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Sending a horse to a trainer - your experiences

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    Sending a horse to a trainer - your experiences


    The training will stick only if you can maintain it. Before you send your horse, I'd recommend that you take lessons on some 2nd/3rd level horses so you can learn what it is to ride at these levels.

    Then, you can send off for a few months, but keep in mind that you will have to pick up where the trainer left off in order for your horse to get strong enough to really move up. Be patient as it will take a year or so before your horse is confirmed at the next level.
    Show me your horse and I will tell you who you are.


      Agree with Dressagelvr based on my own experiences. Never having been a DYI-er, I have consistently worked with a trainer on a schooled horse while the trainer rode/trained my greenie. Chemistry, whatever ... not the best results. I kept backing off riding my own horse cuz I did such a crappy job.

      Now I am working with a trainer on a schooled horse (a Master, if I ever rode one!) and also on my own horse, doing all the riding. I've been taking lessons for many many years and finally, it's all coming together. I'm actually enjoying the DYI.

      Also, look past 2nd/3rd for best results in avoiding "holes" in training that don't matter now, but will be huge issues later on.


        In theory it is not a bad plan - especially because trainer is close enough that you can take lessons each week and watch over the whole situation/process.

        What concerns me the most about your plan is where you said your current trainer is not a strong enough rider to do this for you at home. It may be tough to maintain the training you just spent a premium on if your day to day trainer is not strong enough to occasionally "take the temperature" of your progress by getting on your horse.

        I have definitely felt the squeeze of having maxed out a trainer's experience lately. Current trainer has ridden her own horses to I1, but has not really taught much past third. As I attempt to really clean up the edges of my work for PSG, she doesn't have a huge toolbox available for how to help the rider who doesn't always think/ride like her. She could get on and do it on my horse, but that is not my goal - to provide a nice horse for my trainer to show.


          The most important part is that you be there, and learn along with your horse. It would be super helpful if you could come out once during the week also.

          I'm on board with the question asked about your trainer at home. Is her eye better than her riding abilities?
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


            Original Poster

            Thanks for the input. Some good advice. Dressagelvr--I like your suggestion of sitting on some 2nd/3rd level horses. What's funny is that I have had the opportunity to ride 2 types of horses during my riding life: green/training level horses and a couple of upper level dressage horses (PSG and up). Nothing in between! When you ride an UL horse like that---it's hugely educational, but doesn't help me understand where MY horse should fall on that continuum. Nor does it teach me how to take a horse from "I-love-my-forehand" to "look-at-me-sit-on-my-butt!" The challenge is finding a 2nd/3rd level horse to ride. There aren't any at our current barn (all of my fellow boarders are at Training level toying around with 1st level). But good idea that I will explore a bit.


              Original Poster

              Merrygoround---yes, at home trainer has a very good eye and is a great instructor. She has had some past injuries and some physical challenges that make her riding abilities more limited.


                Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                The most important part is that you be there, and learn along with your horse. It would be super helpful if you could come out once during the week also.

                I'm on board with the question asked about your trainer at home. Is her eye better than her riding abilities?

                And honestly, I suspect you have some doubts about the trainer with whom you've hit a wall. If you have ridden PSG horses, you know what collection feels like, and are capable of riding it. The hole that is missing is the piece of how do you continue to develop the work to get your horse sitting more, and you're apparently not getting that with your current trainer. It should develop and just start appearing based on the correct exercises, not just be something you ask the horse to do. My youngster throws in an upper level collected canter for about 4 strides every few weeks. Our work is teaching her to bend behind and carry more, and while she's not really strong enough to do that, every once in a while she's caught up in a moment and sits well beyond what she's ready for and holds it for a few strides before she can't. In the meantime, her actual work is not suddenly showing collection, but gradually and slowly developing into collection. I more question the guidance you're getting on how to work/train your horse than your riding; I consider myself fairly crap especially when it comes to riding a greenbean, so if I can do it (and did with my older horse as well) I am convinced you're totally capable of it as well.
                If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                  To directly answer the question - I don't think a month with a trainer is a bad thing, but think it's very important you be there as much as possible and get some lessons, so you understand the work and how to apply it yourself. If you don't learn at the same point, the progress won't continue. But as I said in my post above - I believe you are totally capable of making it continue with some education on how to do that.
                  If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                    Originally posted by slp2 View Post
                    Nor does it teach me how to take a horse from "I-love-my-forehand" to "look-at-me-sit-on-my-butt!" .
                    Oh yes, I here you. Its a very hard time. I'm not sure sitting on a third level horse will help this specifically, since you are bringing a horse from 1st/2nd to 3rd. (Of course riding a horse at 3rd is very valuable, but not sure it will help YOU with THIS issue).

                    I like the idea of getting some more training on your horse, but also try to keep doing lessons on her in the process.

                    Jumping is really helping my horse with fitness for collection-- low jumps and grids.

                    All that said, I don't think there is really a simple answer. It's a very challenging period for everyone.


                      Two horses.

                      Do you have another horse to ride?

                      My experience was that I had a nice mare to ride and bought her daughter as a backed but green bean 3 coming 4 year old. Lovely gaits. I could ride but did not have skill/timing to teach her the job. Eventually found a very nice trainer that took on the young one in full training. I ride her 1-2x a week (usually weekends) to keep up with her.

                      In the meantime I worked with the older mare with weekly lessons to gradually move up from Training to First to Second to Third and did get my bronze last year. In my experience, the jump from First to Second is really big because it is the start of collection. I personally would not expect a month in training would be enough to get a horse understanding collection. (in just trot and canter as needed for 2nd level). Four to 6 months would be more reasonable - in my opinion. Remember the rule of thumb is 1 year to train per level (on average for a professional trainer).

                      It is possible for an amateur (e.g. me) to teach a horse 2nd/3rd level collection while learning herself, WITH REGULAR INSTRUCTION, but it takes longer than the experienced trainer riding all the time. I will say also the techniques for teaching collection were a variety of exercises (smaller circles and transitions on them) that helped the me and my mare learn. The horse has to learn to balance and you have to learn to give the aids for them to anticipate and 'sit'.

                      The younger mare is now showing Fourth and we hope to go further. So the professional trainer made all the difference, but it has been several years, not months, to get there.
                      Forward...go forward


                        Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                        The most important part is that you be there, and learn along with your horse. It would be super helpful if you could come out once during the week also.
                        OP, I am a lot like you. I'm a competent, effective rider who wants to learn a system. I can influence a horse, but I need to hold that "search image" (really, a feel for straightness, collection and responsiveness) that I'll strive for with a horse who doesn't yet have it.

                        When I go to a pro, I only go if I think she can teach me how to think as she does. That's because when I get home and it's just me and horseling, I need to be able to answer the question, "What would Pro do here?"

                        Also, I need the pro to help me develop any new physical skills required to make a horse that's better/more advanced than one I'd made in the past. In short, your ability to create your version of collection or to stick on a buck will get you so far. A so-so trainer will mistake that for "good enough." But chances are that if you are trying to train a horse beyond your normal level of riding and training, you'll have to refine your riding, too.

                        When I have put horses in training with pros, what has made it work were three things.

                        1. I could make the time to go there. I watched and asked questions. I rode other horses. I took a lot of lessons. It was a serious time commitment.

                        2. I let the pro do things her way and left the horse for longer (or agreed to take baby horse home and come back) if needed. Horses don't follow schedules and I think a good pro needs to have the freedom to train the horse the way she believes it needs to be trained.

                        That doesn't mean you check your wallet or your brain at the barn door! But you do agree to get on board with a project that might take more than 30 days. I think following the calendar very strictly is frustrating and potentially disappointing for all. Instead, you might end up doing some combination of training, short weeks of training and lessons for years. IMO, that's a great way to train a horse and a great way to help you develop as a rider capable of making up your own horses, each to a successively higher level. To me, this is what owning each horse is for. Over time, I want to become more and more capable of doing my own training. But I have to buy training in order to learn to do that.

                        3. I have to trust the pro in three areas: Horsemanship/riding, the barn and care, her honesty as a business person. When these things all line up, I'm really happy being a client and I enjoy the long-term project of making up a horse of mine with a pro's help. I like to think, too, that I'm an enjoyable client.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat


                          Original Poster

                          MVP--some really good advice and things to consider.

                          Alpha mare: Yes, I have other horses to ride--however they are: 1) my oldie that I ride lightly (used to be a lovely mover but is really starting to feel creaky despite all of the maintenance ) and my hubby's horse- who is fun and has potential, but is still pretty green at this point.

                          I agree--this is going to take a long time to develop the strength that will be needed. Unfortunately, my barn requires that I pay full board to hold my stall while my horse is in training. So, this would get expensive quickly. I can afford it--but not for months. When the weather/roads are better, I can also trailer to this trainer more often. Maybe arrange some shorter stints which combine riding and training like mvp suggested.

                          I'm not in any hurry---but right now I feel like we are stagnating with no noteable progress made since the fall. At the very least, I'd like to increase the quality of our current work.

                          Senden horse: I jump once a week--so good to know that it may help and not hinder our progress. I want to keep eventing this horse--but also show dressage as well.


                            Originally posted by slp2 View Post
                            Senden horse: I jump once a week--so good to know that it may help and not hinder our progress. I want to keep eventing this horse--but also show dressage as well.
                            I had some hesitations about it but its been nothing but good for my horse. The key is riding with jumper trainers who are very very well trained in dressage.

                            My dressage coach is actually an eventer but rides upper level dressage too!


                              I sent my horse to a trainer for 2 weeks of "boot camp" specifically to work through some issues in out lateral work where we felt stuck. The trainer rode most of the time and then I took one lesson per week and hacked on the weekends.

                              It made a HUGE difference in my riding as well as my horse's way of going. We've continued to make a lot of progress because we still work with the same trainer and I school using their methods. Except now we swap and I am riding more, but the trainer still does some rides. I think we still could have continued to progress even if we went home after boot camp, but have done better by staying in that program.

                              This worked for me because the place was close to home and so moving to that barn was easy.


                                I'm actually in that very difficult first to second level transition myself with my horse! And I am also very much a DIY rider - I hate having trainers on my horse, I want to be the one riding! But if you have access to a really good trainer, it can certainly break through some big barriers for you.

                                I agree with the comments everyone else has said, but I would add that I think 30 days is quite unrealistic to make a major shift in balance. A good trainer could certainly get the 2nd level tricks done that quickly, but if you have a fundamental balance issue, it's going to take more than 30 days for a horse to change it's balance. If you try to make a really big shift that fast I think you are going to end up with a sore horse or an injury.

                                If you do decide to do the training route, I would go for 60 days and make sure you can be rather present, taking lessons, etc, during the last 2-3 weeks of the program.


                                  Originally posted by slp2 View Post
                                  my hubby's horse- who is fun and has potential, but is still pretty green at this point.

                                  I agree--this is going to take a long time to develop the strength that will be needed. Unfortunately, my barn requires that I pay full board to hold my stall while my horse is in training. So, this would get expensive quickly. I can afford it--but not for months. When the weather/roads are better, I can also trailer to this trainer more often. Maybe arrange some shorter stints which combine riding and training like mvp suggested.
                                  We're still similar. I also have to pay half of my board for an empty stall at "home." And board at Trainer's is higher than where I am. I think my costs about double for the month my horse is at the Trainer's.

                                  So I'm going to use those months wisely and intermittently. But I will bite the bullet and send my young horse for those 30 day stretches if need be. And I still have to keep in mind that those expensive months are as much about teaching me a system as training the horse.

                                  Which brings me to your husband's horse. That one is very useful to you. Practice the program on that green, low-stakes*** horse that the Pro is giving you for your horse. A huge part of getting your money's worth out of training is learning to think and feel while riding on your own. The more horses you can try out in her system, the faster you'll learn what works, what you'd modify and which parts you understand or don't (and can ask about).

                                  ** I know it's wrong to consider someone else's horse or a greenie the "low stakes" horse. But all of us need horses we can practice on. And, let's be honest, each horse we train is one we used to teach us how to ride and train better.

                                  Still, I think you and Green Practice Horse will benefit immensely from the ol' Trickle Down Theory of horse training.
                                  The armchair saddler
                                  Politically Pro-Cat


                                    I would send the horse if you have the means. Like you, I was an event rider who was proficient through First level. I sent my Prelim horse to a local dressage trainer to sell as he was maxed out at that level. The trainer called me a few weeks into it, and suggested I take a few lessons. She thought my horse was fun. I did, and decided to keep the horse and learn dressage. I started at 2nd, and he is now at I1. It much slower to do it this way, so any help you can get I would take. I agree that your horse may take longer than one month to be a legitimate 2nd level, but she can maybe get him there and let you climb on after and feel what it takes to get some collection done. It took me a long time to own 2nd level. It took me so much longer than if I had a Pro on board for longer than a week here and there. I would agree to ride as many horses as you can to practice.


                                      I have done this and will continue to do as I am able. I first sent my horse to a trainer for 2 months when we were working second level. The difference it made was amazing. She really helped him him learn how to use his bodily more correctly. I would go on weekend when possible and take lessons. That is definitely crucial. I sent him again for about 3 weeks before making the move to third level, and she helped me get the feel of how uphill and light he could be. I just sent him in November for a month to help solidify the tempis and the difference was the most remarkable of any of training months. My horse felt so confident and strong when I started riding him again. All of the canter work improved dramatically. I took lessons three days in a row before bringing him home, and our work at home has been better than ever.

                                      I ride with this trainer during clinics periodically, so she knows both my issues and my horse's issues. The three times I have sent him out for short training sessions over the last several years has really made a huge difference in "feel" for me and resulted in "breakthroughs" for my horse. Good luck.


                                        Maybe I've just had really bad luck, but I wouldn't send a horse to a trainer again. I want the horse in my custody and control, as they say in the horse insurance biz. A trainer turned one horse out on the first day with a large group of geldings and he got kicked in the hocks right away. I left another horse with a trainer for a week and he came back with a fractured vertebrae. Yet another horse was put out in bad fencing by a trainer and sliced a tendon. In terms of training, I left one horse with the breeder to start under saddle and I wasn't a good enough rider to undo all the damage. I took this same horse to a trainer to get help and the guy frightened him so badly I ended up giving the horse away.