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Adult Amateur Barn Woes

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  • #21
    Yes, from everything I have read on COTH I think there is something about the very trainer-controlled, and therefore very expensive, hunter program world that makes in a great fit for children from fairly well off families. The child can be in a coherent program with adult supervision that is focused around competition. In general, children and teens find competition of all kinds more rewarding than many adults because they are so interested in developing and testing out their limits (kids will make a competition out of almost anything, who can run faster or throw a stone further or who has the longest hair or the nicest sneakers). Plus they are so used to being graded and assessed at school, So many children's sports have levels and achievement badges and such like that would be meaningless to adults. I seem to recall badges and levels for swimming and skating lessons?

    The very trainer-controlled hunter program can also be useful for adults with more money than time, who can rely on the trainer to keep their nice horses tuned up and ready to show.

    I think though, for adults with less money, or with more time, and previous horse experience, this isn't always the most rewarding niche to be in. For one thing, competing at the adult hunter levels is extremely expensive, show costs and horse costs. For another, often adults want more autonomy with their horses.

    So actually looking for an eventing barn might be a really good choice. They school arena jumping and dressage when they are not riding crazy fast across open country! From everything I've read here, eventers seem to be more hands on and also more relaxed about things that h/j. You could go to an eventing barn and just take jumper lessons, or you could half lease a horse and just do the arena work components if you don't feel like going full blast outside.


    • #22
      From what I have read here (and from what I see in my part of the world), eventing barns with strings lesson horses are not all that common.


      • #23
        I agree you might be better served going to an eventer barn.

        But I also think you need to think hard about the actual priorities for you.

        It sounds like you want both a great riding environment for you AND a great social environment. Those are hard to find sometimes.

        I used to ride at a barn that had a magic collection of women. We were all ages, but we all supported each other, were low drama and loved a glass of wine after a great ride or show. I left when I decided I wanted to do the jumpers since it was only hunters there. Since then, I've never found that camaraderie.

        But I have big riding goals. So prioritize that over the social aspects and try to meet up with my girls outside of the barn. I miss them so much, truly. But it's too much money to spend to not do what I want and make the progress towards my goals. I've ridden with young women who can afford several high value horses and don't have to work. Sometimes it's hard to relate to them, but I try to take it as an opportunity to admire their riding and their commitment to the sport and mirror that. You can learn a lot from people who are very different than you are.

        In your shoes, I would prioritize the training and hope for a good group of folks.


        • #24
          Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
          From what I have read here (and from what I see in my part of the world), eventing barns with strings lesson horses are not all that common.
          Eventing barns with dedicated lesson horses are not all that common in my neck of the woods, but I think the chances of finding a half lease are fairly decent - esp if the potential half lessor has solid skills up to BN level jumping.


          • #25
            Originally posted by WavyRider View Post
            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.
            I've been in similar shoes - very interested in the best kind of instruction and taking advantage of schooling sessions, but not so keen to compete. It puts a rider in an interesting situation.

            Sometimes it is better to pursue clinics and one-off lessons, rather than staying in a program that focuses on something you aren't doing - showing. That's a personal decision of course, but it is an option.

            I suggest that you give some thought to the [generic] trainer's point of view - any trainer. They make their real living from the riders who show. The lesson-only riders matter up to a point, but from a transactional point of view that isn't where the real money is unless they are developing at least part of their future competitive program. They only have so much room for lesson students, and to be able to stay in the business they need to maximize their income from what they do.

            Some trainers are very open and professional about including non-competitive riders and treat everyone equally. But others look on those riders as a necessary evil, as it were. They don't want to actually ask anyone to leave, but they wouldn't be sorry if certain students did, and they don't encourage them to stay. The non-competitive students may be quite right when they feel they are getting the short end of their trainer's attention.

            Many trainers want to keep their more serious lesson and schooling groups to a certain number of riders and they don't have unlimited capacity. A student who doesn't show but has been a fixture in these groups may be taking a spot the trainer would like to give to someone else, but the trainer hasn't figured out how to say that directly. I don't know if that is the case with your instructors, OP, but it's worth thinking about.

            The last time I was in this situation I had a brief but honest conversation with 'my' trainer. I told him that I greatly appreciated being allowed to join the schooling sessions (I was paying full rate of course) . But that, as he knew, I was not planning to compete in the next year, that I knew he had only so many slots for students, and that I would be ok if he would prefer to give those slots to others who had shows coming up. (I would then look more to clinics and one-off private lessons with various trainers.) I made it as easy as I could to let him say, directly or indirectly, that that was what he would prefer. He graciously answered "you are always welcome here". But he might have answered differently and I would just prefer to know, and make other arrangements accordingly.


            • #26
              If I were in your position, I'd look for horses available for quarter or half lease in your area that might suit you. Often, if you can find one of these, there may be an on-site coach that you may not have otherwise have access to otherwise, or if the horse is at more of a general boarding barn, you may have the option of coaches that come in to teach others or bringing in your own.

              It sounds like what you might need is more saddle time and perhaps less frequent but higher quality lessons with a good trainer, which might end up being the same as you are shelling out for weekly lessons now at the end of the day. I am of the opinion that a bi-weekly or monthly lesson with someone very good is a much better use of your money than weekly lessons with someone ho hum. Also, more saddle time will make those less frequent lessons more beneficial, as you will be able to work on things in between.
              Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique


              • #27
                I agree that once you get saddle time, either a half lease or your own horse, the importance of the lesson component diminishes to some extent. I mean, good lessons are still important so that you improve, obviously! But the instructor doesn't color your entire horse experience.You could even miss a lesson now and then, and it wouldn't be that big a deal. After a while, more advanced riders are often happy taking one lesson a month, or a clinic with a particular BNT once or twice a year.

                You might not want to jump alone, but if you are competent you could pair up with a couple of other riders and be eyes on the ground for each other for schooling sessions. Or you could work alot on cantering stride lengths over a course of ground poles, or really go for the burn with two point workouts! If you are at a barn with trails access or even a cross country field, riding outside is enormous fun.

                I was lucky with my return to riding because both of my coaches took me seriously enough as a student (started with a jumper coach, ended up with a dressage coach). I did private lessons at off hours with both, and there was never any sense I was taking up space from more promising clients. I'm not a fast learner of physical skills, and both were willing to hammer away at the basics on me, and only occasionally express their frustration .

                On the other hand, these were all private lessons. I've never done a true group lesson, and only once or twice a two-person lesson. I think group lessons may be really good for kids. They want the camaraderie, and they maybe can't sustain being under the coach's scrutiny and concentrating for a full hour. But private lessons are I think the best use of time and money for most adults, because you can get the coach's undivided attention and really focus on things. The exception might be jumps schooling, where it works well to have a couple of riders go, and the other rider(s) rest and watch. But even a jump lesson can be done as a private, you just wouldn't be actively jumping the whole time.


                • #28
                  I in a similar boat- except I started riding after college and started my career. I was extremely lucky to stumble across the barn I currently ride at. It’s primarily a show barn, however most of the show kids lesson after school meaning my early morning before work lessons are either private or with other young women (usually ages 16-30 in the group I’ve been riding with). I haven’t made any best friends that I would meet up with in the outside world- but it’s enough to be able to make small talk when we tack up.

                  I currently don’t have any interest in showing and my trainer seems pleased to just help me become a better rider (it helps that I lesson with the assistant trainer instead of the head trainer at my barn) I am looking to half lease a horse starting this summer so I can ride more without lessons, but positive barns for young professionals who don’t own a horse exist! They’re just harder to find.

                  I’ve also found that in the summer out west where I live, less kids are riding (because they’re either traveling with their families or because it’s so hot and they aren’t interested in the 6am rides) or they are travelling with trainers for shows, meaning the trainers that are still around are extra excited to have older lesson students to work with- they can teach without having to also babysit.


                  • #29
                    I understand where you're coming from. I'm 31 and I believe I'm the only ammy in that mid 20-mid 40s age range. That said, I still managed to find that barn family. My trainer is my age and we've become quite close. I've also become friends with some of the older ammys and the college students as well.

                    You didn't specify where out west you are but if it's anywhere near Fort Collins, CO I have a GREAT recommendation for you
                    Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
                    My equine soulmate
                    Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding


                    • #30
                      OP, you are me I think....except I'm you in the future by several years I'm guessing. When you don't have the time and/or money to own, but are an experienced horse person it becomes very difficult to find the right situation to get your desperately needed horse fix. I still struggle greatly with this.

                      I have never been interested in showing either but take my riding very seriously. Unfortunately its easy to outgrow lesson programs esp when you don't have your own horse. I have 100% stalled out for many years because of this. I've found it really hard to find trainers capable of giving more advanced instruction and especially ones that have lesson horses capable of doing more advanced work. Minus the social aspect you're looking for, you might try searching for a lesser known trainer willing to give lessons on their own horses. I found someone like that, willing to give me both dressage and jumping lessons at her house. She was hands down the best instructor I have ever met and she became a good friend...and then she moved across the country so now I hate her (kidding)! I'm back to square one and pickier than ever about getting quality instruction.

                      Here's another tip so you don't become me in the future: Don't end up with a long commute, don't get married, don't buy a house and don't have kids ;o) Once you make those mistakes those 3 days of riding a week get dwindled down to 1 and then you're problems are compounded because very few people are willing to lease a quality horse for 1 day a week. They're out there, but harder to find. Though, at times I've been really lucky to get in with good owners with good horses and access to trainers with out having to pay a dime. Sometimes you just have to patiently continue the search for the right fit and wait for the stars to align. ...And that's what I'm doing right now.


                      • #31
                        I'm in the exact same place. My current barn is kid centric and it can be fun but chaotic and stressful, especially when it comes to ride time. My other option is a more adult centered barn. I'm torn between the two

                        I'm also at the 2'3-2'6 jump height but more comfortable at 2' / training level dressage and want to compete locally in dressage and eventing. There's so much to do without increasing the jump height


                        • #32
                          Can you try to take two lessons a week at least some weeks? Maybe 6 lessons a month? Part of your problem is most trainers don’t move once a week riders up higher then very low fences regardless of age. There’s a strength and balance issue that translates to safety that an hour a week in the saddle does not fix. That is true in any sport, you can only advance so far with an hour a week practice time.

                          Running a training business that has a high overhead (obtaining and supporting school horses with proper liability coverage) means trainers need to maximize their earning opportunities. Their days are over scheduled, they don’t take days off, vacations or sick days and some even work another job or have a spouse/partner working in “real world” jobs just to make ends meet.

                          Please don’t take a busy trainer seeming to not have time for you personally. They may actually like you very much and admire your drive but that won’t pay their hay guy every month. That’s a reality of life as a Pro. Many, if not most, Pros no longer have rent by the lesson school horses- they can’t afford them. Horse that can jump a 2’6” or higher course staying sound while tolerating not so accomplished riders don’t grow on trees and must produce income to support their aquistion and care.

                          That’s going to be your biggest obstacle. Not finding the perfect trainer or closest barn. Find one you may not love but do respect who has the school horses priced by the lesson. And try to get more saddle time.
                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.