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deciding between two barns

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  • deciding between two barns

    I've been taking lessons at this one barn for a couple of years now and I love it there. However they did not have any working student positions available and I have been trying to build a riding career outside of just mucking stalls for cash so I got a job at another barn in exchange for money and 2-3 lessons a week (+a hack ride every day I work). Both barns know and appear to be okay with the situation.

    But I have been juggling these two for a month and I will be honest I am torn. I am an intermediate rider (show at intermediate level and I was on my college IHSA team) and this is my first paid position after many "work in exchange for lessons" positions and I will be honest I am not sure I like the new barn.

    I had a riding evaluation and that was fine, but then on my first lesson with the new barn it turned out the horse was hot and extremely leg sensitive... as in you can't touch this horse with your lower legs at ALL or she'll bolt. Nobody told me this before I got on. When I mounted the horse tried to walk forward and I sat firmly and stopped her and asked the trainer if the horse had finished training yet. Trainer said the horse had, so I kept going. We move on up to the posting trot and that's when things got ugly. The horse spooked a little at a loud tractor sound while I was posting the trot and my heel very briefly brushed her side. She BOLTED into a canter and quickly transitioned into a gallop. I did all the usual thing, leaning back, being centered and heavy in your seat, and pulling on the reigns but this horse would not stop. Not only that, she decided to start bucking as well. I was in the middle of thinking about bailing before finally I managed to pull her into a circle and force her to slow down/stop.

    The trainer came out blaming me for everything and demanded I do lunge line lessons from now on because I'm clearly "not as experienced as she thought". I asked why she didn't tell me this horse was so sensitive before I got on so I could be prepared and she had no answer for me. I figured fine, lunge lessons are great for anyone. I could use this as an opportunity to work on my seat. The horse was very spooky on the lunge line as well though I held my ground and did fine. Lessons continued like that.

    That was the first sign that something was funky with this barn: I have been riding for ~10 years competitively and I have ridden 3-year-olds in schooling/training, green broke horses, and spooky/anxiety ridden horses that would buck over a fallen tree. This horse rode like a horse that was no where near training complete. Usually with a reactive horse they will be very reactive to your cues so you don't need to yank the reigns or yada yada but this horse would flat out ignore them and do its own thing. Bolted off at slight leg pressure but I had to gradually increase the reign pressure to well beyond what I ever use on any horse young or old and pull her into a tight circle to get her to stop. I don't think the trainer has put this horse under nearly enough training.

    In the past few weeks I've had issues where the trainer wouldn't give clear instructions to me but then would blame me for making mistakes (teling me a horse should get grass and then being mad because I didn't give the horse alfalfa), would change her definition of a "flake" from day to day, would be disrespectful and treat me as though I didn't know what I was doing, etc. I was holding a wiggly two-year-old for the vet and the trainer grabbed her hard from me because I wasn't stopping the wiggling fast enough. The trainer couldn't get the filly any calmer.

    The assistant trainer has been giving me my lessons and I feel as though the exercises are really helping my riding. This position could get me a foot in the door for better jobs in the future but I'm not sure if it's worth it. A lot of the horses at this barn are very misbehaved. Not that I mind dealing with it, but every single day students are getting kicked or injured or another horse has run over somebody and the trainer never stops to think that maybe these horses need to be worked a bit more before putting them out for lessons. Any suggestions I make go ignored. A couple horses have a tendency to cut up their lower legs so I suggested splint boots and I was ignored, the next day we have a deep puncture wound that is infected on one of the horses.

    I just get a really bad vibe about the place but I'm hesitant to quit a job so shortly after starting it.

    At the same time I am hunting for my first horse (I'm 24 and always leased) and I can't afford to go back to working in exchange for lessons and riding time. I'll need a paying job to afford my riding habit. I have to hope another place is willing to hire me. I've done a lot of riding but I haven't been actively involved in training which is why I want to be a working student under a good trainer before applying for any training/teaching positions.

    On one hand... I do think the people at this barn are nice they are just really inconsistent and really enjoy having scapegoats. They have a decent reputation but I'm not sure if that's enough. I dislike that their "trained" horses misbehave more than the 2 and 3 year olds at my other barn do. On the other hand I don't know how many other trainers are willing to hire me and pay me, and I need to find a way to get my foot in the door somehow.

    My main barn has an advanced team that I was recently approached to interview for. This team shows on a national level. It would involve the trainer helping me find my own horse, putting the horse in a board & train program, taking 2-3 lessons a week and learning a lot about how that particular barn is run. It is a LOT of money because it's a serious program and I'd have to stretch my budget to afford it (their board is really high) but it would also provide me with experience in the mean time while I find a better barn and give me the opportunity to show somewhere other than locally. I know my horse would be under a trainer I trust (I have seen her work the horses and she is VERY good). But I'm not sure which move is better for my career and it would be very tight on my budget to make this move.

    Does anyone have any advice for me here?

  • #2
    IMO, if this barn is consistantly producing naughty horses, it's not going to help you get a foot in any door that you want to go through, unless your ultimate goal is bronc riding or there is a hot EMT that you've been dying to meet.

    From your description, I would end things nicely with the barn that you are getting paid at. Just let them know that you really value the time that they have given you, but you've gotten a very good oppurtunity to ride on a national team and you don't think that it would be fair to their training program to divide your time.

    Then you get a job waiting tables, and make the team work. They will provide you with better connections than if you were associated with the barn where chaos is a daily special.

    However, keep in mind that now that you have recieved payment for riding/training, you may no longer have an amature status and will have to show open, if that be the case.

    Always keep your options open and be ready to jump on a chance, should it come your way. It's not easy to get your foot in the door if you don't have the financial backing. Then you have to hope you have the talent and the work ethic.


    • #3
      Ditch the trainer who put you on a nervous horse and then blamed you for the problem. That place sounds like a mess.

      The fact that you came on COTH to vent about it says you already had some serious doubts. Trust your gut. Eat rice and beans if you have to in order to afford the other barn.


      • #4
        Agree with above.

        You are wasting your time learning the wrong way to do things by being at a barn that turns out misbehaving horses. Better off working outside the industry and making some money so you can afford to be in that program, pay for lessons and own a decent horse.

        You will have better opportunities present themselves if you are able to get out and ride your horse well.

        I would not trust a trainer who likes to scapegoat to be a good reference for the future or to be someone who will propel you along on your career; people like that usually try to keep others beneath them.
        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


        • #5
          How do you define "finished training"? A specific program?


          • Original Poster

            Finishing training as in would you consider no longer green. The difference between green broke and a solid, rideable horse. IMO though training never ends and a good horse owner is always working with their horse to improve what's already there or learn something new. But generally "finished training", at least when I've heard it used by people, is where if you put up an ad for the horse online you would no longer describe it as "green broke". This horse was DEFINITELY green broke at BEST.

            After a few weeks of riding I can ride this horse fairly well but there is still a ton of spooking and I strongly dislike that beginner riders are being put on her. What made me feel uncomfortable was that that is what the trainer considers to be a fully trained, operable lesson horse. To me, that is a horse that needs training every morning to work through those issues and the horse just isn't getting that attention. She stays in a gravel paddock all day and then immediately gets pulled out for lessons--which when you have a nervous horse that's just asking for an accident IMO.

            Oh dear, I really hope I don't lose amateur status. I'll have to ask my main barn trainer about that. Since it's the off season and I haven't done any showing under the new boss I hope there is a non-issue.

            Thanks for the advice people. I think I will follow your suggestions. I agree with the concern about misbehaving horses. I don't mind horses that misbehave and I want experience around them, but I want experience training those horses and learning how to help them reach their potential. Working with a trainer whose best horses are still spooky hot messes is not going to get me any respect or proper experience.

            Thanks so much


            • #7
              Originally posted by stirrupsareforlosers View Post
              Oh dear, I really hope I don't lose amateur status. I'll have to ask my main barn trainer about that. Since it's the off season and I haven't done any showing under the new boss I hope there is a non-issue.
              If they paid you anything at all, you have lost your amateur status even if your trainer tells you what you want to hear.


              • #8
                OMG the trainer with the crazy horse gave me flashbacks I think you already know from the way you're posting. That she would get angry enough blame you and your skills tells you alot doesn't it. I'm move on from that.

                He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


                • #9
                  If you want to go pro, IMO losing your ammy status isn't the end all anyways. I haven't had mine since I turned 18 because a trainer that I worked with got mad that I was placing above her expensive client horses on my cheap-o flippers. She paid me to work greenies and give lessons for her, then informed me that I had to show in the Open classes beause money had exhchanged hands.

                  Don't know how it will affect your ability to join the team, however.

                  yardandgroom.com usually has some pretty good poistions for working students and otherwise, should your status prevent you from showing on the team. I know a few people who have found positions with UL riders/trainers through the site.


                  • Original Poster

                    Bummer... good to see that it's not the end all though. I don't know why my trainer would sugar coat the answer I just thought I'd ask because she of course would know if I still qualified for the team?

                    I think I will put in my two weeks notice on Monday. On top of the questionable safety of those horses and their training program, I feel as though I'm being emotionally abused at work. The nicest thing she's said about my skill in the past few weeks has been that my riding seemed "better", and this was after I learned which horses pulled which behavioral problems under saddle. Of course my riding has room for improvement but I consider myself to be a pretty good rider, I have a wall dedicated to my ribbons in my apartment and I train under a nationally competitive trainer who is brutally honest about my faults. Yet my riding is constantly put down and not in a manner that helps me to improve.

                    I have been mucking stalls since I was 16 and have never heard any boss complain after I got the hang of it, however my boss finds something wrong with everything I do. She said I was an embarrassment to any stable I ever worked at. I don't mean to complain online I am just shaken up. I've done horse jobs, customer service jobs, telemarketer jobs in college an I have never had a boss that made me feel the way I felt yesterday. I have never cried over a job before. The insults started after I began challenging her questionable training methods. All I did was make a few suggestions for some of the spooky horses and I think she's wanted me to quit ever since.

                    I'll be checking yardandgroom though my area tends to use local bulletin boards at tack/feed shops to advertise jobs (I think y&g only has four positions listed at the moment when I know there are dozens).

                    The good thing about the national team, if ammy status loss don't prevent me from being on it, is that I get a lot of time around the trainer to see the way she does things, it's probably great to have on my resume, and she has always shown all of the team members exactly what she does with their horses to train them so they can learn valuable training skills as well. She's not perfect (nobody in the horse world is ) but I feel like maybe the best thing for me to do right now is trust her, learn from her and then move on to working student positions again after the show season.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by stirrupsareforlosers View Post
                      After a few weeks of riding I can ride this horse fairly well but there is still a ton of spooking and I strongly dislike that beginner riders are being put on her. What made me feel uncomfortable was that that is what the trainer considers to be a fully trained, operable lesson horse.
                      It seems odd to me that she could put beginner riders on this horse and has not lost one yet. Maybe that is why she is so surprised at what happened with you? A horse that is as sensitive as you describe would never tolerate a beginner.

                      Anyway, it definitely sounds like bad chemistry and there is no sense in sticking around if it is going to be a bad experience. There are all kinds of difficult people in this business, be glad you realized up front rather than getting invested in this place only to have the slow realization over time that it was not what you thought.


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by sketcher View Post
                        It seems odd to me that she could put beginner riders on this horse and has not lost one yet. Maybe that is why she is so surprised at what happened with you? A horse that is as sensitive as you describe would never tolerate a beginner.

                        Anyway, it definitely sounds like bad chemistry and there is no sense in sticking around if it is going to be a bad experience. There are all kinds of difficult people in this business, be glad you realized up front rather than getting invested in this place only to have the slow realization over time that it was not what you thought.
                        Kids fall off and get injured all the time. Every day there's a new problem, new injury. I am just finding out now that apparently several students have left in the past few months alone--one of them defected to my other barn actually. Most of the little beginners are put on the ponies. When the adult/teen beginners start out there is almost always an issue and they are forced to do several months of lunge lessons to learn how to cope with the sensitive horse. I've seen people fall off during lunge lessons as well because of bucking and the horse bolting even on the lunge line.

                        I guess she just thought that since I have experience I would magically know that the horse was spooky and would bolt without being told, or that I'd be able to get the horse to stop. Not even the trainer rides this horse without issue. It just doesn't seem like good business to me! They lost clients but they get new clients within a week of losing the old ones and I'm not sure how they do it. They have a fine reputation but maybe that's just because they're not well known.

                        As far as I know nobody has died or been killed by these horses.


                        • #13
                          I think you are wise to want to avoid quitting a job without giving it a chance. It's not good to have a history of changing jobs and never staying at one place. However, there will be jobs where you just don't fit, for whatever reason and this sounds like one of them.

                          The trainer at the new barn is a fruitbat, you are continually witnessing dangerous practices and they don't train the horses well. You are an adult, so one aspect of this situation with the new barn that you have not addressed, and I assume you have not considered, is any liability you might have if someone is injured. You would probably have little financial or material liability because no one would go after a young person with no assets, but there is the moral responsibility, and criminal negligence issues if the situation is really bad. "As far as I know nobody has died or been killed by these horses," you say, yet you know that "kids fall off and get injured all the time." If you have any involvement or responsibility in contributing to this, or if you have do anything that the trainer could blame on you, well, it's not a good thing. I know you are not the trainer calling the shots, but as strongly as you feel about the safety issues, how would you feel if you saddled a horse that you knew was dangerous for a beginner and did nothing or said nothing and that beginner were killed?

                          Maybe this is a stretch, but you have mentioned safety problems and injuries several times, so I wonder. I think you should keep looking for a top-class barn that you can be proud of. If you can't find one that pays well enough, you might have to bite the bullet and find a job in another field.
                          "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


                          • #14
                            I don't believe this barn nor this trainer will help you get a foot in the door anywhere. She sounds like one of those types that will badmouth you behind your back and with the horseworld growing increasingly smaller, you will find this to be more damaging then you think. Peace out - right quick.