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Sad Horseless Life

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  • Sad Horseless Life

    I don't own my own horse right now and won't be able to for awhile. I've managed to finangle myself into a nice riding situation for which I'm very grateful; however, I'm starting to wonder if it's all worth it.

    This relationship started out as just trainer/student, and she would allow me to ride her horses for practice between lessons; now after a span of almost ten years, it's progressed to something much more codependent. I don't pay for much anymore, but I do a lot of extra work around the farm and she'll take in project horses or board-and-trains with the intention of having me do some of the riding as well, when without me she wouldn't have the time to do so. To be clear - she's making money off these arrangements, I'm just getting ride time only, with the occasional bonus/gift.

    As a result of this relationship, my riding has progressed a lot and I've gotten some really great opportunities, but dealing with this person's difficult personality has taken a toll on my sanity and I've been thinking more and more about how to get myself out of it. It's a huge commitment for me to do all this riding for her and I'm beyond the point of feeling burnt out. I'd definitely be willing to sacrifice a lot of riding time to catch a break, but the more I think about it, the more I worry that there's really no way to gracefully exit without it coming off as insulting/ungrateful. We live in a small town riding-wise and it would be very, very difficult to disentangle myself without burning a bridge or two.

    This person has tried to set up a similar "working student" situation with a couple other people in her barn and none of them have worked out because they weren't as willing as I am to just shut their mouth and do the work. Her personality is VERY difficult to get along with - she hardly has any friends because she holds people to impossible standards and always thinks people "let her down", she's passive aggressive and downright mean sometimes. I can't stand going to competitions with her because if I don't do well I get screamed at, and even if I do do well there's always something for her to criticize in a very MEAN and non constructive way. She tells me that I put pressure on myself without even realizing that the pressure is actually coming from her because she wants to see her horses do well and I can never be good enough for her. I've known her for years and I understand why she acts the way she does, I can see the underlying untreated mental illness and the family drama that causes it, but that doesn't make it any less hard for me to deal with. I also very frequently disagree with her decisions as far as horse management and training go, but there's nothing I can really do about that except mildly suggest what I think and go on with my day, which is hard.

    All these relationship difficulties aside, even if she were a perfect person, I don't think I can really be truly happy in this kind of "horse sugar mama" situation at all anymore. When I met her I was much younger than I am now, and maybe I've just outgrown it. I really just want to have control over my own riding life!!! This is supposed to be fun!!! It's the power dynamic inherent in any of these relationships that dooms them for long-term success, because I feel like someone always ends up getting taken advantage of. In this situation the work actually gets split up pretty fairly, but it's the emotional labor involved that's really taking its toll.

    I don't really have a question, just wanted to rant about her to some strangers because my family and friends are sick of hearing about it!! There's gotta be some other horseless folks out there who can relate to my internal battle between the desire for saddle time vs. dealing with crazy horse owners. Thanks for reading if you made it this far!

  • #2
    Wow, sad to hear that you are going through this. You’re right, riding should be fun! It sounds like the trainer/horse owner is causing you a great deal of stress which no doubt is distracting and unhealthy. If you can afford lessons and sufficient riding time without this arrangement by all means disentangle yourself. Unfortunately in a small town, I realize your alternative riding facility options may be very limited. If you are not in a position to completely remove yourself from the situation, do you think it might be possible to simply explain to the trainer/horse owner that you need to reduce your time at the barn? Everyone goes through times in life where they need to adjust their commitments. If you express your sincere appreciation and desire to continue a positive working relationship, but simply need to scale back on your work she may be understanding of this and appreciate your honesty. It sounds like you have been working very hard for a long time; we all need to take a break sometime. I hope this helps and I wish you the best!

    Comment


    • #3
      Sounds like a tough spot to be in, but it is time to take a break or scale back. Your mental health is too important to stay in this toxic relationship. Other riding opportunities may come up down the road, so try to build a network of people (farrier, vet, previous working students who have flown the coop) that you know now (and prob feel the same about this trainer that you do) that may prove helpful down the road.

      Just remember to be a professional as possible and take the high road. You can even say something like "My life is really stressful right now and as much as I love riding here, I can only commit to twice a week, so I know that might change our current arrangement, so if you need to find a different working student, I completely understand."

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by alterboi View Post
        I don't own my own horse right now and won't be able to for awhile. I've managed to finangle myself into a nice riding situation for which I'm very grateful; however, I'm starting to wonder if it's all worth it.

        This relationship started out as just trainer/student, and she would allow me to ride her horses for practice between lessons; now after a span of almost ten years, it's progressed to something much more codependent. I don't pay for much anymore, but I do a lot of extra work around the farm and she'll take in project horses or board-and-trains with the intention of having me do some of the riding as well, when without me she wouldn't have the time to do so. To be clear - she's making money off these arrangements, I'm just getting ride time only, with the occasional bonus/gift.

        As a result of this relationship, my riding has progressed a lot and I've gotten some really great opportunities, but dealing with this person's difficult personality has taken a toll on my sanity and I've been thinking more and more about how to get myself out of it. It's a huge commitment for me to do all this riding for her and I'm beyond the point of feeling burnt out. I'd definitely be willing to sacrifice a lot of riding time to catch a break, but the more I think about it, the more I worry that there's really no way to gracefully exit without it coming off as insulting/ungrateful. We live in a small town riding-wise and it would be very, very difficult to disentangle myself without burning a bridge or two.

        This person has tried to set up a similar "working student" situation with a couple other people in her barn and none of them have worked out because they weren't as willing as I am to just shut their mouth and do the work. Her personality is VERY difficult to get along with - she hardly has any friends because she holds people to impossible standards and always thinks people "let her down", she's passive aggressive and downright mean sometimes. I can't stand going to competitions with her because if I don't do well I get screamed at, and even if I do do well there's always something for her to criticize in a very MEAN and non constructive way. She tells me that I put pressure on myself without even realizing that the pressure is actually coming from her because she wants to see her horses do well and I can never be good enough for her. I've known her for years and I understand why she acts the way she does, I can see the underlying untreated mental illness and the family drama that causes it, but that doesn't make it any less hard for me to deal with. I also very frequently disagree with her decisions as far as horse management and training go, but there's nothing I can really do about that except mildly suggest what I think and go on with my day, which is hard.

        All these relationship difficulties aside, even if she were a perfect person, I don't think I can really be truly happy in this kind of "horse sugar mama" situation at all anymore. When I met her I was much younger than I am now, and maybe I've just outgrown it. I really just want to have control over my own riding life!!! This is supposed to be fun!!! It's the power dynamic inherent in any of these relationships that dooms them for long-term success, because I feel like someone always ends up getting taken advantage of. In this situation the work actually gets split up pretty fairly, but it's the emotional labor involved that's really taking its toll.

        I don't really have a question, just wanted to rant about her to some strangers because my family and friends are sick of hearing about it!! There's gotta be some other horseless folks out there who can relate to my internal battle between the desire for saddle time vs. dealing with crazy horse owners. Thanks for reading if you made it this far!

        You need to disentangle yourself. If you can give her 30 days' notice -- if she will be able to deal with you reasonably during that 30 days -- that should be reasonably fair. If you believe the situation may not be tolerable for 30 days, you may need to bow out with less notice. But from what you've posted, I think you need to make a clean break with this woman.

        You don't need to give her a full and detailed explanation of WHY you are ending the arrangement. It's enough to say that you need a break or a change, and that you appreciate having been able to learn from her and ride her horses over the years. Thank her sincerely for the opportunity and wish her well.

        Proofreading is your friend.

        Comment


        • #5
          Maybe you've been too good at keeping your mouth shut and should have pushed back a long time ago?

          I know people who let similar situations happen, and when they'd finally reached their limit and were ready to move on they were able to negotiate a much more mutually beneficial relationship and ended up staying.

          Obviously, not everyone can recognize that they were part of the problem and go on to re-negotiate, but if both can admit that they can do better then it is often possible to rebuild a much more mutually acceptable relationship.

          Comment


          • #6
            I... have been through almost exactly this experience (though for only ~five years, not ten) and I deeply, deeply regret not leaving sooner, when it would've been a clean and mutually respectful break. Instead it wound up being a very messy one (for which I absolutely do accept some responsibility) and I very much would not recommend doing things the way I did.

            For me, getting out was a good thing. Like I said, I wish it had been cleaner, but I almost immediately felt less anxious, less upset, and just... lighter. I started riding with my former trainer when I was sixteen and, like you, could never afford a horse. When I was a teenager, all the extra saddle time was great (my best friend and I were arguably the most advanced students, so we got the extra rides), but as the program got bigger (and the people with money showed up) it became a source of consternation rather than joy.

            I didn't think I'd be able to ride at all if I stopped riding with the trainer in question - I couldn't afford a horse at the time and the only other trainer I wanted to work with has never had much of a lesson string since she started coaching out of her own barn - and for a long time that was scarier than the prospect of continuing to stay in that situation, but eventually my frustrations won out and I accepted that I might be horseless for a very long time.

            I got very lucky in that another friend invited me to come ride her horses at her farm about ~eight months after I left my last trainer, and that things worked out financially where I was able to purchase my first horse a couple of weeks ago (roughly six months after I started riding with her) and board it at said friend's farm, but honestly, even if that hadn't happened I think I still would've wound up leaving my last trainer eventually. It wasn't worth the toll it was taking on my mental health, it was turning me into a person I didn't like being, and as you said, this is all supposed to be fun and it just wasn't anymore.

            I second what Altag said - tell her you need a break or a change, that you learned a lot from her, and that you appreciate the time you spent in her barn. Losing the saddle time might seem like a bad thing, but it can honestly be so nice to have a month or two (or eight) of not having to worry about needing to ride or help out with x or y thing at the barn, and hopefully whenever you are able to find somewhere else to ride you'll be able to enjoy it again. I can't say enough about how amazing it is to be able to ride without the kind of pressure that comes from that sort of situation, and I really hope you're able to find a way out of this with as little drama as possible.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by alterboi View Post
              I don't own my own horse right now and won't be able to for awhile. I've managed to finangle myself into a nice riding situation for which I'm very grateful; however, I'm starting to wonder if it's all worth it.

              This relationship started out as just trainer/student, and she would allow me to ride her horses for practice between lessons; now after a span of almost ten years, it's progressed to something much more codependent. I don't pay for much anymore, but I do a lot of extra work around the farm and she'll take in project horses or board-and-trains with the intention of having me do some of the riding as well, when without me she wouldn't have the time to do so. To be clear - she's making money off these arrangements, I'm just getting ride time only, with the occasional bonus/gift.

              As a result of this relationship, my riding has progressed a lot and I've gotten some really great opportunities, but dealing with this person's difficult personality has taken a toll on my sanity and I've been thinking more and more about how to get myself out of it. It's a huge commitment for me to do all this riding for her and I'm beyond the point of feeling burnt out. I'd definitely be willing to sacrifice a lot of riding time to catch a break, but the more I think about it, the more I worry that there's really no way to gracefully exit without it coming off as insulting/ungrateful. We live in a small town riding-wise and it would be very, very difficult to disentangle myself without burning a bridge or two.

              This person has tried to set up a similar "working student" situation with a couple other people in her barn and none of them have worked out because they weren't as willing as I am to just shut their mouth and do the work. Her personality is VERY difficult to get along with - she hardly has any friends because she holds people to impossible standards and always thinks people "let her down", she's passive aggressive and downright mean sometimes. I can't stand going to competitions with her because if I don't do well I get screamed at, and even if I do do well there's always something for her to criticize in a very MEAN and non constructive way. She tells me that I put pressure on myself without even realizing that the pressure is actually coming from her because she wants to see her horses do well and I can never be good enough for her. I've known her for years and I understand why she acts the way she does, I can see the underlying untreated mental illness and the family drama that causes it, but that doesn't make it any less hard for me to deal with. I also very frequently disagree with her decisions as far as horse management and training go, but there's nothing I can really do about that except mildly suggest what I think and go on with my day, which is hard.

              All these relationship difficulties aside, even if she were a perfect person, I don't think I can really be truly happy in this kind of "horse sugar mama" situation at all anymore. When I met her I was much younger than I am now, and maybe I've just outgrown it. I really just want to have control over my own riding life!!! This is supposed to be fun!!! It's the power dynamic inherent in any of these relationships that dooms them for long-term success, because I feel like someone always ends up getting taken advantage of. In this situation the work actually gets split up pretty fairly, but it's the emotional labor involved that's really taking its toll.

              I don't really have a question, just wanted to rant about her to some strangers because my family and friends are sick of hearing about it!! There's gotta be some other horseless folks out there who can relate to my internal battle between the desire for saddle time vs. dealing with crazy horse owners. Thanks for reading if you made it this far!
              Some people get paId for doing what you do, is called a job.

              Since those that want to ride have to pay to ride, guess that if the job you are doing equals closely what you are getting to ride, then it is ok.

              You could also have another job that pay more, then pay to ride and have money over.
              Only putting numbers to that will tell you what you have there.

              As far as advancing your riding, that seems to have been a wonderful opportunity for you, as it was for that trainer to have you to care for and train those horses.
              The part that sounds like an iffy situation is that you seem to be taken for granted and not given enough credit, plus being used for a punching bag for that trainer's bad moods.
              That is never right, time to change things.
              It will be extremely hard to change the trainer's attitude, it is what it is and it is her barn.

              Maybe it is time to move on for you?

              Comment


              • #8
                I would definitely move on. Unless she is totally unreasonable, I would imagine saying something like "My life circumstances have changed (or are changing), and I just am not going to have the time to put into this anymore" shouldn't cause an uproar and burn the bridge. She can't have thought you'd do this forever and ever, and if she did, that's on her.

                Comment


                • #9
                  OP you are deeply enmeshed in a dependent relationship where you receive some major benefits, but at increasing psychological cost. This happens a lot in marriages.

                  Right now you are so enmeshed in this situation that you don't think you will ever have a chance to ride again unless you stay put and keep your mouth shut. Like a bad marriage: no one else will ever love me, I can't survive financially, etc.

                  Of course you will find chances to ride again. No one can say what those will be, but absolutely they are out there, small town or not. But you won't find them while you are in thrall to this trainer.

                  It sounds like this was a great situation for a young person, not so much now. For one thing, I expect that your real world career and job prospects have been put on hold to some extent while you put so much time and energy into essentially volunteer work. This incidentally would also have been true if you'd been getting minimum wage as a barn hand all these years.

                  I would suggest that you look at your whole life, and what you do for your main income source. What do you need to do to make a decent income? Upgrading, retraining for a new or higher level job? New employer? Work more hours? It sounds like you are probably in your 20s guessing you started with this trainer in your teens? Time to think about the future.

                  Start researching what you need to do to get an income that will let you be a client in some way (even a half lease) and not working student. Then make arrangements to do what you need to do, and tell trainer you need indefinite time off to take a course, do more work, etc.

                  Concentrate on your career life for a year and see where you end up. Depending on how much effort you put into it, you might be far away in college or at a much better job, who knows. At any rate, you will have a different sense of yourself in the world.

                  When you start looking to get back into horses, you will have a coherent back story. "I was a working student and schooled sales horses for Crabby Acres for ten years. I quit 2 years ago to go back to college and now I'm working full time and looking for a good half lease to do xyz on."

                  Walking away from Crabby Acres won't hurt you in the horse community. Everyone knows what she's like, for sure. You may get some knowing nods and eye rolls when you mention her. Stay classy and just say you learned alot but it was time to move on.

                  No one turns away a paying customer.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    To piggyback on Scribbler's post above, I think you'll find that you'll have a host of new riding opportunities once you sever this relationship, along with people telling you they didn't know how you lasted that long. Or something like they would have loved to have you ride for them before, but they didn't want to cause trouble with Crabby Acres, but now that you're a free agent...

                    Horse communities are strange that way; you'll find a lot of people coming out of the woodwork telling you what they thought of previous trainer and your arrangement once you're well out of it.

                    Do not ask me how I know this to be true.
                    Last edited by McGurk; May. 14, 2019, 05:16 PM.
                    The plural of anecdote is not data.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      "Crabby Acres"! If I ever have my own farm I want to use that!

                      OP, for years I cleaned offices in the evening with my riding teacher (she did that to make ends meet). I traded my cleaning help for lessons. I don't know if it was because I was "the hired help", but my riding was never good enough and she would constantly remind me how good SHE was and how much she knew and how I wouldn't ever be so good because I had a long back, a crummy horse, etc., etc.

                      It wore me down and as you might expect, my self-esteem suffered. I never felt so good as when that relationship ended -- I moved to another state. I got involved with horses there and discovered that people considered me a very good rider. I was even offered the use of a horse to ride and show for FREE!

                      What you've learned from this woman may be a marketable skill -- somewhere else.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by McGurk View Post
                        To piggyback on Scribbler's post above, I think you'll find that you'll have a host of new riding opportunities once you sever this relationship, along with people telling you they didn't know how you lasted that long. Or something like they would have loved to have you ride for them before, but they didn't want to cause trouble with Crabby Acres, but now that you're a free agent...

                        Horse communities are strange that way; you'll find a lot of people coming out of the woodwork telling you what they though of previous trainer and your arrangement once you're well out of it.

                        Do not ask me how I know this to be true.
                        Seconding this. People always know what's going on, and while every trainer has that group of people that don't like them for whatever reason, you'll usually find out what the community really thinks of someone after they learn that you left that person (especially if they learn why). Sometimes the general opinion is very good, while other times... not so much.

                        Did I see my current situation coming? Absolutely not. I genuinely thought I probably wouldn't be riding for at least a few years when I severed my relationship with my most recent trainer. I wasn't anything more than an acquaintance to my current BO when she offered to let me take the ride on her four-year-old pony, but she'd seen me ride and knew me from around my old barn (having taken a few lessons with my old trainer) and felt I was qualified enough to put rides on him that would teach him something instead of messing him up since she doesn't currently have time to keep multiple horses in work and she knew I wanted to have some barn time.

                        She's now a good friend, but we're both very clear that we view our friendship and our business relationship as two completely separate things and that it needs to stay that way for the sake of both of us. I don't ask her to do things for me that she wouldn't do for any other boarder, I don't expect her to cut me breaks just because we're friends, and I pay her the same as she'd be paid by a complete stranger for board. It's so much less stressful for me and it lets me genuinely enjoy going to the barn instead of resenting it (though I do miss the convenience of having my best friend in the same barn all the time, which was the one ever-present positive of my prior situation).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Wow, it's like reading something I wrote in a journal 10 years ago. First, hang in there and I'm so sorry you're going through this. Second, as someone who went through a very similar situation (down to the trainer with potential mental health issues, nutty family, etc.) I assure you it will be worth the immense sense of relief you will feel once you disentangle yourself.

                          I've found it best in these situations to take the fault, or better yet don't point fingers or blame or give much reasoning at all. "You know Trainer, I've really loved the arrangement we have but I'm feeling really burnt out from other parts of my life and think I need to step back from the horses. Happy to give you x weeks notice and help you come up with a new schedule for your horses' rides if you'd like." and that's it, done. You don't owe a huge explanation, but you do owe it to yourself to look out for your own sanity.

                          Good luck to you! More riding opportunities will come up, you'll see.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Wow I feel like crying!!! I had no idea so many people would relate to this, thank you all for your advice and stories. COTH truly is the best!!!


                            Originally posted by McGurk View Post
                            To piggyback on Scribbler's post above, I think you'll find that you'll have a host of new riding opportunities once you sever this relationship, along with people telling you they didn't know how you lasted that long. Or something like they would have loved to have you ride for them before, but they didn't want to cause trouble with Crabby Acres, but now that you're a free agent...

                            Horse communities are strange that way; you'll find a lot of people coming out of the woodwork telling you what they though of previous trainer and your arrangement once you're well out of it.

                            Do not ask me how I know this to be true.
                            This is one of the things I have been fantasizing about as I consider the possibility of a "breakup"... How many people I could even just be friends with let alone riding opportunities that are currently off limits to me because of weird drama with the person I ride for. Horse communities are sO strange.

                            Thank you all again so much for your awesome input, I already felt better after just getting out my complaining and now I feel even a little bit empowered to actually do something about it!!!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              "Hey Trainer X, I've had some life changes and I can't ride for you anymore after X date. It was great while it lasted, thanks!"

                              If she demands "what life changes?", just answer truthfully - "I have some things coming up that won't allow me to ride here any longer." That's all you have to tell her.

                              And then just move on. There are many more scenarios, trainers and barns that would likely love to have you around. Best of luck!

                              Comment

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