenges because he has some important things to teach you. If you're scared of him, you need to tell her, so she can adjust the situation to keep you safe. Building and learning trust is as much of a part of riding as learning the physical skills of equitation.

    All that said - another aspect I didn't think of at first - if this instructor is relatively inexperienced and doesn't do a lot of teaching with their small string of horses, you might be better off looking for a person or program with a proven record of safe and effective teaching. Great to help a new instructor get their business started, but not at the expense of your safety, confidence and pocketbook.


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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by betsyk View Post
    I totally understand this, but from the other side of the fence - I teach a few students with a very limited number of horses. I often wish I had a different horse to use for someone, to teach a particular skill or help them through a rough spot. So, maybe you can say to your instructor, "I really like taking lessons from you, but I feel like I'm stuck on a plateau riding Sparky because he feels like too much horse for me. Is there any way we can borrow a different horse for me to ride for a while? What's your take on it - am I stuck in a rut with him, or do you think we're getting close to a breakthrough?" Your instructor may be thinking the same thing, or, she may be thinking that you and Sparky need to keep working through the challenges because he has some important things to teach you. If you're scared of him, you need to tell her, so she can adjust the situation to keep you safe. Building and learning trust is as much of a part of riding as learning the physical skills of equitation.

    All that said - another aspect I didn't think of at first - if this instructor is relatively inexperienced and doesn't do a lot of teaching with their small string of horses, you might be better off looking for a person or program with a proven record of safe and effective teaching. Great to help a new instructor get their business started, but not at the expense of your safety, confidence and pocketbook.
    Excellent post/advice



  13. #13
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    Be honest.
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  14. #14
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    Why not just take a few lessons from another barn while continuing your relationship with your friend the BO here? There is no exclusive agreement any more then there is with whoever does your hair-you CAN experiment and try something else.

    Maybe the other barns around will be worse. Always better to have an alternative in mind rather then just being stuck not liking where you are. That might help you talk to the BO about better meeting your needs.

    However, if it involves using a boarders horse outside of a formal lease or her buying another horse? It may not be something she is willing or able to arrange. I'd hate to see you not advance your riding or enjoying your lessons for fear of hurting the BOs feelings of she cannot make a big change in her program like another horse. Also hate to see you get hurt of you are overhorsed...as adults, we have to do all we can to avoid that.

    If she really is your friend, she will know she is holding you back and not mind if you go elsewhere at least for awhile so you can be more confident. If she minds? Not any more of a friend them most trainers are with their clients in a business that requires them to be friendly to all clients...while they are clients.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

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  15. #15
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    My advice is, while remaining polite and calm, to be COMPLETELY HONEST AND UPFRONT with your concerns and the reasons behind them. Not always easy, but in my opinion, the best way to go for everyone.



  16. #16
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    Personally I think it would better to be a little vague, there's no way you can tell the instructor that you think the quality of her teaching is substandard without insulting her. And I think it is worthwhile to make every effort to stay on good terms because you might go somewhere else that is worse and will give you a whole new perspective on this instructor's program.

    I'd say something general like, "It's been great lessoning with you but I'm not comfortable riding Fuzzy. I'm going to try doing some lessons at barn X because they have some horses that might suit my needs better, but let me know if you have any other alternatives. Again, I've really enjoyed riding with you and I'm so glad I had the experience of riding at your barn."

    FWIW, I think that the honestly policy is good when it is something that is non-personal and could be reasonably be changed. For example, if there are too many other horses working in the ring during lessons, the horse needs a different piece of equipment, etc. Telling someone they aren't a good instructor probably isn't going to change the quality of their instruction, and I think it is a comment that would be taken personally.

    I would not feel bad or guilty about your decision to move to a new barn at all. Most trainers are used to students moving on after a period of time. Many students find that after a certain amount of time with a particular instructor they tend to plateau and need to move on to a new instructor.



  17. #17
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    OP, is your dissatisfaction only because of the lack of horse options? IOW, if you had a "perfect match" horse would you be happy with the instruction?
    F O.B
    Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
    Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique



  18. #18
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    Just something to think about: you sound like you are blurring the line between a professional transactional relationship and a friendship. People (especially younger or "people pleaser" types) tend to do this more often than not and it always creates a mess when you have issues with the "transaction". Look, you don't have to pay your friends; when you have to pay, it's a transaction. You can have friendly transactional relationships, but the are NOT friendships.

    That being said you just state your needs in a forthright, factual (and friendly) manner. " This arrangement is not meeting my needs at this time. I am going to try lessons at another barn. I appreciate all you have done for me up to this point. I'm sure I will see you somewhere down the road. Thanks and goodbye." It doesn't have to be any more complicated than that. The "hurt feelings" of a service provider are not your concern. If you are polite and factual you have done all you really need to do. If the other party is "hurt" then they really weren't a professional.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BeeHoney View Post
    Personally I think it would better to be a little vague, there's no way you can tell the instructor that you think the quality of her teaching is substandard without insulting her. .

    Another thing to consider is that there is no one perfect instructor for anyone. I'm not sure what is going on in the lessons but perhaps she is not a good "match" for you/your learning style? Now if she is unsafe or has poor judgement then she isn't a good match for anyone. Assuming the horse issue is worked out and it is a teaching style issue perhaps you could give her some feedback on how you learn best and perhaps that would help. Best of luck to you. I hope things will work out one way or another.



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