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Dilemma about lesson barn

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  • Dilemma about lesson barn

    Good evening all,

    First time posting here. I am facing a dilemma, and being newish (less then a year) to the equestrian world, I would like to have input/advice on my situation. Sorry in advance for the long post.

    I am taking 50 minutes lesson on a school horse that I adore. Another student and myself are the only ones riding him. Since the start of October, I am getting really frustrated, as I spend all my time trying to keep him moving: at the start of the lesson, he is really really slow both at the walk and at the trot. He is reluctant to move forward, and I will quickly need to escalate from calf pressure to heels, to reinforcing both with whip taps. After 20-30 minutes, his resistance start to lessen and will eventually go away: at the end of it, I have a horse that moves forward easily enough, and will not change rhythm every other stride. However, it takes +-40 minutes to get there. He has always been slow to ease into the lesson, but it was more 10-20 minutes before, not the whole thing...

    I have talked with the owner/coach about what could cause the problem and what could be done to remedy it a couple time. I've had an osteopath over twice, who said he lacks topline muscles badly, and a saddle fitter who said his saddle is an "okayish" fit (mostly because of the lack of muscles), so I bought a pad she suggested might help (both specialists and tack expense out of my pocket). He does reach for the bit/bring his back up a couple time per lesson since I started using that pad, but he cannot keep it up more then 2-4 strides each time. Nothing has been done on the barn side to help with tack fit or lack of muscle.

    I also think he has arthritis, as he is +- 15 years old and gets better when warmed-up and worst with the cold weather. He was injected in the hind legs at least 2 times (last time +-2 years ago) and is prone to fetlock/canon swelling (he is stalled, with daily turnout when possible). He was supposed to be injected again last spring. At first, the owner said she would wait a couple months because of monetary reasons, and now she says that he does not need it, as he is ridden more often then he used to be and his legs look good.

    I had a different coach last week and she commented on the stiffness of the horse hind legs: he was dragging them for most of the lesson, and it proved almost impossible to keep him trotting for a full round of the indoor arena.

    I feel like I cannot progress/practice anything as I spend all my time trying to get him to go and not slow down/change gait unrequested all the time. And at +-60$ a lesson, its getting pricey.

    I also feel increasingly bad when I try and force him to go forward as I am pretty sure he refuses because of physical problems, not whimsical behavior as I usually have a nice working trot and lots of energy at the end of the lesson.

    As a result, I am thorn: I am staying at this barn because of that specific horse…
    • Should I give up and move to another lesson barn? The idea has its appeal, but it also feels like giving up on him.
    • Should I persist and try to talk to the owner again? Any suggestions of how to approach the problem/arguments to bring?
    • Could lunging him before the lesson to warm him up before I get in the saddle be worth a try? Would lunging a horse with arthritis damage him more? Anything else I could try?

    I would love to buy him, so I’d be sure he gets all the maintenance for his joints and exercise he needs to build his topline. But I don't think she would be willing to sell him, even less so at a reasonable price as she started to jump him again this summer, after a 3-5 years break due to injury, with her most advanced student. Said student is also finding him to be less responsive and refusing jumps, and both issues are somehow my fault : I have jumped him 3-4 times with no problems whatsoever...

    Any words of wisdom to share?

  • #2
    First of all - the lesson horse being stiff and refusing jumps with the other student is most defiantly not your fault. So put that out of your mind.

    Second, a reputable lesson barn with a good trainer, would not expect a student to pay for treatments for a lesson horse - and neither should the owner. Is the owner of the horse also the trainer? I'm a bit confused on that.

    Third, do not even consider buying this horse. If he is so out of shape that he need a 30-minute warmup, and requires maintenance and has possible arthritis, it seems he needs quite a bit to make him sound. Not a good choice for a first horse. It is clear you care for this horse, and that is admirable. But there are times when you have to walk away.

    So my question would be - are there other barns in your area that offer beginner lessons in your price range? Go schedule a lesson or two at other facilities. If your current trainer can't see the horse is so out of shape and struggling, I'd be inclined to find another trainer and a horse to ride that is properly cared for.

    Please remember that it is not your responsibility to provide care for this horse. That is the owners responsibility. And it seems they are not able or willing to do what the horse needs. That is not on you!

    Oh, and welcome to CoTh!
    ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

    Comment


    • #3
      This horse is not one I would ride much longer without a full vet workup. At the owner's expense, NOT yours!

      If he's undeveloped across the topline, lunging over cavaletti can help with that, but he also needs a long slow warmup before you can even start asking that of him. Without knowing if he has arthritis - and if he does, the extent and location of it - it's hard to say if lunging him would even be a good idea or not. It's possible he's aggravated that old injury. It's possible he has something else physically going on.

      Without that vet exam, though, I would not ride, let alone jump, this horse.

      Comment


      • #4
        The replies above does a very good job of addressing your situation - but I will reiterate.

        Reputable lesson facilities take care of their horses - this doesn't just mean things like the annual vaccines, shoes, etc, but also includes what a horse needs to remain comfortable doing the job they ask him to do. Some horses require more maintenance than others (hocks, special tack, therapeutic shoeing, what-have-you) but it's still on the lesson program to take care of their school horses. In this case, it sounds like they are dropping the ball.

        Some horses, admittedly, are not forward. Some horses will take advantage of riders and try to get out of work. However, it sounds like you have several individuals who, along with your own concerns, are identifying reasons why the work you're trying to get him to do might be uncomfortable for him. At this point: leave this barn. It isn't worth having your heart broken by a program that doesn't value their horses enough to give them the care and consideration they should.

        And then, of course, I certainly would recommend not purchasing this horse. While he sounds like he's a very sweet guy, it sounds as if he comes with quite a bit of baggage that could end up being a lot of money to try to resolve to make him more comfortable (and then, unfortunately, there's also no guarantee that whatever veterinary interventions are decided upon will actually resolve things completely).

        Ultimately, as mentioned above, it sounds like this is a horse that would benefit from a full veterinary diagnostic rundown. This should not be on your dime. And barring appropriate care and consideration to the horse by the horse's owner, any measures taken (warming up ahead of time, trying to fit a saddle to him, trying to build a topline) is really only a temporary patch on the situation.

        I think you would benefit tremendously from finding another lesson program where the horses are appropriate for the job, in good condition, and well taken care of.

        Comment


        • #5
          I just wanted to add, that it is commendable, that as a beginner, with less that a year of lessons, that you are so observant and are really listening to this horse. This will serve you well, and your horsemanship will benefit from it.
          ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

          Comment


          • #6
            Great points by the respondents thus far. I agree with them all: he's a sweet guy, you're a good horsewoman and a compassionate person, and this is not at all the horse you should buy. And look for a new lesson barn.

            Comment


            • #7
              I agree woth all above.

              I would say look for another horse to lease and let this guy retire which has nothing to do with you.

              So saying it again, DO NOT BUY THIS HORSE.
              It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Edre View Post
                Reputable lesson facilities take care of their horses - this doesn't just mean things like the annual vaccines, shoes, etc, but also includes what a horse needs to remain comfortable doing the job they ask him to do. Some horses require more maintenance than others (hocks, special tack, therapeutic shoeing, what-have-you) but it's still on the lesson program to take care of their school horses. In this case, it sounds like they are dropping the ball.

                I think you would benefit tremendously from finding another lesson program where the horses are appropriate for the job, in good condition, and well taken care of.
                Agreed.

                Taking care of lesson horses is not only the ethical thing to do - but lessons are their profit margin. Most barns break even on board so in order to make money they need good lesson horses in good condition.

                If you and one other person are the only ones riding this horse it makes me think that they are not a beginner lesson barn, and/or aren't really a "lesson barn" at all. A good barn would use each horse far more often in order, especially if they are a good horse. Either that, or they are giving you their "bad" horse because you're a beginner. Which is also bad.

                As a person that has bought a horse to get it out of a bad situation - I wouldn't tell you to not buy this horse. But I wouldn't buy this horse and keep it at that barn. Clearly there are care issues already. Owning the horse won't necessarily result in it receiving good care - just maybe better care than it gets now (unfortunately.)

                I would look around at other barns.

                Comment


                • #9
                  It's wrong to give lessons on a horse that's clearly unfit for the work, and probably in pain. When you've been around a bit longer you'll realize that this isn't the norm in reputable barns, and will steer clear of people like this.

                  I'd suggest changing barns pretty much immediately.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Buy this poor, poor horse and take him to another barn where he'll get better care. Or retire him to pasture, as the owners likely should have already done.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kande04 View Post
                      Buy this poor, poor horse and take him to another barn where he'll get better care. Or retire him to pasture, as the owners likely should have already done.
                      This would be a lovely idea for a person with experience, money and maybe some land, but asking a new rider to take on that kind of responsibility seems terribly unfair.

                      On the other hand, I can certainly see how leaving the poor animal at the awful barn would be hard to do, so maybe the OP could check up on him now and again? I don't know. it sounds like a very painful situation all around.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Time to look for another barn. This instructor does not have th attitude I would want to see imposed on Novice riders.
                        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


                        • #13
                          I agree that this horse is likely experiencing pain from arthritis, and/or old injury. I would also consider that + - 15 years might be closer to + - 20 years. Continuing to ask this horse to work, without addressing his issues is cruel. You need to make a stand. Remember, the only control you have, is over yourself, and your actions.

                          "Hi, trainer. I have been thinking about Dobbin. In the last few months, we have all noticed his reduced tolerance to the work he is in. We have seen the need for excessive warm ups, inability to maintain gait, and dragging of hind end. As we have discussed previously, I believe he is in pain. I worry about his well being a great deal, and have decided I will not continue to ride him as I believe it would be cruel. Should owner place him in a treatment program that allows him to be more comfortable, I am happy to reconsider, but in the meantime, I will not ride him. I enjoy your lessons, and hope to remain at your barn, so let's discuss what other horses you might suggest for me".

                          I would also tell the other riders of your decision. Horse will soon find himself without riders, retired, or receiving much needed medical attention.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by paintedpony View Post
                            I agree that this horse is likely experiencing pain from arthritis, and/or old injury. I would also consider that + - 15 years might be closer to + - 20 years. Continuing to ask this horse to work, without addressing his issues is cruel. You need to make a stand. Remember, the only control you have, is over yourself, and your actions.

                            "Hi, trainer. I have been thinking about Dobbin. In the last few months, we have all noticed his reduced tolerance to the work he is in. We have seen the need for excessive warm ups, inability to maintain gait, and dragging of hind end. As we have discussed previously, I believe he is in pain. I worry about his well being a great deal, and have decided I will not continue to ride him as I believe it would be cruel. Should owner place him in a treatment program that allows him to be more comfortable, I am happy to reconsider, but in the meantime, I will not ride him. I enjoy your lessons, and hope to remain at your barn, so let's discuss what other horses you might suggest for me".

                            I would also tell the other riders of your decision. Horse will soon find himself without riders, retired, or receiving much needed medical attention.
                            All of this, except staying with the trainer. No trainer worth their salt would have this horse in work in a lesson program, whether it's for 1 lesson or 20 lessons a week.

                            OP I admire your concern for this horse. Take a stand, tell them you will no longer ride him in the condition he is in, and walk. To another lesson barn. Where the horses are valued and taken care of properly.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Sorry for the confusion: the same person owns the barn, the horse, and gives lessons. (So I won’t be staying, since the same thing happens with all the horses at different degrees).

                              I am glad to know this is not the norm: I will be more careful in selecting the next barn. There is actually quite a few in driving distance, but I do not have a driving license… Therefore, I am a bit limited, but still have two I can try.

                              That horse was a really really bad beginner horse: no malice at all, but he used to spook badly at everything, from sunshine to his own poop. I have done quite a lot of unrequested canter in the first couple of months, but only fell the one time. I think I had good enough balance/seat to endure his spookiness, and that was one of the reason they put me on him after 2-3 lessons on a calmer horse.

                              As sad as it makes me, I think I will heed the advice and pass on buying him right now, for a bunch of reasons (lack of time, money and experience, age of the horse, unwillingness to sell from the owner, etc).

                              Thanks for all the answers and advices, I really appreciate it! It helps feel a little bit better about that decision

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                That sounds like a good plan of action. And welcome to COTH op! I hope you will stick around. There is a wealth of knowledge with the posters here.

                                Comment

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