I need advice on pulling my horse from a lesson program

Thanks guys, very helpful <3

I’m not at all clear what is at stake for you socially or professionally in removing the horse.

The welfare of the horse is your priority. If you think he isn’t happy, then tell the trainer you want to take him back. Maybe give her two weeks notice. Just say “I realize I miss him and I’d feel better having him back under my care, I have more time for him now” or whatever white lie you can invent.

A lesson horse that is giving two lessons a week isn’t paying his way, she will probably be happy to give him back.

I don’t think there’s any need for drama or gossip, if you have the self discipline to not start it yourself.

I changed my mind, I want my old guy back under my care. Period. You don’t have to discuss it with all and sundry. I missed him, end of story.


Scribbler’s right - just say “sorry - I’ve decided I miss him” or some such. Have someplace lined up where he can go, at least until you find a new placement, and do give some notice. But if you’re not happy with his care, make a change. You don’t need to speak the whole truth.


What does your contract say?

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OP, this is one of those times where you need to Be The Armadillo… low to the ground, minding your own business, peaceable, nice eyes and cute, but an armored shell that curls up if need be.

You merely call up the pro, keep it all business and deliver the minimum of other details. Repeat as often as necessary, like a polite and impregnable filibuster. You also decide early in the process and remind yourself as often as it takes that what other people think about you is none of your business.

So in your spot, with my smiling voice on, I’d call the pro and say “Hi! I’ve decided I’d like to take Old Man back. I don’t want to mess up your business, so let me know if you need more than 30 days’ notice and we can figure something out. Otherwise, please consider this my 30 days’ notice. Thanks so much.”

You do not need to say why. You do not need to say what you’ll do with him instead or where he’s going. You do need to (genuinely) want to minimize the inconvenience to her since, as you say, she does (presumably) have a business plan that includes him and you (again, genuinely) regret any collateral damage your change in plans might do to that.

This last bit, I think you need to really internalize for yourself so that when you are talking to the pro or other on-lookers who want to fish for info that’s none of their business, you don’t feel pressured to spill any beans.

While my approach makes this all seem like a secret and one that takes some emotional work to keep, notice how it really should not be! You and the pro are in a business relationship and your needs are changing. That’s not personal.

Good luck to you :). I wish you and your nice old horse the best. I did lend a horse of mine to a pro this way, though our relationship was very business-y and both sides were OK when it ended.


This - they probably are wishing you would take him back.

That said, I wouldn’t assume he is sad that he is not being ridden, unless he is stalled all the time. In which case, I would definitely move him.



In which case, OP, they might be the ones who are a tad unhappy at the moment. Your offering to take him back might be the relief they were looking for.


Why is her business plan your problem? If she had a proper business plan she’d figure out how to properly care for your horse as part of the business.

Call and give her 2 weeks notice. Don’t volunteer extra details. Just be polite and say your circumstances have changed and you’d like your horse back now.

How is she going to badmouth you? By saying you took back something of yours that she wasn’t taking care of? I mean, who cares? She can lie and say bad things about you anytime she wants, with or without your horse being miserable. Don’t let that stop you. Doesn’t sound like she’s got (or will have) much of a reputation anyway.


We can assume that the information you have, two times a week lessons, is correct.
Doesn’t seem reasonable, why would a lesson program not use a horse more than that and keep that horse in their program?
Maybe that is temporary, he will be in a full lesson program again shortly?

Maybe just ask if and why that is so first?
If that is so, then find a way to say you want him back that will ruffle minimal feathers.
Your horse, your decision how best to manage him.

If it’s a busy lesson program and your horse is being used only twice a week- there is a reason. I’d ask why personally, but it sounds to me like he’s done there either way. Let him actually enjoy his golden years.


If it was my horse, I wouldnt really care about what kind of potential slander she could spread. Hes your property, and if his health is at stake, whether its mental or physical, thats the issue. Ive also cared about hurting other people’s business or feelings in past, and had placed that over my own well being, that is a mistake.


If the lesson program isn’t making sure that kids properly groom the horses (kids usually don’t or can’t), isn’t ensuring paddocks have proper footing or shavings aren’t wet, it sounds like there is a good chance its reputation isn’t great. I wouldn’t worry about people placing much credence in her words. I’m more surprised that he isn’t being over rather than under-worked, but it’s possible she just has so many beginners he’s not suitable for her riders.

I agree with everyone else that the least dramatic thing to do is give a bland reason for wanting him home, and only vent privately to a trusted friend (or if someone is considering riding with or boarding a horse with the program).


I strongly suggest you don’t say one word about care, no matter how much it actually figures into your decision. That’s the kind of thing people take personally and can get upset about.


I’d agree with a lot of the advice above. Call the pro and be all business and polite. Don’t criticize the pro’s program or how she’s using or not using or misusing your horse. Just say you’ve decided that you’d like to have him back.

I’d agree that if she’s really only using him 2x per week, she may well be happy to have you take him back. On the other hand, I don’t think you told us how you know that he’s not being used more.

It doesn’t really matter, the important point is that you are your horse’s only really interested advocate, and you should step up and make sure he’s in the best situation for him.

Good luck.


Yeah, usually the worse the care, the more defensive the owner, sadly.


It sounds to me like you’re anthropomorphizing somewhat. His situation seems like free retirement to me. Can you visit him more often, groom him, get him some dry stall pellets to keep the footing dry?

Your presence and interest in his welfare might be enough to open the conversation with the trainer.

Is there another side to this? Is he lame and maybe incapable of working more often? Maybe there’s a reason she is keeping him there, even though he isn’t paying his way.

My retiree is food aggressive and wouldn’t do well in pasture with other horses. He has a long run and a three-sided shelter. Is he “sad”? He’s just retired and hanging out with his neighbors. He rarely is groomed. The other retirees there are never groomed—I know and ride with many of their owners. They are all fine, living into their late 20’s and 30’s.

Given your guy’s nature, he might be in a good situation, actually.


I don’t think it sounds like OP is anthropomorphizing honestly. Having a bored semi-retired horse standing inside a stall/small run with wet footing isn’t great for his joints. If there are better options in the area that have an option for individual turnout with a better stalling option, I think it would be worth considering the move. I do agree that it really is dependent on the individual horse!


You probably can’t get her to be nice and understanding about it. Her reaction is out of your control though.

All you can control is that you behave decently, give good notice, perhaps a gift basket and a thank you note on departure date, and make the moves you need to make for your horse with the absolute minimum of drama.


I don’t consider 18 all that old? Also, I’m curious how you are monitoring, are you a boarder there? That does complicate things if you think it will go poorly, but you also say he needs to come home, which makes me think you aren’t.

Again, 18 is just upper-middle age for the majority of horses. I have a 27 yo who would be mightily insulted.

I think the poster’s complaints about wet footing (in the run, in the stall? two different maintenance and level of care options and give me different views on his care depending on the answer) is valid (maybe) but her complaint that he is sad, I agree. If he doesn’t do well with others, then regardless of his “complaint” he needs to kept separate. OP should have known the facility doesn’t do individual turnout before he went there, however I agree it is a problem now because he is only coming out twice a week to her knowledge for a lesson.

Regardless, before yanking the horse, OP needs to ask these questions if the situation is/was otherwise working. “Low-level Trainer Person, how are things working with Dobbin? I’ve been keeping tabs and it seems like he isn’t as useful in your program as we initially thought he might be?” Depending on the answer, ie “oh no he is great, but most of my kids took a month hiatus at the start of school to get settled and have all started getting rescheduled again next week and he’ll go back to five lessons a week then!” versus “yeah he is actually not real happy being a lesson horse I think, I can only use ABC type student on him…” will give you your answer.


Very, very good point that I had not considered.
A little update for everyone who gave me advice. I appreciate all of you taking the time.
I mentioned to her that I was going to move him. She got heated immediately and asked why. I told her honestly that I wasn’t thrilled about his care and that I miss having him around quite a bit. She got very defensive. I understand nobody likes criticism but she didn’t take this well at all. In the end, she kind of threw up her hands and said fine take him immediately. I was a bit surprised, we have never had any confrontation whatsoever. We were always very kind and made jokes with each other.
Either way, happy to have him back. You guys helped me to gain confidence to get him back! Thank you all