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Advice Needed/Vent- Moving Barns

Hello everyone! This is my first time posting on here so feel free to let me know if anything needs to be fixed and apologies for the super long post!

I have been considering moving barns for a while now, so I was hoping to get some advice on what barn to go to (and also just vent lol). For context, I am a full time college student who currently rides around twice a week (once with my school’s IHSA team and once on weekends with my current trainer at home). I have been riding for this trainer for just over two years now and it’s been an interesting relationship. She is by far the most qualified trainer I’ve ever ridden with and I have learned a lot with her, however recently I’m starting to feel like her program isn’t a great fit for me anymore. While my riding has undoubtedly improved a lot since coming to her barn through riding lots of young horses/ottbs and picking up hacks for boarders, I haven’t been progressing in things like doing bigger shows or riding in harder classes. None of her lesson horses can do much beyond a few trot-canter crossrail lines- either because they are way too green to do much else or they are too old/have soundness issues over fences- and the only shows that we go to are local schooling shows once or twice a year. Since riding at a different barn that has much more capable horses for my school’s IHSA team, I’ve started to get frustrated with the pace of my lessons at home. They’re $50 each for a private 30 minute lesson in which I usually don’t even get to do multiple jumps in a row, and I’ve started to feel lots of frustration from the lack of difficulty. Although I’ve learned to genuinely love putting rides on the green beans, the constant “trot an X and then halt in the corner” structure just isn’t fun for me anymore. My IHSA lessons have started to become the highlight of my week, because we get to ride a variety of very nice show horses that the boarders at this barn let the team use, and thus can do a lot more in these lessons than I have in a long time. Anyways, I have started looking at some other options of places to ride on weekends and over the summer.

#1. The first place that I looked at would have been the ideal fit if not for a few issues. The pros are that one of my very close friends who I trust the opinion of rides there and has vouched for it numerous times. I’ve met the trainer a handful of times as well while going to watch my friend ride, and she has seemed absolutely great. They do a lot of shows, seem to help riders move up in a competative setting, have opportunities to hack outside of lessons, and most importantly for my tiny college-student-budget- they’re VERY affordable. I could do a full lease over the summer on one of their horses for half of what I used to pay for a half lease at my current barn, and their show fees would make occasionally traveling to the bigger shows possible for me. However the cons pushed this barn farther down on my list. It’s around an hour away from where I live (I’m someone who absolutely hates long drives although it’s not a dealbreaker). And the biggest problem is that my connection there said all of their nicer horses are either fully leased out or otherwise not availible. I was told that I’d probably end up bored on the lower level horses there, so even if I wasn’t interested in showing or leasing it doesn’t seem like there’d be anything for me to ride for a while- just like at my current barn.

#2. The next place that I looked at is the one that I’ve been leaning towards. I have another friend who rides here although I’m not as close with this person as I am with friend A. This barn is a LOT more expensive than anywhere I’ve ridden before, so it’s unfortunately unlikely that I’ll be able to lease or show with them. However they have a surplus of very nice horses available and I would still be able to afford to do lessons there around two -maybe three- times a week. While I would love to up my riding time this summer, I will likley not be able to afford more than this anywhere besides at barn #1. I have never ridden at a full-on legit show barn like this one before, so it would definetly be a cool experience, and I also could probably find a job there doing chores to help with extra money. They have all of the shiny bells and whistles on the property, complete with picturesque rolling green pastures and super fancy looking tack rooms. This barn is around a 45 minute drive, which is still far from me but not as bad as barn #1. I’ve never met their trainers and don’t know as much about it, but I’ve only heard good things from the friend who goes there.

It basically just comes down to quantity of rides versus availability of capable horses.

I am curious as to what happens with the green horses that you aren’t able to ride them once they progress past the cross pole stage? If you lessoned there two or three days a week at your current barn, would different opportunities become available to you? The reason I ask is because if you currently only ride there for 30 minutes a week, it makes sense to me that you might be offered limited opportunities: most barns require a bigger commitment to be on a show path.

Can you trial a few lessons before making a commitment? Be careful you aren’t changing for changes sake, and don’t be sucked in by the sales pitch: are clients in a similar situation as you (financial and time commitment wise) being given the opportunities you are thinking you will be getting?

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To answer your first question, they usually end up being bought or leased out by clients. As for the seccond question, during the summers I rode around 4 times a week with the lease that I mentioned and don’t see much difference in oppourtunites since there aren’t other horses available or more shows to go to.

I definetly will try a few lessons before commiting to a decision and I also really like the idea of making sure to avoid the sales pitch. The first barn has a lot of clients in similar situations to mine, however I don’t really know about the seccond- I’m definetly going to do a little digging there!

So you are paying to train horses, not so you can then enjoy them, but so the barn can then earn more money off the horses (that you helped train)?!? This sounds like a working student situation, not a lesson situation, and $50 for 30 minutes to train a horse for someone else is indeed a situation I would want to leave!


Sounds like your current trainer has horses nearing retirement and aging out of her program. But supplements you with greenies. Does she have more advanced riders or more beginner/lower level stuff? Nice school horses are $$.

Try out both barns but jumping higher and putting wear and tear of a horse cost money. Whether higher lease cost or lesson cost or even gas costs.


So I don’t mean to sound blunt or harsh but what entitles the OP to “enjoy” these horses if they cannot pay for a lease or purchase?

We don’t really know that she is “training” these horses because we don’t know her riding level/abilities and even if she is, the trainer is still taking time out of their day and providing their horse and facilities for the lesson regardless.

Sorry, just tired of people acting entitled to jump big and show without paying for it. (Not directed at you OP, just in general). School horses are there for people to learn the basics. No lesson barn should be expected to keep quality show horses with good value for a lease or purchase sitting around for people to lesson once a week on.

OP, it’s fine explore other possible opportunities, I too was a college student on a budget dying to ride at one point. But don’t burn bridges or begrudge your current barn for not providing those opportunities.


Barn 2 - you’ll get a LOT out of riding 2x-3x a week on capable animals under show level trainers.

A half lease at a show barn is about this arrangement and I went from a dressage junior with limited jumping experience (eventing) as a child under12 (starter & beginner novice).

I went from not having ridden for 7+ years (and dressage at that) to jumping .90m - 1.0m courses on only riding 3x a week on some amazing schoolies and then moved to half leases on some, albeit, quirky critters (mostly upper level horses stepping down who have soft mouths and serious motors - those quirks worked for me, I like being taken to a fence). My half / full leases were a aging former 2* eventer, & two former 1.30m+ jumper mares that took me from 2’6 on aging WB schoolies to 1.0m jumper courses in like a summer…

I also hate long drives. 30 mins is my sweet spot. 45 isn’t bad. 1 hour+ traffic broke me in my last situation (moved states and am also actively barn shopping right now).

I had a rigorous high travel job (consulting) and often would only ride 2 maaaybbbee 3x a week… often Friday - Sat - Sun. grids/ small 2’3 technical turns or exercises maybe 10 jumps total, technical flat, coursing was my order.

You do have to eventually pay to jump more / higher. My 3x week lessons were limited to 2’6 and below when I was not half - leasing and paying half training board, half shoes & half vet bills.


That is what I wondered, hence why I asked for clarification, but a $50 for 30 minute lesson should entitle a person to learning on a horse that can help them, you know, LEARN. Even if they can’t jump big fences, being able to work on fine tuning, lateral work, or better equitation can be done over small fences, but is unlikely to happen if being put on a revolving door of green horses. Sounds like OP is paying to train vs paying to advance their skills, and i can see why they are looking for different.


I think you may be hitting the wall on what you can do on lesson horses. It’s very typical that many lesson programs require you to buy or lease a horse before going much past 2 feet because the schoolies just can’t take the pounding.

IHSA is a seperate thing, they have to source horses with more ability for the program.

You might just be in a position where you can’t afford to make the move up that you want because you can’t afford the horses. Yet. This might be something that needs to go on hold until you are graduated and working.

Meanwhile see what you can swing at other barns. I wouldn’t go with what “connections” say. Talk to the trainers


I think you’re in a position that is very tough. You’re ready to do more than current barn offers, but you don’t have the two things that could get you those opportunities easily: money and high level skills.

It does sound like current barn isn’t a great fit, no shame or hard feelings there. Realize that most programs won’t let students jump over 2’ or 2’6” on school horses due to wear and tear; you have to pay to play at the higher fences. IHSA is a whole different beast in every way, so I wouldn’t be expecting to get the same type of experience in “regular” lessons. Unless you can ride at the IHSA barn? Since they know you, they might have more opportunities (and want to advance your skills for the team).

It would be worth your time to actually talk to the trainers at both potential farms. Be realistic about your time availability, budget, and skill level. Take a lesson at each place. Don’t let your connections sway you, and try to be objective through any sales pitch. Showing is fun, but it would make sense to take more lessons and ride more, and save “big” shows for later when you have a lease or your own horse.

Finally, as someone commuting an hour to the barn, I wouldn’t do it unless it’s a fantastic fit. You won’t go as much as you think, and the time spent in the car (and the gas!!) will really wear on you.


Adding one more thing: do your best not to burn bridges. Do NOT bad mouth the current barn in any way. If someone asks, just say you’re looking for a program with the ability to ride more and maybe lease, and your current place just doesn’t have those opportunities. When asked about what you’re doing now, just talk about IHSA and riding greenies.

People will know your current barn, and word does get around. That’s not an issue unless you’re being negative.

Not that you OP would ever be negative on purpose, but just be mindful and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your trainer to hear. You never know when you may need to come back to their program or see them at the shows!


Have you talked to your IHSA coach at all? If you like their program and they already know you they might offer up more riding time or opportunities to work off lessons, or maybe refer you to someone in their network that would be a good fit. It’d also have the bonus of getting you more involved with your college team.

Between the barns you listed I’d probably go for #2. College is a good time to focus on quality over quantity of rides, since you presumably have a lot of demands on your time and may not be able to fit in enough riding and showing anyway to get your money’s worth from a lease, especially since both barns are 45+ minutes away. I think it’s good for people to use college as a chance to try new things and become more well-rounded, and planning on a more conservative riding schedule from the beginning gives you a lot of flexibility down the line. It’s easier to add more riding time later than to try and extricate yourself from an intense schedule if you find it doesn’t actually work for you.

I also agree with @Scribbler that you may just be maxed out right now on the time/money/horsepower spectrum. The only people I knew who managed to keep advancing their riding in college all had serious money backing them and were already competing at a high level in high school; they also spent barely any time on campus because they were constantly travelling to the barn or to shows. It’s ok to accept that your riding goals may have to go on hold for a bit and focus instead on enjoying the horse time you get, knowing you’ll be able to get back to it after graduation. I faced a similar problem when I was in college, where my school’s IHSA program ended up being really bad so I decided to take lessons once a week at a nice barn about an hour away instead. I wasn’t making huge advancements in my riding during those years, but it kept my skills fresh and I still got my horse time in. I used my newfound free time to focus on school, friends, and non-horse-related hobbies for the first time in my entire life, which ended up being really good for me.


Have you asked about leasing one of the greener horses at your current barn? What is your weekly budget (i.e., how much more can you afford)? When you say $50 for a half-hour lesson, does that include warming up and cooling down (i.e., do you ride the horse at an easy walk before and after the lesson and then start warming up when it officially begins)? How often do you lesson and do you ride outside of lessons?

An hour to a barn means at least four or more hours of your day will be taken up with driving, riding, and tending to the horse. How many times a week would you be planning to do that if you choose Alternative Barn 1?

Can you continue at your current place and take one or two lessons a month at the show barn (Alternative Barn 2)?

Yet she is still learning a valuable lesson- how to ride many different horses, green and otherwise. Unless someone has shown 3’6” or bigger I can’t say that I agree with your statement that she’s paying to train the horses- But she is learning how to train horses. Make sense?


Agree 100%.

Can you just ride with the ihsa barn? Sounds like they make you happy and fit the bill. Then once you graduate and can afford more you can buy or lease a horse for what your goals are?


But that isn’t her goal and so doesn’t have value for OP. If she went to a barn asking to learn to start horses over fences, that would be great, but that doesn’t sound like it was ever voiced as a goal, or that OP was ever told that they would be stuck on a revolving door of green horses. So a valuable lesson? Maybe for someone, but not for OP. Barn is a bad fit, and someone in their situation should not accept it as normal. Should they expect to jump big fences? No. But realistic to expect to be able to learn the skills of jumping a course or a grid over smaller fences on a lesson horse? sure.

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Also, if the OP (it’s not clear) is only lessoning twice a week for $50 (an hour of riding, if that), there is a limit to how much she can learn to school a horse in that short time.

I didn’t know if the OP could have a conversation with the trainer, exploring more options (half-leasing a green horse perhaps, doing schooling rides more frequently on the green horses, outside lessons)? I agree that it sounds like the OP should be progressing a bit more, if she’s riding during the year on an IHSA and the horses being used may not be appropriate–on the other hand, given her amount of ride time at that barn and the fact she’s not leasing, that’s always going to limit her range pretty substantially, jumping-wise and horse-wise.

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She is paying $50 for EACH 30 minute session. I assume/hope that she isn’t charged for warmup/cool down, but who knows. It is indeed a short time for a jumping lesson!

Yes, that’s what I meant. If an instructor is charging $25 a lesson, something is very wrong! But I also agree it’s a very short time for a jumping lesson, or really any kind of lesson (except for a child), unless it’s the kind of lesson (which I have taken) where you warm up the horse beforehand, you have an intensive lesson for a half hour, and then you cool down on your own.

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