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Adult Amateur Barn Woes

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  • Adult Amateur Barn Woes

    I've been back in the saddle for about six months after an extended multi-year break for college and starting my career. I was so excited to start riding again, but I feel like I'm having trouble finding the right barn and it's starting to get me down.

    My status: I am confident at all gaits and have been jumping 2-2'6" courses, and would like to go a little higher. I might want to do some small shows but do not have large show ambitions. I cannot afford my own horse or a full lease but have been working towards a half lease. I work a 9-5 and am taking some online college courses on the side.

    I'm in the western part of the US and it feels like I just can't find a barn that matches what I want out here. I want to train, I want to improve, but I don't want to be an intense show person and I want to have fun. Have other people been able to find this balance? I really want to get my own horse eventually, but for right now, the half lease would be my best option.

    I'm thinking about leaving my current barn because I'm riding with a lot of students who are 10+ years younger than me and I really miss riding with people who are in my phase of life, paying for their own horses / board / lessons but still trying to establish their lives as young adults. I feel like I don't fit in with the younger girls who have their own horses and whose parents have time to drive them around and can afford multiple lessons a week. Unfortunately I'm not sure how to tell my trainer that this is why I'm leaving does anyone have advice?

    Also, I'm thinking about going back to another barn I tried that's really, really close to my house and has more working adults. I like almost everything about it, except unfortunately I didn't feel like I clicked with the trainer - she didn't seem engaged during the lesson I took and seemed totally unimpressed by my riding. I don't expect constant praise but I'm a solid rider and I'm worried that she didn't like me personally. Is it worth trying some more lessons? All the other students seem to love her, so I'm wondering if I should give it another shot.

    This all seemed so much simpler when I was a kid... I don't want to give up riding because I can't afford my own horse and don't have infinite time and money to commit to it (who does?), but I also want to enjoy it and have the right barn community!

  • #2
    I'd give the instructor one more chance. Then if you still have negative feelings, keep looking.
    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.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      I think I will, thank you! And thanks for getting through the whole post, it got longer than I planned

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree: give the coach another chance. She may have had something else on her mind that day, or may just have a personality that takes some getting used to?

        I cater to working class women (mostly re-riders), and they would agree: finding a barn that works with that demographic isn't easy. I think it's because 1) you don't have a tonne of time/money and 2) you are knowledgeable enough to not tolerate an unprofessional situation.

        If your nearby barn doesn't work, consider looking for a horse/riding club in your area. This might open up some opportunities you didn't consider.
        Last edited by CHT; May. 3, 2019, 08:12 PM.
        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by CHT View Post
          I agree: give the coach another chance. She may have had something else on her mind that day, or may just have a personality that takes some getting used to?
          This is a good point.

          Originally posted by CHT View Post
          I think it's because 1) you don't have a tonne of time/money and 2) you are knowledgeable enough to not tolerate an unprofessional situation.
          This is exactly the issue! I've taken a few trial lessons at a barn with a trainer that I LOVED but it's so far away that it wouldn't be practical to ride more than once a week (which is my goal), and another one that's closer and has a really nice trainer but is just too informal for me. I got really spoiled with my last barn before I moved, because it had the perfect balance! Just have to find something that's close to it.

          Comment


          • #6
            These barns exist, but they can be harder to find. Many trainers make a large proportion of their income from showing (and buying/selling horses to suit people's showing ambitions), so if you can't afford to show, some barns are going to be less inclined to want you in their program. I think your goals are reasonable, but it's not unusual for lesson and half-lease horses to top out at around 2'6, so if wanted to go much higher than that, you may need to do some looking. Or, be at a barn long enough, and have built enough trust, that when someone is looking to half-lease Dobbin the nice show horse just to help with the bills, you might come to mind. That has happened quite a few times with me, so you can get lucky.

            When I first moved to CA, I took a month of lessons at a pretty well-regarded barn that didn't seem too over-the-top fancy. I enjoyed it, but their lesson horses jumped 2' max (quite understandable I think), and the next step up in their program was a full lease, which was very expensive. I just thanked them very much, said I had learned a lot, but that it was a bit too much program for me to afford. I don't think they were offended.

            I found another barn close by which was a bit more relaxed, and the trainer was also a bit more flexible about teaching people who couldn't really afford to show. She has a few adult clients, but most are teenagers. There is a high amount of squealing and ridiculousness at times, but I actually like riding with them. As adults, we tend to over-obsess, and dissect our ride to each fence to the n-th degree. The kids just get out there and do it, I think it's motivating.

            I think your other barn sounds worth one more shot, but if you don't enjoy riding with the trainer, that's kind of a deal-breaker. And it might be time to expand your search...

            Comment


            • #7
              I agree with above posters - give the closer barn another try. If you are still not impressed, embrace the kids at your current barn. As a way older A/O rider, I really enjoy the kids. They are funny and refreshingly carefree. We have other adults at my barn that I lesson with sometimes but no one really does what I do. And that is ok. I kinda like the diverse clientele - kids, parents, older riders, etc. Of course, most of the kids are teens - not sure if I would feel the same way about 10/12 year olds.

              Comment


              • #8
                Another give closer barn a try. Also join some local equestrian FB pages...you may find some one in a more private set up who is looking to lease to someone exactly like you because they used to support show horse solo, but life changed. Best of luck!!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Try not to judge the trainer that didn't impress you too closely just yet. First impressions matter, but they aren't always correct.

                  Some coaches/trainer just don't give off a warm vibe until they get to know a student and feel the student is committed to their program. Of course that doesn't help the trainer build their program, but they may not be all that self-aware about it.

                  Career professional horse people have frequently missed a lot of the customer-relations expectations that us people with 'regular jobs' have had drilled into us. They haven't had employers who had training programs and educational materials on customer relations (or employee relations, investor relations, etc.) It's something to keep in mind when navigating the world of horse professionals. Some really great people in that world just aren't as adept at people-communications as we would wish.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Since you are in the hunter/jumper forum, I assume you are looking at hunter/jumper barns. You may want to look at eventing barns as well just to give you more options.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I can totally relate! I found myself in a similar situation a number of years ago when started back riding. Definitely the reasons that CHT mentioned, and also another reason is that it’s a time in life when a lot riders do take a break for college/career/family reasons so it is harder to find peers of the same age. I’m finally starting to feel like I’m finding those peers now that I’m older and also switched disciplines to dressage.

                      That said, if you want to stick with H/J keep looking and trying different barns till you find your fit. I never did find a place with peers my age but I found a great H/J instructor who was older and scaling back her program so there wasn’t the emphasis on a heavy show schedule, while still having the depth of experience I was looking for so I would keep learning and improving.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        This is probably the hardest time in your riding career to find actual peers. I’m 37 and I’m still usually the youngest person at my barn that isn’t under 20. People in that gap are having hiss and such. There aren’t many with time or money for horses.

                        By all means try the first trainer out again. No need to talk to your current trainer about it unless you decide your going to move. If you can ride with some other young adults then enjoy it! I wouldn’t compromise on training for it, but I’d understand if you wanted to.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I agree that you should try again with the barn closer to home. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t make any decision. Go with an open mind and then decide.


                          A wee antidote—I was riding in a large group lesson and right off the bat the trainer said, “if you are under the age of 15, drop your stirrups.” We would hack for a few minutes. Then if you are under the age of 25, then 35. As I’m tee-hee-heeing around the ring with my stirrups, it occurred to me that 45 was next, so my dilemma was do I admit that I’m over 45, or keep my stirrups until she got to 55? (I waited, but she got to 55 pretty fast). It was a fun lesson and I agree that riding with the kids can be inspirational.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by WavyRider View Post
                            I've been back in the saddle for about six months after an extended multi-year break for college and starting my career. I was so excited to start riding again, but I feel like I'm having trouble finding the right barn and it's starting to get me down.

                            My status: I am confident at all gaits and have been jumping 2-2'6" courses, and would like to go a little higher. I might want to do some small shows but do not have large show ambitions. I cannot afford my own horse or a full lease but have been working towards a half lease. I work a 9-5 and am taking some online college courses on the side.

                            I'm in the western part of the US and it feels like I just can't find a barn that matches what I want out here. I want to train, I want to improve, but I don't want to be an intense show person and I want to have fun. Have other people been able to find this balance? I really want to get my own horse eventually, but for right now, the half lease would be my best option.

                            I'm thinking about leaving my current barn because I'm riding with a lot of students who are 10+ years younger than me and I really miss riding with people who are in my phase of life, paying for their own horses / board / lessons but still trying to establish their lives as young adults. I feel like I don't fit in with the younger girls who have their own horses and whose parents have time to drive them around and can afford multiple lessons a week. Unfortunately I'm not sure how to tell my trainer that this is why I'm leaving does anyone have advice?

                            Also, I'm thinking about going back to another barn I tried that's really, really close to my house and has more working adults. I like almost everything about it, except unfortunately I didn't feel like I clicked with the trainer - she didn't seem engaged during the lesson I took and seemed totally unimpressed by my riding. I don't expect constant praise but I'm a solid rider and I'm worried that she didn't like me personally. Is it worth trying some more lessons? All the other students seem to love her, so I'm wondering if I should give it another shot.

                            This all seemed so much simpler when I was a kid... I don't want to give up riding because I can't afford my own horse and don't have infinite time and money to commit to it (who does?), but I also want to enjoy it and have the right barn community!
                            As others have said, you are unlikely to go above 2 foot 6 in most lesson programs, and you are also unlikely to go above 2 foot 6 (at least in a safe, coherent way) anywhere other than a more or less show oriented barn. Where I live, the 2 foot 6 and the 2 foot 9 are *the* big competitive divisions in jumper and hunter both, and actually not that many people ever go above 3 feet. Horses that can competitively jump a 3 foot plus course are probably twice the cost of the 2 foot 6 and 9 packers.

                            Also, as others have noted, you are in the gap between the teens that will quite riding to go to college, and the mid career or empty nester women who are returning to the saddle because it's "now or never" and time is running out. And those women end up over represented in lower level dressage because lots of them have lost the nerve for jumping (speaking from experience!). So you may never find a big community of working amateur adult jumpers.

                            But also, barn social life is different when you are an adult, from when you are a teen. When you are a teen, you make friends based on interests much more easily, and you are always looking for a group or team or gang, or maybe a new BFF. As an adult rider, we often have our full work and social and family lives elsewhere than at the barn, and we are much more likely to go to the barn to just ride. We've learned how to be friendly and get along with people (mostly) but we are also not always looking for a whole host of new friends at the barn. So even a barn full of working adults in your own age group wouldn't have the instant camaraderie of being a 14 year old in a barn full of teens.

                            As far as the trainer you didn't click with, think long and hard about what you want in a trainer. How did trainer express being unimpressed with your riding? Did trainer give you specific tips to improve your position? That is a plus. Or have you perhaps at the other barn just gotten used to the over the top motivational style that is slathered on children these days? "Good job Susie, you're a superstar, you're awesome!" for every single move.

                            If you want to evaluate the other barn, go and watch some lessons given to adults. Watch some students at your level and watch some students a bit higher than you. See if you like how they ride. Do they have stable legs, stable hands, do they release over jumps, etc? If you want a better sense of the trainer's personality, then arrange to have a private lesson with her and ask for evaluation of your riding.

                            You have been back in the saddle for six months of weekly lessons? You might be a solid rider, or you might have some holes in your position, and it's possible you are getting lost in the shuffle in the kiddie program because you ride better than the kiddies. But if you have been in weekly lessons for six months after a long break, you are still not riding the best you can be. It's just not enough time to get fit and get it all back together again. So don't expect gushing praise from someone who is used to teaching adults! There is more that you can work on, guaranteed.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

                              As others have said, you are unlikely to go above 2 foot 6 in most lesson programs, and you are also unlikely to go above 2 foot 6 (at least in a safe, coherent way) anywhere other than a more or less show oriented barn. Where I live, the 2 foot 6 and the 2 foot 9 are *the* big competitive divisions in jumper and hunter both, and actually not that many people ever go above 3 feet. Horses that can competitively jump a 3 foot plus course are probably twice the cost of the 2 foot 6 and 9 packers..
                              A couple others have been saying this too- I think I just didn't realize that this is the case! I feel like I'm in a weird position because I don't want to show competitively, just the occasional schooling show - I just like to take lessons and get better and have fun being on a horse. But I also like to jump and the natural progression seems to be to go higher. I think because I've never gone above about 2'6" to 2'9", I've never hit a school horse's limit before this.

                              Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                              So you may never find a big community of working amateur adult jumpers.
                              I had one at my old barn in another state - guess I just got spoiled there, I didn't realize how uncommon it is.

                              Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                              But also, barn social life is different when you are an adult, from when you are a teen... As an adult rider, we often have our full work and social and family lives elsewhere than at the barn, and we are much more likely to go to the barn to just ride. We've learned how to be friendly and get along with people (mostly) but we are also not always looking for a whole host of new friends at the barn.
                              I agree with all this - the thing that I miss is just being around people my age! I don't necessarily need close friends but I have a hard time relating to the group of young girls who seem to be fast friends, and end up feeling like a third (or eighth ) wheel around the barn.

                              Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                              As far as the trainer you didn't click with, think long and hard about what you want in a trainer. How did trainer express being unimpressed with your riding? Did trainer give you specific tips to improve your position? That is a plus. Or have you perhaps at the other barn just gotten used to the over the top motivational style that is slathered on children these days? "Good job Susie, you're a superstar, you're awesome!" for every single move.
                              I definitely understand this, but I don't think that's my issue - I feel like my current trainer doesn't take me seriously because I don't show / don't own a horse / (currently) only ride once a week, so I don't get *enough* critique - she focuses on the other girls in my lesson, praising them regularly and giving them specific critique while just saying "good" to me. I *want* critique, I *want* to get better, but even when I ask, her advice feels vague. My absolute favorite riding instructors are the ones who give me difficult challenges, make me work the hardest, watch my riding with eagle eyes, and then tell me when they see improvements and do it correctly. I definitely don't want gushing praise... to me, that says that they're not watching me hard enough to see the flaws in my riding!

                              The new trainer seemed really disinterested and also wasn't giving specific critique, like she was bored and wasn't even trying to see what I could improve on. I think I need to try another lesson with her though because, as other people have said, she may have just had an off day or take time to warm up to new riders. People around the barn seem to love her, I think she's just more introverted than the trainers I'm used to - something I'd need to get used to, but not a bad thing.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                As someone who is in the exact same boat as you (beginning stages of a career, doesn't have their own horse, looking to improve but really only has the budget for the occasional schooling show every now and again.) - I can confirm these barns exist. But they are definitely hard to find.

                                I have been at two in my life where I had great training combined with a nice social aspect (sure, we weren't all going to be BFFs but I enjoyed chatting with everyone there and there was a group of people around my age that made the barn fun). I'm not sure how many barns you have around you, but I would definitely encourage you to keep looking. I tried a lot of different barns when I was looking and ultimately got lucky that the one that made the most financial sense also had a great group of people who were fun to be around and had similar goals.

                                If you have any relationships with trainers, it might be worth it to reach out to them and ask if their programs might be a good fit for you. Even if you think they might not have a school program, it never hurts to ask. Sometimes barns don't actually have "school horses" but do have a few older ex show horses that need a job and are willing to offer lessons on them.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  So here's a weird suggestion that worked for me (until I moved out of state...very sad). Instead of looking for a hunter/jumper farm, look for a multi-discipline facility. I have enjoyed the company of dressage riders, western riders, and eventers. Plus the whole vibe was just less snobby/elitist that the show barns I was accustomed to. The facility was lovely, tons of adults, and lots of socialization in addition to riding.

                                  At these places, they usually invite you to bring in your own trainer, and traveling trainers abound (just ask around for references). I miss this setup!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by WavyRider View Post

                                    A couple others have been saying this too- I think I just didn't realize that this is the case! I feel like I'm in a weird position because I don't want to show competitively, just the occasional schooling show - I just like to take lessons and get better and have fun being on a horse. But I also like to jump and the natural progression seems to be to go higher. I think because I've never gone above about 2'6" to 2'9", I've never hit a school horse's limit before this.



                                    I had one at my old barn in another state - guess I just got spoiled there, I didn't realize how uncommon it is.



                                    I agree with all this - the thing that I miss is just being around people my age! I don't necessarily need close friends but I have a hard time relating to the group of young girls who seem to be fast friends, and end up feeling like a third (or eighth ) wheel around the barn.



                                    I definitely understand this, but I don't think that's my issue - I feel like my current trainer doesn't take me seriously because I don't show / don't own a horse / (currently) only ride once a week, so I don't get *enough* critique - she focuses on the other girls in my lesson, praising them regularly and giving them specific critique while just saying "good" to me. I *want* critique, I *want* to get better, but even when I ask, her advice feels vague. My absolute favorite riding instructors are the ones who give me difficult challenges, make me work the hardest, watch my riding with eagle eyes, and then tell me when they see improvements and do it correctly. I definitely don't want gushing praise... to me, that says that they're not watching me hard enough to see the flaws in my riding!

                                    The new trainer seemed really disinterested and also wasn't giving specific critique, like she was bored and wasn't even trying to see what I could improve on. I think I need to try another lesson with her though because, as other people have said, she may have just had an off day or take time to warm up to new riders. People around the barn seem to love her, I think she's just more introverted than the trainers I'm used to - something I'd need to get used to, but not a bad thing.
                                    In that case, could you try a private lesson with her and see how it goes?


                                    I agree with the PP who suggested widening the search to include eventing trainers. There seems to be far greater AA representation at eventing barns than there is H/J. I've made it a policy not to ride or work at the same barn my kids do. (Fairly easy because they ride H/J and I don't) At my current barn (eventing) there are no kids riding on a regular basis. I used to work for a dressage barn and they were actually excited at the prospect of my kids being with me occasionally for the horses to experience horse-savvy children.

                                    By contrast, there's only a handful of adults at local H/J shows. And we live in the de facto epicenter . of the US H/J industry. At the show this past weekend there was a smattering of adult ammies in pleasure and the hunter hack. Besides one college-aged guy from my kids' barn and a couple working students from a BNT's barn; it's usually just trainers riding in the hunter O/F classes.

                                    As you have observed, OP, finding a suitable Equine partner is tricky for adults. There are a lot of big, beautiful horses floating around the locals with tired, slightly freaked out AA on board. I totally get it. They were advised to get something well-schooled that has the scope to eventually go 3'+. And that's not bad advice in the long run. Short term, it tends to result in the AA rider having to learn to deal with way more horse than they realized they were getting.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by gertie06 View Post
                                      So here's a weird suggestion that worked for me (until I moved out of state...very sad). Instead of looking for a hunter/jumper farm, look for a multi-discipline facility. I have enjoyed the company of dressage riders, western riders, and eventers. Plus the whole vibe was just less snobby/elitist that the show barns I was accustomed to. The facility was lovely, tons of adults, and lots of socialization in addition to riding.

                                      At these places, they usually invite you to bring in your own trainer, and traveling trainers abound (just ask around for references). I miss this setup!
                                      The OP does not have a horse. The OP is taking lessons, with a lesson horse.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        All of my barn friends are at least a decade older or younger than I am (except my trainers!) and I don't notice it one bit. Its so wonderful having friends across the age spectrum- especially those who have been thru it all before and are reliable for good advice or commiseration or a fun happy hour outing. Horses have a way of making us all that wide eyed little girl at times- you don't need to look for people your own age to make wonderful relationships!

                                        Comment

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