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Is this acceptable trainer behavior?

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  • Is this acceptable trainer behavior?

    I’m an adult amateur and am at my wit’s end. Over the last 6 years I’ve tried to find a good situation in my new home state, but every time, after a few months (sometimes weeks!) something happens that I find unprofessional or unacceptable, and I move on. The latest thing has me wanting to quit riding altogether. Is this behavior normal?! If I want to ride, is some level of shadiness just to be expected? Here are the highlights:

    Barn 1: Trainer tries to sell me a mare that I later find out has been abandoned by the owner. The price is amazingly low. When they present the sale contract, it says that the papers are to remain with the trainer, as well as the official ownership and breeding rights. When I call them out, they say that “it’s more of a 3-month lease fee.” I leave the barn. The trainer “sells” the horse to another client, and when they leave a year later, the trainer will not let them take the horse they “bought” from him.

    Barn 2: Trainer seems competent, if abrasive at times. After a few months, they ask me to do an exercise I’m uncomfortable with, so I tell them I don’t want to do it. Trainer proceeds to yell at me that I have to do it, threatening to take away my stirrups, etc. So I do it, fall off, lose my memory, get a concussion and slip a disc. Can’t ride for a few months. Leave that barn.

    Barn 3: Trainers are starting up their new business. I’m recovering from my previous back injuries and tell them repeatedly that I need to take it easy. They roll their eyes. During Lesson 8 or 9, after awhile I walk due to muscles giving out/exhaustion. Trainer gets mad and asks for my crop. I hand it to them. They proceed to HIT ME with it, on my butt, while on top of the horse. Humiliated, I leave the barn (but not before emailing them exactly why that was unacceptable).

    Barn 4: I try the fancy hunter barn. As someone who wants to buy with a limited budget, my requests to lease/buy are pretty much ignored. Frustrated and still with no horse, I leave.

    Barn 5: Trainer finds me a horse to lease on a budget that turns out to be completely wrong for me and misrepresented. I try to hang in there and make it work. But After a friend who is a trainer watched one of my lessons, she was pretty blunt about the mismatch. I give the horse back before the lease ends, losing 7 months of a lease fee.

    Barn 6: It’s more a lesson program than a training program, but my trainer friend is working there. They sell me a horse that I like, but then leave and move 4 hours away. I let the school use my horse for lessons in exchange for reduced board. The owner of the school program proceeds to use my horse 2-3x a day for lessons without telling me. Then accuses me of not paying my board and bills even though I provide itemized receipts for everything. This happens EVERY MONTH. So once again... I leave and sell my horse because at this point I have anxiety surrounding anything horse related.

    Barn 8: I miss riding, so I go back to the fancy hunter barn. I have a higher budget to buy now. I tell them what it is, and they say great, then double it. They tell me a horse in this range can be leased out much more easily and sold more easily if I need to get out of it. They find a “perfect” horse for me, but it’s across the country. Owned by someone they do business with often. They want me to pay for transportation so I can try it, then if I don’t like it, they say they can sell it right away and get my money back. They misrepresent the transport costs. Right before I get the contract from the hauler, I ask for the total, and it’s DOUBLE. I say no thank you, don’t ship this horse out, you’re not being truthful.

    I’m still at barn 8, but I feel I need to leave again because they are already not listening to my budget and Misrepresenting costs. I can’t trust what they say. I’ve even heard 3 different prices for the horse.

    If you’ve read this far, thank you.

    Is this par for the course at H/J barns? I feel anxious, frustrated, and like I might be crazy for attempting to do this as a hobby. I work full time and used riding as a de-stressor... but it’s causing more stress than relaxation at this point.

    Any insight would be helpful. Thank you.


  • #2
    Originally posted by xxWarmbloodHunterxx View Post
    I’m an adult amateur and am at my wit’s end. Over the last 6 years I’ve tried to find a good situation in my new home state, but every time, after a few months (sometimes weeks!) something happens that I find unprofessional or unacceptable, and I move on. The latest thing has me wanting to quit riding altogether. Is this behavior normal?! If I want to ride, is some level of shadiness just to be expected? Here are the highlights:

    Barn 1: Trainer tries to sell me a mare that I later find out has been abandoned by the owner. The price is amazingly low. When they present the sale contract, it says that the papers are to remain with the trainer, as well as the official ownership and breeding rights. When I call them out, they say that “it’s more of a 3-month lease fee.” I leave the barn. The trainer “sells” the horse to another client, and when they leave a year later, the trainer will not let them take the horse they “bought” from him.

    Barn 2: Trainer seems competent, if abrasive at times. After a few months, they ask me to do an exercise I’m uncomfortable with, so I tell them I don’t want to do it. Trainer proceeds to yell at me that I have to do it, threatening to take away my stirrups, etc. So I do it, fall off, lose my memory, get a concussion and slip a disc. Can’t ride for a few months. Leave that barn.

    Barn 3: Trainers are starting up their new business. I’m recovering from my previous back injuries and tell them repeatedly that I need to take it easy. They roll their eyes. During Lesson 8 or 9, after awhile I walk due to muscles giving out/exhaustion. Trainer gets mad and asks for my crop. I hand it to them. They proceed to HIT ME with it, on my butt, while on top of the horse. Humiliated, I leave the barn (but not before emailing them exactly why that was unacceptable).

    Barn 4: I try the fancy hunter barn. As someone who wants to buy with a limited budget, my requests to lease/buy are pretty much ignored. Frustrated and still with no horse, I leave.

    Barn 5: Trainer finds me a horse to lease on a budget that turns out to be completely wrong for me and misrepresented. I try to hang in there and make it work. But After a friend who is a trainer watched one of my lessons, she was pretty blunt about the mismatch. I give the horse back before the lease ends, losing 7 months of a lease fee.

    Barn 6: It’s more a lesson program than a training program, but my trainer friend is working there. They sell me a horse that I like, but then leave and move 4 hours away. I let the school use my horse for lessons in exchange for reduced board. The owner of the school program proceeds to use my horse 2-3x a day for lessons without telling me. Then accuses me of not paying my board and bills even though I provide itemized receipts for everything. This happens EVERY MONTH. So once again... I leave and sell my horse because at this point I have anxiety surrounding anything horse related.

    Barn 8: I miss riding, so I go back to the fancy hunter barn. I have a higher budget to buy now. I tell them what it is, and they say great, then double it. They tell me a horse in this range can be leased out much more easily and sold more easily if I need to get out of it. They find a “perfect” horse for me, but it’s across the country. Owned by someone they do business with often. They want me to pay for transportation so I can try it, then if I don’t like it, they say they can sell it right away and get my money back. They misrepresent the transport costs. Right before I get the contract from the hauler, I ask for the total, and it’s DOUBLE. I say no thank you, don’t ship this horse out, you’re not being truthful.

    I’m still at barn 8, but I feel I need to leave again because they are already not listening to my budget and Misrepresenting costs. I can’t trust what they say. I’ve even heard 3 different prices for the horse.

    If you’ve read this far, thank you.

    Is this par for the course at H/J barns? I feel anxious, frustrated, and like I might be crazy for attempting to do this as a hobby. I work full time and used riding as a de-stressor... but it’s causing more stress than relaxation at this point.

    Any insight would be helpful. Thank you.
    I have found that a good way to not get pressured into things or resent my trainers is to be very much a self starter rather than rely too much on my trainers to source horses.

    As far as interpersonal conflict, if someone has eight bad experiences in a row then perhaps they might consider that they are one consistent factor in the equation.

    Comment


    • #3
      Lately I’ve been feeling like this sport is squeezing out adult amateurs on a budget. It’s really not easy. Perhaps consider other disciplines? I gave up on h/j ages ago. Sorry I have nothing more helpful to say.

      Comment


      • #4
        I feel like we’re missing a lot of the details on some of these. Clearly most of these aren’t your fault... but some of them I’m not sure.

        I get the vibe that you really feel like because you’re the paying customer you should be getting taught exactly how you want to be taught and I’m sorry that’s not how it works. If my trainer says trot without stirrups for 15 laps... that’s what I’m doing. I don’t get to be like “no thanks, I’m tired” My trainer would beat me with a crop too if I pulled that.

        There’s always so much of “my trainer did this to me” and “how do I get my trainer to stop yelling at me” and “how do I get my trainer to let me try other horses” and so on. The thing that I’ve found to be most consistent with every trainer I’ve ever worked with, is that they aren’t going to cater to your personality and adjust their style. You really do have to kind of get with the program or get out.

        I'm sorry. Good luck to you, I hope you find what you are looking for.

        Comment


        • #5
          Wow. Really have to disagree with Equkelly. In what world is it ever okay for a trainer to hit someone with a crop or otherwise? That’s called assault. Never mind the fact that OP is paying for a service.

          Look, I grew up with some trainers who behaved like drill sergeants. I participated in grueling sports teams where you could expect to be verbally abused and berated if you fell behind. I don’t particularly think it made me tougher. It made me more likely to stay silent and try to push through discomfort. When I was later diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, I learned how much danger that attitude has put me in. Needless to say, I’m more conscious of limits now.

          By definition, AAs are not pros. We are not being paid to do this. It is a sport, and pushing physical limits is part of that, but not to extremes. At the very least, if you talk to your trainer about your limits, nerves, issues, whatever and how you’d like them to be handled, your needs should be considered.

          Regarding the original question, no, this is not acceptable. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s particularly uncommon either. I’ve seen some truly horrible, unfit programs/trainers. I’ve also struggled to find the right fit. I think part of the problem right now is that it’s so hard to make a living in this sport. It squeezes out people who are good, honest, but not at the top tier because they get screwed over or can’t afford the cost of doing business or were never properly trained in business to begin with. You’re left with a lot of unscrupulous people who will do anything to make a profit, some great programs that are elite and therefore hard to afford, and quite a bit of people in the middle. Depending on where you are, it can be hard to find people who are affordable, accessible, and ethical.

          I’m sorry OP for what sounds like a truly draining experience. I’ve been through similarly disheartening time periods like this myself, and I’ve struggled to find the right barn/trainer/program. I’ve made lists of what I’m willing to compromise on and what are non-negotiable points. That doesn’t make it easier. It may mean expanding your search radius, driving further for the right program, or looking at a new approach. But I wouldn’t go back to a program I’ve already identified as a poor fit.

          Comment


          • #6
            OP, where are you?

            It's surprising to me that you have so many choices open to you and that so many of these barns are so as bad as described.

            I have not had most of that happen, though perhaps I have been ignored a bit as a client for my lack of money/willingness to buy what I was told to.

            But the answer to your question is that *you* get to decide what is acceptable to you. This industry is entirely unregulated. Pay for what you want, do not pay for treatment that you don't want.
            The armchair saddler
            Politically Pro-Cat

            Comment


            • #7
              How about stepping away from the fomal lesson scene and finding yourself a private/small boarding barn? Theres a lot of older horses that will help build your fitness and confidence whose owners would love some help with the bills.

              Comment


              • #8
                Where the heck are you, OP? Remind me never to move there. I have been riding a long time and I've been truly blessed with good, respectful trainers and barn owners. My heart goes out to you, and I'm absolutely willing to PM, even if you just want to vent. Maybe we can brainstorm a little.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have a barn full of predominantly adult amateurs with some juniors, mostly on some sort or budget and none of these situations have ever taken place. Where do you live? You need to go to your pro and set your expectations as well as your budget.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Equkelly View Post
                    I get the vibe that you really feel like because you’re the paying customer you should be getting taught exactly how you want to be taught and I’m sorry that’s not how it works. If my trainer says trot without stirrups for 15 laps... that’s what I’m doing. I don’t get to be like “no thanks, I’m tired” My trainer would beat me with a crop too if I pulled that.
                    I'm amazed that anyone would think this is okay. My trainer would be arrested if she assaulted me like that. But I know she never would. She understands that I'm the client and if I'm uncomfortable with something or need to take a walk break, it's okay with her. I'm not going to the Olympics; I'm an AA who does this for my pleasure. My dime, my call.

                    If she wants to fire me as a client, she's entitled to do that. She's not entitled to assault me, roll her eyes, insist I do something I'm uncomfortable doing. Frankly, it's her job to help me get comfortable with things that are outside my comfort zone.
                    "She is not fragile like a flower. She is fragile like a bomb."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Wow, sorry you have had such horrible experiences! None of it is okay but some of it has a familiar ring to it. Maybe if you provide your general location someone on here can suggest a barn that caters to amateur riders on a budget. Or maybe explore moving into the eventing/dressage world. I dabble in a bit of everything and find eventing trainers to be more laid back and less pressured to sell you a $100k horse.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Have you ever heard the saying that "If everyone else is always the problem, maybe the problem is you?" This is definitely the vibe I'm getting from the OP.

                        It seems to me that most of the problems described in the OP could have been avoided simply by acting like a responsible adult with a firm backbone and reasonable expectations and making sure communications are clear and understood by both parties.

                        "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                        that's even remotely true."

                        Homer Simpson

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SillyHorse View Post
                          I'm amazed that anyone would think this is okay. My trainer would be arrested if she assaulted me like that. But I know she never would. She understands that I'm the client and if I'm uncomfortable with something or need to take a walk break, it's okay with her. I'm not going to the Olympics; I'm an AA who does this for my pleasure. My dime, my call.

                          If she wants to fire me as a client, she's entitled to do that. She's not entitled to assault me, roll her eyes, insist I do something I'm uncomfortable doing. Frankly, it's her job to help me get comfortable with things that are outside my comfort zone.
                          And to find one's way between the client who would try to have you arrested for assault and making the uncomfortable client comfortable. That's a tough job description!
                          The armchair saddler
                          Politically Pro-Cat

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Barn 1: Trainer tries to sell me a mare that I later find out has been abandoned by the owner. The price is amazingly low. When they present the sale contract, it says that the papers are to remain with the trainer, as well as the official ownership and breeding rights. When I call them out, they say that “it’s more of a 3-month lease fee.”
                            Have heard of this, though I don't think it's all that common, and you made the right call. BYE.

                            Barn 2: Trainer seems competent, if abrasive at times. After a few months, they ask me to do an exercise I’m uncomfortable with, so I tell them I don’t want to do it. Trainer proceeds to yell at me that I have to do it, threatening to take away my stirrups, etc. So I do it, fall off, lose my memory, get a concussion and slip a disc.
                            Some people want drill-sergeant trainers. Some don't. Trainer should have asked you why you don't want to do it, tried to understand, then tried to find another exercise to accomplish the goal or leave the goal for another day. You know your body and your mind, don't ignore what it's telling you just because a trainer says so. I'm sorry this happened.

                            Barn 3: Trainers are starting up their new business. I’m recovering from my previous back injuries and tell them repeatedly that I need to take it easy. They roll their eyes. During Lesson 8 or 9, after awhile I walk due to muscles giving out/exhaustion. Trainer gets mad and asks for my crop. I hand it to them. They proceed to HIT ME with it, on my butt, while on top of the horse. Humiliated, I leave the barn (but not before emailing them exactly why that was unacceptable).
                            Literally no. Never okay.

                            Barn 4: I try the fancy hunter barn. As someone who wants to buy with a limited budget, my requests to lease/buy are pretty much ignored. Frustrated and still with no horse, I leave.
                            Pretty common, but crappy. Some trainers won't waste their time with limited budgets.

                            Barn 5: Trainer finds me a horse to lease on a budget that turns out to be completely wrong for me and misrepresented. I try to hang in there and make it work. But After a friend who is a trainer watched one of my lessons, she was pretty blunt about the mismatch. I give the horse back before the lease ends, losing 7 months of a lease fee.
                            I'd have given this trainer another chance. It can be hard to play match-maker, and some people just aren't good at it. Based on your bouncing around, I'm going to guess this trainer didn't know you long before finding a lease horse, so they really weren't set up for success. Unless you found the horse completely unsafe, a mismatch doesn't have to be a deal breaker for a lease - you could have ridden out the lease, learned a lot, and then sent the horse back. A "not for me, but appreciate the experience" kind of thing.

                            Barn 6: I let the school use my horse for lessons in exchange for reduced board. The owner of the school program proceeds to use my horse 2-3x a day for lessons without telling me. Then accuses me of not paying my board and bills even though I provide itemized receipts for everything.
                            Been there, done that. BYE.

                            Barn 8: They misrepresent the transport costs. Right before I get the contract from the hauler, I ask for the total, and it’s DOUBLE. I say no thank you, don’t ship this horse out, you’re not being truthful.
                            Fairly common, unfortunately. BYE.


                            I do agree that you appear to be subconsciously seeking out or attracting trainers that are inclined to take advantage of you, and/or you are not communicating effectively when starting with a new trainer.
                            Last edited by mmeqcenter; Jan. 13, 2020, 04:15 PM.
                            Custom tack racks!
                            www.mmeqcenter.com/tacklove.html

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by gertie06 View Post
                              Where the heck are you, OP? Remind me never to move there. I have been riding a long time and I've been truly blessed with good, respectful trainers and barn owners. My heart goes out to you, and I'm absolutely willing to PM, even if you just want to vent. Maybe we can brainstorm a little.
                              I moved several times for work with my horse, and so was at multiple barns (some smaller adult centered where outside trainers came in, but also formal training barns); currently without a horse I'm riding at a HJ lesson barn.

                              The pushiness and sometimes outright shadiness wrt trainers buying horses for their clients is a perennial subject on COTH, so that doesn't surprise me. Disheartening that it's happening so often to OP, and possibly she needs to push back much stronger, but still not surprising.

                              But the other trainer behavior still is weird, esp that it's happening consistently in different barns. I assume there is something from both sides that makes this problem keep coming up. Mind you, at current barn I see trainers yelling at the kids; I'd accept that if I were representing my trainer and their business on the show circuit, to a point, but as someone just taking lessons I've literally laughed when yelled at. Unless it's an immediate safety issue, I'm the client, I'm paying for this service, and you can speak to me professionally (I have a good relationship with the people teaching me, I just explained what my goals are and what I will/won't tolerate, and there hasn't been any friction).
                              Proud Member Of The Lady Mafia

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Thank you to everyone who responded with kind words and constructive ideas. It is actually a relief to hear so many people chime in and listen. I will respond individually later as I have to get ready for work, but to answer a few questions that popped up-

                                I do agree that it is harder and harder for people to make a living doing this, and that we a/as are getting squeezed out. I do wish there was more regulation over trainers! Switching disciplines might be the answer! And I’m located in Los Angeles.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by mvp View Post

                                  And to find one's way between the client who would try to have you arrested for assault and making the uncomfortable client comfortable. That's a tough job description!
                                  No, it isn't. A reasonable adult can do it pretty easily.

                                  "She is not fragile like a flower. She is fragile like a bomb."

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I'm in the where are you camp. I've boarded at 3 barns, and never had the issues that OP has. When I busted my ankle but good, trainer yelled at me about heels down, ankles doesn't work like that anymore. Told him he had to deal with it for 1 hour 2 times a week, me 24.7 and yelling at me about it won't make it work.. While it didn't look pretty, he realized my weight was down in the heel even though it presented otherwise. He was a great trainer, always safety conscious. We'd go on trail rides for lessons and he always made sure to put some horses where they were the most comfortable - front back etc and never did anything by surprise - like changing gaits. Safety first always with him

                                    I think having a conversation with your trainer about any confidence or physical issues is very important, and needs to be discussed from the get go. I had a friend who was born with congenital hip defects. This was not something she talked about, it' was pretty obvious when she walked but at our lesson barn trainers rarely saw us until we were in the saddle. Weekly she'd get screamed and berated about her position. I kept telling her to tell them about her physical limitations - as it was for her protection as well as the stables should she fall off - they'd need to know of any pre-existing condition. She finally did fess up and from that point on, the trainers made sure she was assigned a more narrow horse and worked to help her get a better position knowing her physical limitations. Certainly you don't want to waltz into a barn with a list of can't do's but IME now trainers are more empathetic particularly with adult riders - as they know many of us have had bad falls or careers where we just can't risk a bad fall that would lay us up for any length of time.

                                    I hope the OP finds a suitable place and maybe take some time before talking with trainer about buying something. Get some knowledge first.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      First, why didn't you keep the horse you bought and liked but the barn was using for too many lessons? Could you just have moved the horse to a new barn? Why sell when you have the right horse, just not the right barn?

                                      Why don't you have your trainer friend work with you to find a horse that suits you, then move to a non-show barn where your trainer friend can give you some lesson's without the pressures of being in a show barn.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Firstly: stop trying to buy a horse. It sounds like you join a barn and then right away start trying to buy a horse? Stop that. Take lessons, see if you like the trainer/barn, THEN buy a horse. I also am unsure why you sold the horse that was being used in multiple lessons? If you really really want a horse right now, find a small private place to keep the horse and then shop around for a decent barn (and take some lessons before moving your horse there).

                                        I grew up riding outside of Los Angeles and am still pretty close to that area. Its full of "big" barns and top trainers, but it is ALSO full of small time trainers that may fit what you're looking for better.
                                        Lots of things you could do with a stopwatch...

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