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Changing Trainers

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  • Changing Trainers

    Hey all-

    I'm writing this under an alter, since I'm really needing advice and trying to figure things out before I get anyone's feelings hurt. So, please, no bashing, I'm already an emotional wreck over what to do. This will be a long post.

    I've been with my current trainer for over 6 years. In that time, I've learned a lot about dressage, riding, horse care, everything. I've always had a good relationship with the trainer, and knew going in that I had a lot to work on and that she liked to take things slow and precise. My horse has been in training with this person for the last 4 years or so. The horse is boarded with the trainer, and is doing very well. My horse is happy, sound and progressing well in his training. I really don't want to move him or even take him out of training at this point.

    Here's the situation-for about the last year, my trainer has become extremely critical in lessons. To the point of where I'm dreading them. The slightest thing that I'm doing wrong, has been met with harsh criticism. I would think that it was just my perception, except that a couple of other students have made comments after my lessons to the effect of "wow, I can't believe how much XXX trainer yelled at you today, I didn't think you were doing anything wrong". Lately, she has been pushing the school horse for me to ride instead of my own horse. I have to pay to take lessons on him. When I take lessons on my own horse, they are included in what I pay to have him in training. So, in effect, I'm paying to ride the schoolhorse and my horse. I have not been taught to canter yet, despite repeatedly asking to learn. Early on, I could understand, because I was really learning how to use my body and seat effectively, but now, that I have a more independent seat and back, I would really like to start cantering. Two of the clinicians that I have taken lessons from regularly have also mentioned that it's past time that I start cantering.

    The last lesson I had with my trainer, she mentioned that I should start riding the schoolhorse on my own, and that I don't have to ride my horse, if I don't want too. I mentioned that I just can't afford to pay for rides on him, and continually pay for training on my own horse, that I'm not getting to ride, and that I really enjoy riding my own horse and would like to further build my relationship with him. I asked if there was a training reason why I shouldn't be on my horse, and the answer was no. I've successfully ridden my horse and even shown him. I enjoy riding the schoolie because I've learned much on him, but he's also a very difficult ride and he's getting to be quite old (nearly 30). I have had some confidence issues in the past with my horse, however, the last 10 or so rides on him have been fantastic and I feel like we are making progress again.

    I would really like to continue on with my current trainer, however, I'm not enjoying my lessons any longer and feel that I'm no longer progressing as a rider. I attended a lecture recently that was put on by another trainer locally with very similar philosophies to my current trainer, and I feel that she would have a more positive way of teaching. She comes highly recommended to me by 3-4 of my trainer's former students. I'm going to give her a call and see if she has a lesson horse I could take a couple of rides on to get a feel for her teaching style. How do I approach this with my current trainer? I really don't want to burn the bridge with her, I would like to keep my horse with her for now, since he's doing so well, and I would also like to keep taking lessons from her in some capacity, with my own horse. The difficulty I'm having with confronting my current trainer, is her demeanor. I think she is going to become even more critical in lessons and she is pretty jealous of this other trainer.

    If you have made it through this whole, long saga, thank you!!! Your advice is most welcome.

  • #2
    You've been riding for six years and aren't cantering yet?

    Time to make the big change, I would say. There are many, many trainers out there who can manage to teach effectively and politely.


    • #3
      You say you want to keep taking lessons with your current trainer in some capacity- but that is also explicitly what you don't like about your current trainer. Honestly, if you have been riding 6 years, barring some physical or mental limitation, there is no reason you shouldn't be cantering.

      I would quietly go take 1-2 lessons with the new trainer on school horses without mentioning a thing to current trainer. Assuming you like it, make arrangements for your horse to move, and then give appropriate notice at the current barn. It's normal to feel an attachment to the current trainer and to have an unnatural desire to maintain friendships despite them not being healthy for you. Give your notice and move your horse.

      If you like your lessons there is no reason your horse won't do well with the new trainer too. The whole point of having a horse if for you to enjoy it. Imho, trying to stay at this place after leaving the trainer is asking for trouble.


      • #4
        it is your horse, your money...at the end of the day if you are not enjoying your lessons, time to move on.

        that being said, if your new trainer says basically the same thing as your previous trainer don't be surprised. I'm not on either side...just sometimes clients don't listen to their trainers and their trainers are actually right.


        • #5
          Well, breaking up is hard to do...

          But seriously, 6 years and you haven't cantered yet??? That just seems crazy to me. Even the most timid adult ammies I've ever taught have been cantering by then. And your horse has been in training for 4 years? Wowie.

          Sounds like you're a bit afraid of a chat with your trainer. It's very possible it might not go well, but it seems unavoidable. I suppose you could take a couple of lessons on the sly from the other trainer and see how you like it, but that could easily backfire if you want to stay... Maybe you casually mention that one of your friends rides there and wants you to come see her horse and take a ride with her? That might make it seem more innocuous to her.

          You also really need to address these issues if you plan on staying with her. I still can't see how you're not cantering after 6 years for you and 4 for your horse. Is your horse cantering? I can totally understand putting someone on a different horse every now and again, but most paying customers get sick of that no matter how much the trainer might prefer it. And you have every reason to want to ride your horse.

          I'm guessing a move might be the best option if there are other quality local trainers available. Sometimes people hit a plateau with one trainer. She'll be annoyed about it, but if you can be as polite as possible and give her fair warning, that's about all you can do.

          So, sit her down and have a chat first if you actually want to rectify this. Just tell her you're feeling a bit sensitive lately and request a little more patience. Then tell her your goals (cantering!) and ask her how she's going to get you AND your horse there TOGETHER. If she can't do it, go someplace else. But I'd certainly try to find a way to try out another trainer first = )

          Seriously though, leaving barns is rarely without hard feelings. Even taking lessons at another barn sounds like it might make current trainer mad, which is sad because that can sometimes be a great alternative! Good luck!


          • #6
            Sometimes we outgrow our trainers, in a sense. Sometimes they outgrow us.

            I've been where you are. A teacher/student relationship that seemed productive and progressive, gradually (or suddenly!) becomes negative and regressive. It's no fun to be belittled by your trainer. I'm surprised that you have not yet cantered after FOUR (oops, SIX!) years!?!

            I'd definitely try the other trainer. Your current trainer doesn't have to know, right? If trainer #2 works out better for you, then you can decide what to tell trainer #1.

            Alternatively, consider simply asking your current trainer about her change in demeanor. She may back off the harshness if it's pointed out. Maybe she thinks this is the approach she needs to take to help you progress. I only say that because we're only getting your side. Maybe she is frustrated with you as a student and is at her wit's end? Really, I don't mean for that to sound critical of YOU, but some instructors and some students reach an impasse, and if things can't be straightened out through discussion, then it's time to move on. She may not know what to do with you next. You may indeed need a different teacher.

            Sad but true. Good luck, and update as you go!


            • Original Poster


              jolie-that's what I was thinking...go quietly, take some lessons, see how it goes. Everyone who has ridden with the other trainer, really enjoys her. I'm a little concerned that current trainer will find out, and I would like to be upfront with her and honest and not have her find out through the grapevine. Dressage is a very small aspect of the horse community here, and both trainers are really well known locally.

              Trixie-I completely agree! I'm know that I have some problems in my riding, and that's why I take lessons. I'm completely competent, and the issues that I'm working on are pretty common. I'm sure what I'm being grilled on are definite things that need work, however, it's the way she's saying them. I can be told "more sit bone, less right hand, etc" without being yelled at.

              atr-you are absolutely right on the cantering. When my friend changed trainers, the trainer asked her why she wasn't cantering yet and asked if she was afraid. I feel like I"m in the same boat.


              • #8
                I agree with previous posters that after years, you probably should have learned to canter comfortably and safely. So I think in terms of progress, trying new instructors makes sense.

                Let's call your current trainer "Jane". It really sounds like you want to keep a good friendly relationship with Jane. Do you feel like you could sit down and have a heart-to-heart with Jane? After so many years working together, you should be able to. You also want to keep your horse in training with Jane right? Even if you take lessons elsewhere?

                Personally I like having my instructor and trainer be the same person. I feel like then she gives me good feedback because she sits on my horse too.

                Here is what I'd do:

                - Tell Jane you have some concerns about you and your horse's progress. Tell Jane how you appreciate the long professional relationship you've had. So you'd like to make time for a heart-to-heart.
                - Have that discussion when it is good for both of you.
                - Have written down some goals, both for you and your horse.

                Let Jane tell you how she can help you work towards your goals. If they really cannot, then find another. You may end up burning that bridge even if you try hard not to. Some people can be sensitive. But some can just take it as a professional.
                good luck
                Last edited by wildauddie; Jul. 13, 2009, 04:58 PM. Reason: Changed "Bob" to "Jane" because it's a girl.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by atr View Post
                  You've been riding for six years and aren't cantering yet?

                  Time to make the big change, I would say. There are many, many trainers out there who can manage to teach effectively and politely.
                  Ditto that!! I would have thought when you first began with lessons that you would have been put on the lunge and taught to walk/trot/canter..This is how you learn balance and to find a good seat.. Hmmm...something with your "trainer" isn't sitting very well with me... Maybe, OK...definately time to move on


                  • #10
                    Hmmm. Interesting that you are not the only student who has not cantered with trainer #1. How many other students of hers cannot (or are not allowed to) canter?


                    • #11
                      Been where you are and the only answer is to move you and your horse. Seriously, you must leave. Period. Secondly, you make arrangements to move the horse before you talk to your current trainer. I don't care how nice you are, you can't train with someone else and board with your current trainer (sadly, I know that she will not be your friend once you tell her). Your relationship with this current trainer is at an end. Be polite but move on and don't look back.


                      • #12
                        I too think you have reached the end of the capabilities of this trainer (actually LONG before this point!). Anyone not cantering after six years in lessons either has a DEEP fear and should not be riding (ask me how I know, I currently have such a student that came to me earlier this year) or it is the trainers inability to teach you how to canter. From your description I am guessing the second is true. I do agree that learning to canter would be best on a horse that is rock solid, so that if you lose your balance etc the horse won't panic. But I don't think this trainer can help you get there. Move onto a new trainer. Thank the old one for what she has done, and let her know that at such and such date (once you have gotten everything arranged) you will be moving Dobbin, making sure to give her plenty of notice. If she asks why, you can jsut say you feel you need to make some changes in your life etc.


                        • Original Poster

                          thank you guys!

                          I needed to hear all of this! You are right...only getting one side, and I'm trying to paint the most honest picture of what is going on.

                          I do feel like I'm at an impasse with my current trainer, and she probably is with me too. It might be a refreshing change for both of us. I was planning on calling the other trainer tonight, and seeing if she has a school horse I could take some lessons on. If things go bad with the current trainer, I have another barn lined out that I could take my horse to. I wouldn't have lessons, but that's okay, my horse would still receive excellent care.

                          As for a sit-down talk with her. I've tried on numerous occassions, and I typically get shut-down, being told that everything is for benefit of the horse or that she's working on specific things with my guy. I usually walk away feeling like I either don't know anything or that I'm a chump because I'm not as educated.


                          • #14
                            Good for you. Make the phone call tonight- but give yourself a deadline to make your decision. If you take lessons behind current trainers back for a month or two, she will probably find out. Give yourself a week, or 2 lessons, with the new trainer. After that you have to pick and make it happen.


                            • Original Poster

                              What do you suggest...

                              So how would you approach the new trainer with taking lessons? I don't want to put her in a precarious situation either, and want to be honest and professional with her too. I will definitely let her know that I'm still "under" the current trainer, but feel the need to try something new, I'm just not sure what I should say to new trainer about starting up with her or about taking a few lessons with her too.


                              • #16
                                Keep it simple- no badmouthing. Chances are trainer B already knows everything she needs to about current trainer.

                                You've been riding for x years and have a horse. You've been riding with A for so many of those years. You have enjoyed learning from A but are considering a change. Could you please set up an evaluation lesson on a school horse and a barn tour to see if you might be a good fit for B's program?


                                • #17
                                  What Joiedevie99 said.

                                  And if your present trainer has shut you down in the past when you try to discuss the situation, you already have your answer. Nobody needs to come away feeling foolish or "uneducated" (Whose fault would that be, hmmmm, Coach?), trying to rectify a problem.

                                  Stick to the high road as you exit gracefully, and let #1 figure it out for herself why she lost a boarder and student.


                                  • #18
                                    Simply tell the new trainer that you have ridden with "jane" for X years and that you feel it is time for a change. Basically don't :whine" about the old trainer, jsut be factual, that you feel you should be progressing further than you are, you feel you should be cantering and are not, and that you think you want to try someone new and determien if that is "right" for you for the future. I think I'd keep it at that to start with, but let her know that you are looking potentially for a "long term" solution to the situation, not a short term "band aid".


                                    • #19
                                      I would consider moving my horse before saying anything to the trainer. She might take things out on him
                                      The other thing I was wondering, If she does not want you riding your horse, is it possible she wants him for herself?
                                      Is your horse a nice one that she is getting a free (or actually PAID FOR)ride on?
                                      Why else would she not want you riding your own horse?
                                      The fact that you are feeling bad about yourself in her presence speaks volumes. Its supposed to be fun. She is sucking your blood. Run!


                                      • #20
                                        This is rather simple isn't it...

                                        If you are not getting what you want from your trainer go somewhere else.

                                        Your horse, your time, your decision. Since it would seem that your trainer is not interested in discussing any concerns you have then there is no need for a big break up. Approach the other trainer and see how that goes.

                                        If your trainer has any sense she will probably ask you why you have changed. It is up to you if you want to go into detail.

                                        I have changed trainers on a number of occassion over MANY years...sometime it is just time to move on.