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Lessons at 2 different barns—advice on choosing?

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  • Lessons at 2 different barns—advice on choosing?

    Hi all. I’ve been taking lessons at 2 different barns for several months (after relocating out of state) and am noticing more differences between them. I’m currently jumping small cavaletti/poles and my goal is to eventually get to the bigger jumps.

    Barn A usually has me ride an older, small, rather lazy, and absolutely sweetheart of a horse who I adore. Horse is very beginner friendly, though I am definitely not a beginner. A good chunk of my lesson time is getting the horse more forward. The instructor was very conservative with setting up poles for me at first even though I’m quite comfortable with smaller jumps. I didn’t exactly mind this but after a while I kind of felt like I wasn’t learning as much as I should. I chalked it up to a slower approach in how they train at the time. I do love how they encourage taking care of/spending time with the horse. More of a family friendly atmosphere.

    Barn B has me riding a younger, very strong/sensitive, and competitive horse with a lot of show experience. He’s amazing—fantastic with subtle cues and I’ve learned things that are beyond just getting the horse to “go” such as getting the horse on the bit and more overall jumping. Instructor here had me doing small jumps right away after evaluating me. Less “horsemanship” at this barn, slightly snobby atmosphere. Time in the saddle is shorter than Barn A.

    I guess I’m getting confused at the discrepancy of the lessons—Barn A has me training at a lower level than Barn B. Do any COTH folks have advice as to which sounds like a better program? Is it better to choose one program? Most people I know do not go to 2 barns.

    Is a slower, more conservative approach on lazier horses better for jumping training in the long run, or am I better off riding more eager horses that help me learn slightly quicker? I’d like to lease soon and know I have to eventually choose one place.

    Thanks for any input!

  • #2
    I think this is a super personal question that only you can answer. Assuming both situations are safe, I would pick the one you have more fun at. If it were me, based on your description I would pick the second option, but I enjoy a more challenging ride and would get bored at what you describe with Barn A.

    Comment


    • #3
      I'll take a crack at this one. First, please accept this grain of salt that I offer up.

      For me, I would always look beyond just the lesson at the overall quality of horsemanship of the program. It sounds like Barn A has that piece more from what you've described,. I would guess that your pole work and jump height is probably more reflective of them taking care of the older lesson horse than it does their thoughts on your abilities.

      I think I would need to see the lessons before making a complete judgement call, but the atmosphere of Barn A also seems to be better. Plus, more saddle time means more experience.

      Some of my questions are:

      1) You say you're "definitely not a beginner." But you're also saying that your goal is to get to the "bigger" jumps. Can you give some more insight into what that means for you and how long you've been riding? I would say that how high you jump doesn't really have a correlation on how good of a rider you are, and sometimes more to do with the ability of the horse underneath you. Yes, jumping higher certainly is a skillset all on its own, but it's definitely not the litmus test for horsemanship.

      2) You say that most of your lesson at Barn A is about getting the horse to go forward. I would argue that this is probably one of the cornerstones of riding education (getting the horse in front of your leg and carrying you), so learning how to do this on a lazier horse is probably teaching you more than a horse who has a natural motor.

      3) Have you spoken with Barn A about your situation? Maybe there is another horse they can pair you with on a more regular basis, but probably not if you don't share your concerns with them. They might also tell you why they're putting you on Lazy Dobbin over a hotter horse - they might have a really good reason that you're just not privy to.

      My gut says Barn A. But that's just based on what you've provided.

      Comment


      • #4
        I say Barn B since (a) it is highly likely that you are not training for the Olympics but want to ride at a level that provides some fun and challenge to the ride and (b) you can probably add the horsemanship element to what you are doing, there. Can you politely insist on grooming, tacking, bathing and then grazing the horse yourself? Bring some homemade cookies or cupcakes to be shared and maybe the perceived snobbery will warm up too. Get what you need out of the ride and make what you want out of the barn.

        Comment


        • #5
          Whilst I agree overall with "A"HunterGal, I would add one more thing to your decision process: which barn is more likely to be able to help you find a suitable lease horse when you are ready?

          It also depends on your priorities: is the social aspect important to you?

          I think you will learn on both types of horses: you are just learning different skills. Ideally you would be able to ride a variety of horses.
          Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by Jeepgirl311 View Post
            I think this is a super personal question that only you can answer. Assuming both situations are safe, I would pick the one you have more fun at. If it were me, based on your description I would pick the second option, but I enjoy a more challenging ride and would get bored at what you describe with Barn A.
            Thank you, Jeepgirl311. Both situations are definitely safe, thankfully. A few lessons at Barn A have been borderline boring, which ends up a little frustrating since I'm only able to ride 2x a week. I did tell the instructor I'd like to do more jumps after a lull of a few weeks, and she did oblige...I just wonder why it took me to vocalize it. Barn B has me riding at a slightly more advanced level which I do appreciate as well; I enjoy being pushed.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by "A"HunterGal View Post
              I'll take a crack at this one. First, please accept this grain of salt that I offer up.

              For me, I would always look beyond just the lesson at the overall quality of horsemanship of the program. It sounds like Barn A has that piece more from what you've described,. I would guess that your pole work and jump height is probably more reflective of them taking care of the older lesson horse than it does their thoughts on your abilities.

              I think I would need to see the lessons before making a complete judgement call, but the atmosphere of Barn A also seems to be better. Plus, more saddle time means more experience.

              Some of my questions are:

              1) You say you're "definitely not a beginner." But you're also saying that your goal is to get to the "bigger" jumps. Can you give some more insight into what that means for you and how long you've been riding? I would say that how high you jump doesn't really have a correlation on how good of a rider you are, and sometimes more to do with the ability of the horse underneath you. Yes, jumping higher certainly is a skillset all on its own, but it's definitely not the litmus test for horsemanship.

              2) You say that most of your lesson at Barn A is about getting the horse to go forward. I would argue that this is probably one of the cornerstones of riding education (getting the horse in front of your leg and carrying you), so learning how to do this on a lazier horse is probably teaching you more than a horse who has a natural motor.

              3) Have you spoken with Barn A about your situation? Maybe there is another horse they can pair you with on a more regular basis, but probably not if you don't share your concerns with them. They might also tell you why they're putting you on Lazy Dobbin over a hotter horse - they might have a really good reason that you're just not privy to.

              My gut says Barn A. But that's just based on what you've provided.
              Thank you, "A"Huntergal.

              1)I've been riding on and off my whole life (in my late 30s now). Took some time off, had kids, ride 2x a week for the past year or two. I'm very comfortable cantering, small jumps, handling horses, lunging, and overall care, but I'm not at the level where I can ride a horse and pinpoint if one of their hind legs are "stiff" or something like that. I've done a couple of small shows but am more interested in riding as a personal experience rather than getting into competition.

              2) Absolutely agree on how getting a horse forward is an integral part of riding. I've learned a lot getting my dear lazy pal going--this aspect is what made me think hey, Barn A is just being super thorough with me and making sure I have zero holes in my training, and they know I'm interested in jumping, so in the long run it might be better this way. But then when I go to Barn B and ride their fancy, sensitive Warmblood who's ready to go right away, it's very exhilarating. But I do wonder if I'll end up with holes in my training due to the vast difference in the horses.

              3) There was a lull for a few weeks at Barn A where we only did flatwork, not sure why. When I asked if we could go back to jumps, she was all for it. So I wasn't sure what happened there. I have ridden a couple of other horses there, just not as much. They are very into students spending time with the horses so perhaps there's more to this that I could find out.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by 222orchids View Post
                I say Barn B since (a) it is highly likely that you are not training for the Olympics but want to ride at a level that provides some fun and challenge to the ride and (b) you can probably add the horsemanship element to what you are doing, there. Can you politely insist on grooming, tacking, bathing and then grazing the horse yourself? Bring some homemade cookies or cupcakes to be shared and maybe the perceived snobbery will warm up too. Get what you need out of the ride and make what you want out of the barn.
                Thank you, 222orchids.
                You're right, I'm definitely not training for the Olympics, ha! At Barn B I've seen only one or two kids partake in taking care of the horses, but there's certainly no reason why I couldn't inquire about it. And getting what I need out of the ride/what I want out of the barn is a useful way to look at it.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by CHT View Post
                  Whilst I agree overall with "A"HunterGal, I would add one more thing to your decision process: which barn is more likely to be able to help you find a suitable lease horse when you are ready?

                  It also depends on your priorities: is the social aspect important to you?

                  I think you will learn on both types of horses: you are just learning different skills. Ideally you would be able to ride a variety of horses.
                  Thank you, CHT.
                  Both barns lease their lesson horses as well as find others for their clients.
                  The social aspect of the barns was important at first, but it's less of a priority now. There are more people at Barn A, they're friendlier, and you get a lot of private time with your horse before and after lessons there as well. It's a nice mix. Barn B is smaller and I rarely see other students, perhaps due to the time of day I go. The few people I've run into there are a bit standoffish and a simple "hello" is rare, which is odd. I ignore that because I enjoy the actual lessons, but it's not the greatest atmosphere people-wise

                  Very true I'm learning different skills between these two places. Maybe the variety (and even discrepancies) are a good thing in the long run.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Trainers don’t have psychic abilities and if you have only been riding with one a few months, how the heck do you expect them to know what you want? Remember they teach many people with different goals, expectations and comfort levels. Have you sat down one on one and discussed what you want with barn A trainer? Keep in mind most barns no longer carry pay by the ride school horses and very few have anything for 2’6” and over...unless you lease it.

                    Off hand, barn B lost me at “ not as much horsemanship and slightly snobby atmosphere”.

                    Are you going to be buying or leasing a horse in the next 6 months? Be realistic here. If not, that barn B horse they are letting you use might evaporate. Sometimes when you get a nicer ride as a twice a week lesson only rider, it’s because they are going to pitch it to you after you get attached. Effective sales/ lease technique.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I see no reason why you can't continue to have lessons at both places until you lease a horse. Then you have more horses to choose from to lease.
                      It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've seen both types of barns, and from what you describe, the first barn instructor doesn't sound like she has a structured plan to improve your riding--sometimes, at barns with less available help, owners and teachers are very preoccupied with management, so she might not even have remembered you requested a jumping lesson until you told her. If the all-flat lesson was due to something she was working on with your riding, the horse's soundness, or the fact that the horse had been jumping a great deal in other lessons, she should have told you. If you do stay at that barn, you might need to be a bit more proactive every lesson about explaining what you want to learn. Not a deal-breaker, though, unless she continually ignores your requests. It also might be a good idea to ask to ride another horse there, before making a final judgement.

                        If you're looking to lease a horse, though, one big concern about the second barn would be cost. Most mid-tier show barns (I'm assuming this isn't a super-fancy barn, but a barn that goes to local rated shows, or maybe a couple of "away" shows a year) don't make money off of lessons. The goal is to get someone capable enough to at least half-lease a horse and go to a show or two a month at minimum. That's how such barns make their money. And this isn't a criticism, btw, because it's hard as hell to stay afloat in the horse business. But if that's the expectation, you should be aware of how much things will cost at the barn in the long run. Some barns might still let you take a once-weekly lesson on a school horse if you can't afford showing and leasing, but if that's the case, you do have to be aware that you won't be a priority client in the same way someone who is fully part of the program. If you're at a barn where people show frequently at a certain level and you don't, it can also limit your social circle. Even if people aren't snobby, it's harder to make friends if you're around less.

                        I'm not quite clear what you mean in terms of horsemanship, though, for a once-a-week rider, it's really difficult to get a full sense of what the horsemanship culture of a barn is, unless they're so desperate for help they're asking anyone to lend a hand who even takes a few lessons (which would not be a good sign). There are some barns where barn staff takes care of all of the chores, including tacking up, but at even at the lower-level show barns I rode at, for people with genuine skills, there were opportunities to ride greener horses and lend a hand at the barn and shows.
                        Check out the latest Fortune's Fool novel, Courage to the Sticking Place!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          another question for you to ponder: are your lessons at both place just “get on and ride” or does either include instruction on fundamentals and why? For example, I myself (considered advanced by my barns standards) May have a lesson solely focused on lateral movements, working on shoulders/haunches in, turn on the haunches, etc and using that on course. We only do poles that day because we try our skills that should be able to help us school the horse or correct something when jumping our height (2’6-3’-3’6). I do not judge the height of jumps in a lesson as a gauge of skill and challenge.

                          this is part of horsemanship and being the best rider you can be - understanding the mechanics of the animal, aids, and subtle skills. Does either barn give you the “why and how,” and do you think you can learn how to do these things? Again, just “jumping higher” isn’t necessarily the measure of if the program is teaching you the skills to be a more skilled rider.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            IDK if this has been mentioned, but could it be possible that you are able to ride the more advanced horse at Barn B because of the solid foundation you are getting at Barn A?


                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Is there a possibility of higher jumps, and more in depth education at Barn A in the future?

                              I ask this because I know too many barns where whether they are ready or not have riders jumping courses, that the horses jump for them. The riders themselves are loose in the tack, and only look good because they need not really ride.
                              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


                              • #16
                                Tbh for me first few lessons with new people who have been riding their whole life are a lot more stressful than teaching people with zero experience. Lots of people come and say that they have ridden their whole life and are really not very good. Some are good but a little out of shape and just need a few rides to get back into it. It’s hard sometimes to distinguish those people right away because some might have great eq but the second anything goes wrong might get scared and not be able to handle it, some people are very sloppy but have a ton of fun with the horses that are a little faster and more challenging and you have to get to know people better to really be certain. But either way, they will be safer on a slow horse and really if you’ve been riding for a long time I think you should be able to get just about any school horse in front of your leg even if you’re out of shape. I’m fortunate enough to have a few safe guys that are not a ton of leg, forward but slow and have a substantial jump in them but they are hard to come by and they are everyone’s favorite horse so if I already used one of them that day you’re gonna ride a harder horse and do less in your lesson. My general rule though is that if you want to jump 2’6” or higher consistently you need to lease or buy your own horse because the lesson horses work hard and even though they can jump higher than that I’m not going to make them work that hard, especially for someone I don’t know very well. They have to jump a lot so I keep the jumps small. But if they are leased I’ll be a little more liberal with the jump height since I know they’ll be jumping like 2x a week and flatting the rest of the week.

                                anyway I hope my perspective offered a little insight into what trainer from barn A may be thinking. Sounds like barn b might have access to higher quality horses and can afford to use their horses a little more liberally.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I think you need to discuss this with both instructors. Tell them each that you are thinking of leasing to get more saddle time, or whatever your goals are. Ask them if they can help you with that. Ask them to introduce you to others that they have helped (assuming they are still at the same barn). Ask some serious lease questions with the assumption you could lease a lesson horse (you would need to state this up-front)....
                                  1. How much is a lease (full/partial)?
                                  2. What's covered in the lease fee/what do you have to pay for on top of that (vet, board, shoes, etc),
                                  3, How many times you get to ride if a partial lease, are they still going to use the horse in lessons (especially if a partial lease, will they use the horse on the days when you come),
                                  4. Which horses are available for full or partial lease. Do you like those horses?
                                  5. What if the horse becomes unsound for some reason? This is part of horse ownership, and if you owned, you'd be responsible for everything. BUT if you're leasing, especially partial, and the horse is unsound as the result of something done with some other rider, who's paying?
                                  6. Are there times when you cannot ride the horse and are those acceptable to you (e.g. some barns are closed on Sunday)

                                  As others have mentioned, there is no cut-and-dried universal answer to your question.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Farosh View Post
                                    Tbh for me first few lessons with new people who have been riding their whole life are a lot more stressful than teaching people with zero experience. Lots of people come and say that they have ridden their whole life and are really not very good. Some are good but a little out of shape and just need a few rides to get back into it. It’s hard sometimes to distinguish those people right away because some might have great eq but the second anything goes wrong might get scared and not be able to handle it, some people are very sloppy but have a ton of fun with the horses that are a little faster and more challenging and you have to get to know people better to really be certain. But either way, they will be safer on a slow horse and really if you’ve been riding for a long time I think you should be able to get just about any school horse in front of your leg even if you’re out of shape. I’m fortunate enough to have a few safe guys that are not a ton of leg, forward but slow and have a substantial jump in them but they are hard to come by and they are everyone’s favorite horse so if I already used one of them that day you’re gonna ride a harder horse and do less in your lesson. My general rule though is that if you want to jump 2’6” or higher consistently you need to lease or buy your own horse because the lesson horses work hard and even though they can jump higher than that I’m not going to make them work that hard, especially for someone I don’t know very well. They have to jump a lot so I keep the jumps small. But if they are leased I’ll be a little more liberal with the jump height since I know they’ll be jumping like 2x a week and flatting the rest of the week.

                                    anyway I hope my perspective offered a little insight into what trainer from barn A may be thinking. Sounds like barn b might have access to higher quality horses and can afford to use their horses a little more liberally.
                                    Farosh makes a lot of good points!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      From a horsemanship standpoint (and overall), sounds like you could make barn B work. It’s worth asking if you can tack the horse up yourself- most likely they’ll say yes. And don’t worry about what the other people think. I, for one, actually thinks it’s cool and fun to take care of my own horse. So just do your own thing!

                                      Id prefer the barn that pushes me to be better. Riding a younger horse would certainly be more appealing to me. Especially one that is well trained, so that if I am asking for something incorrectly, the horse will “tell” on me.

                                      Good luck!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Man, this is a tough one! Do you have video from lessons at both places? It'd be fascinating to see the differences.

                                        Barn A may be picker on your real skills and more in tune to the flatwork piece of things. Or it may be protecting it's older and less fancy school horse. Or it may be super conservative. Or it may be less experienced or less organized/specific.

                                        Barn B could be seeing your real skill level. Or they may be glossing over your gaps, putting you on a nicer horse and hoping that you will end up buying a horse with them (something that will likely need training) and showing with them. As a show-oriented barn, they could be less concerned with the basics and more used to pushing people forward (while having the staff and the program to manage & prepare the horses to allow that). They also may not have true school horses and something fancier/more advanced is all they have available to you.

                                        Without seeing video, I find it hard to really give an opinion of which barn is accurately addressing your skill level (or perhaps neither of them are!).

                                        If you don't have video or aren't comfortable sharing it, I would have a conversation with each barn. Ask barn A why the lessons have felt more basic than other experiences ("I'm just curious and trying to learn, but I was wondering if there's a specific reason that our lessons are more flatwork and small jump focused? They feel like a step back compared to other experiences I've had, but I'm wondering if you had a specific reason for that?")

                                        ...and ask barn B if they can emphasize the horsemanship and also be aware of your goals ("I'm loving our lessons and feel like I'm being appropriately pushed in my riding, but flatwork and horsemanship is important to me as well. Could we incorporate more flatwork? And would it be okay if I helped the grooms get ready for my lessons and cool out/untack as well? I'd like to be a well-rounded rider. I also just want to let you know that I don't plan on showing much - I just want to be the best rider and horsewoman I can be. Are you okay with those goals?").

                                        Those 2 conversations should give you some really helpful feedback.

                                        FWIW I hated it when clients just asked if they could jump higher, because usually if I wasn't having them do so it was for a specific reason. Asking why we weren't doing something in an attempt to learn goes over way better than just asking to jump bigger - or at least it will tell you their reasoning! If the reason is that Dobbin can't do more and he's your only lesson horse option, that will really help you in your decision! But so many clients aren't willing to take the time to learn and commit to the basics these days. And that may be why Barn B is just pushing you on - they're probably used to an impatient, higher end clientele that wants to do the fun stuff regardless of if they're ready for it.
                                        Jennifer Baas
                                        It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)

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