AA Hunter barns in Chicago

I will be moving to Chicago some time in the next year and am looking for recommendations on hunter barns. I show the A/AA circuit and want to be at a barn that is competitive at the shows. I will be busy with a new and demanding job, so it is important to me to be somewhere with a good riding trainer - effective, quiet, kind. One of the horses I will be bringing with me is young and has the potential to be a top hunter/derby horse, so I want a trainer who is both good at developing young horses and has experience showing in the hunters at that level. Some qualities I am looking for include:

  • a good program with a trainer as described above
  • no programs that use lots of drugs/hormones to make their horses quieter
  • great horse care
  • high quality hay
  • good turnout
  • ideally within 45 minutes of downtown Chicago, willing to go up to an hour for the right place
  • big arenas with good footing
  • heated or at least insulated barn/indoor arena
  • clean and tidy barn; arenas that are dragged and watered often
  • nice, friendly people, low drama; even better if there are other young professionals like myself

All recommendations appreciated!!

Check out Freedom Woods! I have not boarded or spent a large amount of time there but did visit once while in Chicago and thought it was a VERY well run facility. It was extremely close to the city and buts up to a city/ county park where boarders can ride (I think). The horses are taken care of nicely, they have a large successful lesson program, and an even more successful show and sales programs. Their horses are very nice. The people were all very nice when I went as well.

A “good riding trainer” ? Meaning good at teaching riders or a good rider? Ask around the AA shows you currently show at and ask your trainer for recommendations. Don’t think the arenas dragged and watered often will be hard to find, never been in a AA barn that didn’t do that or that lacked big arenas and an indoor.

Not sure if others feel this way, but I feel uncomfortable recommending a trainer or program to a complete stranger. Beyond the items you’ve mentioned above, the personalities of the boarder, trainer, and other boarders have a big impact on barn chemistry.

Alternatively, here are a few ways you can do some homework on your own.

Look at Chicago-area horse show results for the hunter divisions and derbies to see which trainers are competing. AA shows near Chicago include HITS Balmoral, Ledges, and Equifest. Also check out St Louis (Queenie Productions) and the World Equestrian Center in Ohio, as many Chicago trainers go there in the winter.

Also, you can check out the Illinois Hunter Jumper Association (ihja.com). The website doesn’t make it super easy to find trainer names, but with a little research there and on USEF.org, you should get some ideas.

Search YouTube for hunter classes at the above shows.

Among those three, you should start to get some ideas.

Good luck!

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Perfecta and Freedom Woods were the first two I thought of within an hour of Chicago with stellar A circuit training. Getting anywhere in Chicagoland within an hour can be really difficult so it definitely reduces available barns. Where exactly in Chicago will you be driving from? The location makes a big difference for travel times. Other nice A barns tends to be more around the 75-90 minute commute (NOT during rush hour, mind you) especially if you’re looking for lots and lots of lengthy turnout.