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Advice needed, being used by trainer?

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  • Advice needed, being used by trainer?

    I need some opinions.
    I feel like my situation at my current barn is toxic, yet I love my trainer with all my heart. I work for her basically for free but I don't complain because I get many hours in the saddle riding a million horses and even get to show her horses/ponies a lot.
    I do everything she asks of me because I want to succeed in this sport very badly. I have to work for different trainers at horse shows grooming and picking stalls to make money to be able to afford shows with my personal horse and all of her fees that come with it.
    But there's a lot of downfalls. Don't get me wrong, I love a hard-on-you type trainer and I do NOT mind getting screamed at when I'm riding like crap. But I feel like there are a lot of things she says to me that she shouldn't be saying. Most of the bad comments come from in the barn. She expects me to literally read her mind, which is fine!!!.... But her mind changes all. the. time. She'll make up rules and says that we have always done this or that a certain way, but I promise you on my life that we haven't. And this is all the time. And she will scream and make you feel like the worst kid on the planet.
    There's a very wise lady that rides at my barn that has noticed me becoming burnt out and suggests that I research other places and maybe even try them out. But I feel so stuck and trapped. If I ever told her that I wanted to leave she would be so heartbroken and I would be too quite frankly. I love her most of the time but other times she makes me wonder if she is even sane.
    All I want is to succeed in the hunter jumper world and I am willing to put forward every ounce of hard work that it takes. I just don't feel like she's in the best interest of me anymore. The other day she was talking about the future at our stables and made it sounds like she wanted me there another 10 years... I just can't do that because it's never going to get me to my goals. We don't go anywhere but one facility for horseshows because its super convenient.
    I am not financially supported by my parents and she knows it. I am 17 years old and work for just about every dime I spend on my horse and she knows it. Yet she doesn't cut me a single break. I just can't express the quantity of work that I do for her I feel like I am being used. I train all the clients horses and rides all the broncs that come in and get thrown all the time. (again not complaining *kinda) I just do not feel like she shows her appreciation well.
    Also please note that I am well aware of how rough and tough this equine world is. I KNOW it will never be easy!!! I am fine with that! But the mental abuse and toxic vibes I get out there are not okay.
    Thank you for reading, as I go over this I feel like I have barely given you a glimpse of my crisis. there is so much more to it, but maybe this will give you an idea of my situation.
    If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them!

  • #2
    Move on.

    Be professional about it so not to burn bridges but no one needs a toxic environment and abuse. I’m sure there are other barns in the area. Aim for higher level so you continue to learn and grow but make sure to talk to other staff /clients at new barns. Look for a good fit and not just first one you find.

    good luck!

    P.
    A Wandering Albertan - NEW Africa travel blog!

    Comment


    • #3
      OMG. This seems endemic in the horse world.

      Leave ASAP. You do *not* deserve this abuse. There are plenty of fine folks out there who are not toxic in this way. No good trainer/boss screams at their help or gaslights them - you're being used and taken for granted.

      Please look for some place else to be. You think your trainer will be devastated if you leave, but if she's true to type it's just because she'll need to find her next victim. BTDT.

      My best advice will be to pick your next situation as someplace that can't be argued with - some more respected trainer you've groomed for, perhaps? Quietly put out the word that you might be interested in moving on, and see if you get nibbles. And be aware you may need to take a step "back" (a less "show" barn, but a safer place) in order to get out.

      The horse industry is hard, and you're only 17. I'm hoping you're thinking about your future (college, perhaps?). Very few folks that don't come from money or have horse professionals for parents can make a decent career from the h/j industry. Having the options that come with a college degree would seem like a good bet.

      Are your parents in the picture at all? If so, have you mentioned any of this to them?

      Comment


      • #4
        Yeah it sounds like you have got into what I call a toxic family way of dealing with this trainer. By which I mean people are really horrible to each other, have no boundaries, feel joined at the hip and can't imagine leaving.

        This is not uncommon with trainers and working students. Indeed I've read at least one really similar thread on COTH this year and I've also seen similar IRL.

        I think it's time to move on.

        Comment


        • #5
          Start applying for colleges with an equestrian team, or at show barns with good reputations as a working student.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by jumperjockey572 View Post
            I need some opinions.
            I feel like my situation at my current barn is toxic, yet I love my trainer with all my heart. I work for her basically for free but I don't complain because I get many hours in the saddle riding a million horses and even get to show her horses/ponies a lot.
            I do everything she asks of me because I want to succeed in this sport very badly. I have to work for different trainers at horse shows grooming and picking stalls to make money to be able to afford shows with my personal horse and all of her fees that come with it.
            But there's a lot of downfalls. Don't get me wrong, I love a hard-on-you type trainer and I do NOT mind getting screamed at when I'm riding like crap. But I feel like there are a lot of things she says to me that she shouldn't be saying. Most of the bad comments come from in the barn. She expects me to literally read her mind, which is fine!!!.... But her mind changes all. the. time. She'll make up rules and says that we have always done this or that a certain way, but I promise you on my life that we haven't. And this is all the time. And she will scream and make you feel like the worst kid on the planet.
            There's a very wise lady that rides at my barn that has noticed me becoming burnt out and suggests that I research other places and maybe even try them out. But I feel so stuck and trapped. If I ever told her that I wanted to leave she would be so heartbroken and I would be too quite frankly. I love her most of the time but other times she makes me wonder if she is even sane.
            All I want is to succeed in the hunter jumper world and I am willing to put forward every ounce of hard work that it takes. I just don't feel like she's in the best interest of me anymore. The other day she was talking about the future at our stables and made it sounds like she wanted me there another 10 years... I just can't do that because it's never going to get me to my goals. We don't go anywhere but one facility for horseshows because its super convenient.
            I am not financially supported by my parents and she knows it. I am 17 years old and work for just about every dime I spend on my horse and she knows it. Yet she doesn't cut me a single break. I just can't express the quantity of work that I do for her I feel like I am being used. I train all the clients horses and rides all the broncs that come in and get thrown all the time. (again not complaining *kinda) I just do not feel like she shows her appreciation well.
            Also please note that I am well aware of how rough and tough this equine world is. I KNOW it will never be easy!!! I am fine with that! But the mental abuse and toxic vibes I get out there are not okay.
            Thank you for reading, as I go over this I feel like I have barely given you a glimpse of my crisis. there is so much more to it, but maybe this will give you an idea of my situation.
            If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them!
            Very dramatic very first post in the wee hours on a weekend. OP might want to put in some paragraphs if they ever return, clean up the punctuation so readers can better understand. Might correct the spelling in the thread title.

            Interesting dilemma if OP thinks trainer is crazy, abusive, treats OP like crap, screams at them and OP thinks simply leaving the barn leaving will break crazy screaming trainers heart.

            Interesting.
            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

            Comment


            • #7
              Been there. Leave now. If you are this motivated to work you will find other people who will be equally as generous with their horses while not taking advantage of you or being unkind. You may bounce around over the years looking for people that have horses to ride and an instruction style that you like, but that’s okay. Those of us who don’t have the financial means to participate in this sport need to be ready to follow opportunities and get out when things stop working.

              You might also find that things get better as you get older. Unfortunately, it seems all too common that many professionals in this industry have no problem taking advantage of the willingness and often blind compliance of young people.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by findeight View Post

                Very dramatic very first post in the wee hours on a weekend. OP might want to put in some paragraphs if they ever return, clean up the punctuation so readers can better understand. Might correct the spelling in the thread title.

                Interesting dilemma if OP thinks trainer is crazy, abusive, treats OP like crap, screams at them and OP thinks simply leaving the barn leaving will break crazy screaming trainers heart.

                Interesting.
                Yes, dramatic (and yes to punctuation and line breaks)... BUT, that’s pretty par for the course in toxic/abusive relationships to think you’d “break trainer’s heart” if you left.

                Was in a similar situation eons ago... trainer could be toxic and said if I left I would never get anywhere. I left, improved immensely, and moved up. Took forever to leave because I was a kid and thought it would break my trainer’s heart too. News flash: it didn’t. And if it did, I didn’t know or care because I was happier, riding better, and horse was happier too.

                Not saying that is what’s going on here, but if it is... not hard to understand why a teen would think that.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Leave. Don't look back. Your future self will thank you and will never be thinking about this trainer again.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The OP needs some serious psychological counseling. I suspect she will put herself into abusive relationships in whatever form. There is no reason to suspect she will end up in a better place until she fixes herself.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Findeight what the OP is describing is absolutely typical of a person with narcissistic personality disorder and her conflicted response to it is also completely typical.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The "hunter/jumper" world is famous for taking advantage of people like you, for as long as you allow it. My advice is to go to work for a racing trainer, a different equine discipline, where good workers are rewarded with real wages, and are usually well treated, fairly treated, well appreciated, and learn more about horses and horse care from good trainers with real knowledge about training, soundness and general horsemanship. Working for a skilled race trainer will give you an education both in horses and in life that you can't pay money for. The industry attracts some of the best horsemen, and best human beings you will meet. In my experience. Because those who are not that good, don't survive in the industry.

                        The hunter/jumper industry is great for rich people, or people who are rich enough to pay to play. But if you are not one of these people, it is hard to be a part of it all. You will be taken advantage of, used and abused, with little chance of anyone caring about you. Another keen kid will take your place if you can't work any more, or can't take the abuse. The racing industry is different for workers, in my experience.

                        There are crazy people everywhere, in every walk of life, and often in the equine industry. Find the level of crazy that you can associate with successfully, and happily, and make a wage that at least partially compensates you for your work and the risks you take in your work. You are not happy now, time to move on. Good luck!
                        www.cordovafarm.weebly.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          OP You aren't going to break your trainers heart.
                          I get your sense of gratitude toward the person who seems to have opened doors for you.
                          You yourself stated that you have gone as far as you can go with her.
                          Thank her for the opportunity, give her notice and move on.

                          A motivated experienced hard worker such as yourself should have no trouble finding a working student position.

                          However, are you considering college?
                          Do you plan to take your horse with you?

                          Are you going to have to work to keep yourself in college?

                          You may not have time to attend class, study ,work and have enough extra time and money for a horse.

                          It is doable but you may find yourself burning out and ready to quit all of it.

                          This is not what you want to hear, but sell or lease your horse, go to college or tech school. Get your degree in a stable field first and then if you are still interested,horses will be there.

                          Good luck.

                          Certified Guacophobe

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The point that the OP is 17 and has no parental support is worrying because it really limits their options. OP are there any responsible supportive adults in your world like aunt's or grandparents? Are you graduating from high school or have you dropped out? Do you have plans for college or job training of some sort or are you hoping to groom for a living,?

                            If you want to groom yes the racetrack is the best careers option.

                            Where do you live, are you living onsite? Who feeds you,?

                            Or did I misread and by no parental support do you just mean ,your parents don't pay for horse stuff but you otherwise are living s typical teenage family life? If so is your family a good place for you or are you trapped in similar abusive patterns there?

                            If you are truly alone in the world then go get a job at a race track.

                            If you are in a stable family unit then quit this trainer, focus on completing grade 12 with excellent grades, figure out what college or job training you will do, and take a break from horses for the winter.

                            You might also as another poster said access some counseling to make sense of your experience here.

                            Realize too that many trainers are a bit crazy especially if they have had multiple head injuries over the years. They can be easily frustrated and also disorganized and under a lot of stress.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              OP seems to be 17. And has stated that all they want is to succeed in the hunter jumper world.

                              OP also has stated that her parents don’t financially support her riding and showing, so she is working for this trainer (and maybe some others at shows? I’m a little unclear, but it sounds like some mucking for money, etc), and this is how OP is self funding her goals.

                              What is unclear to me is whether the OP wants to be a professional in the hunter jumper world, or simply wants to be “successful” in terms of riding and showing at a certain level. These are two different goals. 17 is an age at which many people begin thinking about and setting major goals, for their education, career, and lifestyle. However, once goals are identified, and a young person starts following a plan in pursuit of those goals (attending a certain college, taking a certain job, moving to a new town after high school graduation, etc)... its absolutely normal and perfectly ok to re-evaluate both the original plan and overall goals.

                              So I am unsure where you are with all that OP.

                              What I can say for sure, is that no matter what you decide you want to with your goals for life, career, riding, etc, it is VERY important to maintain healthy personal and professional boundaries along the way. It sounds like that is a challenge for you in the current situation.

                              Maintaining healthy personal and professional boundaries is something many many many people struggle with. It’s a great thing to learn about and work on though. And when it comes to being a client at a barn, a competitive rider, or a horse professional of any kind... being aware of boundaries... and being able to be friendly and enjoy the sport, and have good relationships with people... but also maintain clear boundaries in your relationships - this is VERY important.

                              The horse world definitely has its share of volatile people. It also is a very expensive hobby/sport. And professionals in almost any aspect of the horse world, and any discipline, all struggle to keep themselves afloat financially. When you combine these 3 fundamental facts about the horse world... situations can get stressful and messy quickly. Knowing what your goals are is important. Defining yourself as either a client of this trainer, or an employee is also important. Being aware of who at the barn is emotionally volatile in general (other clients, the trainer, etc...)... also a good idea.

                              And whether her you are the client of this trainer, or an employee on some level, beware “triangles”. It sounds like the wise older person at the barn offering you advice may be trying to be helpful. But they also might have their own issues with your trainer. Whatever the case... be mindful and careful. When it comes to being a happy client or a happy employee and having a good relationship ship with a trainer/boss... a triangle involving a third party is almost NEVER helpful.

                              So define your goals, think about whether you want to be an amateur, who is a valued client and successful competitor, or a person who is on the path toward being a professional rider, and successful in the industry. Understand the financial reality of both options. Once you are clear on that, then think about what boundaries are getting messy in the current situation with your current trainer. If it’s pissible to sit down and have a good discussion about what your role is at the barn, what jobs/rides you are doing there, and how you should be compensated for it... that’s a good thing to practice. You will need to do this wherever you go... over and over. It’s part of life. If this particular trainer is very emotional and very unreasonable however, it’s ok to politely conclude your relationship and move on to a new situation. Sometimes that’s necessary.

                              Either way, it’s best to keep other clients and employees out of it. Triangles are always messy. Even when it’s a well intentioned kind third party offering advice/support. Be careful.

                              Hope that helps. Above all... remember that we all ride and like horses on some level because it’s fun and they are beautiful animals. If the situation at the barn is toxic enough that you have stopped having fun and enjoying the horses... find a new barn!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by jumperjockey572 View Post
                                .........
                                But there's a lot of downfalls. Don't get me wrong, I love a hard-on-you type trainer and I do NOT mind getting screamed at when I'm riding like crap. But I feel like there are a lot of things she says to me that she shouldn't be saying. Most of the bad comments come from in the barn. She expects me to literally read her mind, which is fine!!!.... But her mind changes all. the. time. She'll make up rules and says that we have always done this or that a certain way, but I promise you on my life that we haven't. And this is all the time. And she will scream and make you feel like the worst kid on the planet.
                                There's a very wise lady that rides at my barn that has noticed me becoming burnt out and suggests that I research other places and maybe even try them out. But I feel so stuck and trapped. If I ever told her that I wanted to leave she would be so heartbroken and I would be too quite frankly. I love her most of the time but other times she makes me wonder if she is even sane.
                                ........
                                Assuming this is all true, since we can't verify it independently ...

                                The very wise lady is very wise, compared with your trainer who is not. Listen to Wise Lady. Wise Lady is trying to help you as best she can. She's telling you in a careful way that you *won't* succeed with your current trainer, who is just using you. And that you will have a *much better* chance with another, more balanced situation, somewhere else. She's framing her message to try to not burn bridges in the barn for her own situation, while trying to get you to see beyond the current reality.

                                "But I feel so stuck and trapped." You feel that way, but it's in your own mind, because you aren't stuck, you aren't trapped. You can simply not go to that barn again, ever. The ties you think you have there are in your mind only, as in fact none of those ties will last anyway, they are just manipulations by the trainer. (Especially true if you have a favorite horse or horses that you feel responsible for - they will be fine, and your trainer will never allow you to have any control over their future, anyway.)

                                Your trainer will *not* be heartbroken if you leave. She/he will just find the next person like you to exploit.

                                She'd like you to think she has a heart to break, though, so that she can keep you stuck and trapped.

                                It will be emotionally hard to break away from this situation, but the sooner you do it, the easier it will be, even if just to end the endless worry over it. Afterward you need some time to cool off, recharge and regroup, and consider your next plan.

                                I get that when you tell the trainer that you are leaving, the trainer may be explosive and/or powerfully manipulative. Just tell her that this is what is happening, by email if verbal will be too difficult. "I'm just letting you know that I can't come out to the barn any more. This is my last day." (Or even "yesterday was my last day".) Do not offer any reason or justification, ever, in any conversation or communication - she will use it to twist and manipulate. If you are part of feeding the horses, you can give her a few days notice if you wish. Otherwise if you think she'll be verbally abusive to you about it, it is probably best if you just don't go back to the barn at all.

                                You owe her absolutely nothing.You won't be the first help to have left her horrible ways. Don't worry about who will take care of the horses. The barn and the horses are her responsibility, and believe me she's figured out how to cope with this situation before and will again.

                                Please do not get hung up on possibly not being active in the horse show world right at this minute. If you are young, you have a world of opportunity in front of you to be in the show world. The older you are, the more control and the more options you will have. Your next (much better) opportunity may come shortly, or it may be longer in coming, but definitely it will come if that is what you want.

                                But your current situation is not a step up, it is a roadblock. It is taking the time and attention you need to give to your own path. You'll probably never see all the opportunities while you are in your current situation. You have to be out of it to gain a true perspective.

                                You have lots of road in front of you - that is, once you are out of your current bad situation! Good luck and report back in a few years on all of your great progress!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  One of the first lessons in life in the real world is that No One is Indispensable. OP your trainer got along in life before you came along and will when you leave. The fact that another adult at your barn noticed and told you to move on speaks volumes. Most of the trainers./pros I know will try find a way to help a passionate student/client be able to ride and show. A trainer friend of mine had a high school client - whose parents didn't support her riding - she was a working student. She rode and competed a couple of trainers and clients horses/ponies.

                                  It sounds as though the OP knows and does work for other pros in the area. Reach out to them to see if you can work for them more often - get busy at another barn so you can wean yourself out of the current place. It also sounds like you don't own a horse so that makes leaving all that much easier. Time to spread your wings and move on. Best of luck

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I thought I read that she does have her own horse that she shows when she can afford to.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Leave. Seriously: leave as soon as you can. The situation you describe is not healthy.

                                      If your parents are in the picture at all, explain what you've explained here, and ask them for some assistance. As a 17 year old, unless you've gone through a formal court proceeding to be emancipated from your parents, they are still legally responsible for you and for your debts.

                                      If your parents are not available for whatever reason to help you, you might try talking to the other boarder who suggested you look for other situations. She obviously has no legal obligation to help you, but she might be able to provide you with some sane advice.

                                      Good luck.
                                      "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky

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                                      • #20
                                        And if your own horse is keeping you stuck there, even pasture board will be an improvement. If you can't afford the horse without this trainer, then you can't afford the horse, and it is time to find it another home.

                                        I am guessing that there is much more to this situation. Just keep in mind that there is always another way, but you will probably have to get some perspective outside of this barn to find it.

                                        You are deep in a bad situation and it is never easy to work out of such a scenario. But do what you have to do, and know that nothing is the end of the world. Things will change and evolve - and so will you.

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