I need advice on pulling my horse from a lesson program

I’ve often relied up lesson programs to ride, often for years at a stretch, and I think more and more of them are struggling. Even once-decent ones are coping with rising costs. The people who run them don’t want to admit that they’re skimping on care or overusing certain horses and underusing others to stay solvent, but that seems to be more and more the case.


There you go.


I’ve found this to be true as well. It’s such a shame.

I’ve also found many trainers are burned out on teaching up-down lessons all day long (frankly, I don’t blame them) and that just further disincentivizes them to keep school horses because that’s primarily where those horses will earn their keep. Doesn’t leave many options for those of us who are advanced riders, but not in a position to have our own horse for whatever reason at the moment.


It’s really hard for any of us to know what is really going on - it could be that the trainer felt was giving you a great deal to take a horse off your hands, and if it was only doing a handful of lessons she wasn’t actually getting anything in return. In which case, I could see how she might be frustrated if you were unhappy with the care, and tell you to take him back then.

But - without knowing the full backstory, that’s just a guess.

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I don’t think that anyone who isn’t a sociopath, even if they’re aware that they’re needing to cut corners to make ends meet, wants to believe that they aren’t providing good care for the horses at their barn.

I’ve also found it best to find another reason to give when asked by a barn owner why I’m leaving a boarding situation, etc. Questions of care are never likely to go over well, and aren’t likely to be productive anyway since the person will generally feel defensive rather than open to improvement, so sometimes it’s best to provide a secondary reason instead that’s less likely to be taken personally.

Glad you got your horse out, though, OP.


I’ve just started at a lesson barn that has aging lesson horses, but the head trainer/owner has hired young talent to cut their teeth on the up down lessons. It’s actually a good system. I think the limiting factor is that as pricy as the lessons feel, I don’t know if they charge enough to cover costs.


Yes! I hope the problem is also helped by the new rule changes (or maybe they’re still in proposal phase?) allowing students to teach beginner lessons without losing amateur status. Tbh, I think that’s a better teaching situation anyways - I find it’s usually better to learn something from someone who has mastered it well enough to teach, but not so much they’ve completely forgotten how challenging it was to learn initially.


Alot of these low level barns have no affiliation with anything nationally rated. Any national rule changes allowing amateur members to teach “ beginners” (however they define that) will have no effect on non members.

Maybe they’re not in your circles, but I’ve been involved with 3 barns that attend rated shows in the last year that would definitely benefit from the rule changes.

Additionally, as it is written in the rule change, “beginner” is determined by the overseeing professional trainer at the barn. What’s beginner at a lower-level barn will not be the same as beginner at a higher level barn, meaning, there will still be new opportunities at higher-level and nationally affiliated barns.



Yes, no one will admit they aren’t giving good care.

But every horse pro or even over extended ammie with a herd knows in their secret heart that there is a difference between no expenses spared care for a pet belonging to a one horse ammie or a pro’s top competition horse, and the “good enough” level of care forced by circumstances when you just don’t have the resources.

Now, the “good enough” level of care in lesson barns can range from very solid down to bordering on questionable, depending on the skill and resources of the trainer. But every single one of them feels they are doing the best they can in the situation where the horses have to earn their keep, and that their short cuts (there are always short cuts) are justified.

So they are almost always defensive if those short cuts are called to their attention. Because they know the shortcuts are there, they figure they are benign enough, and they hope no one notices.

Tred very lightly.


Unfortunately the barns around me that used to run lesson programs in addition to attending rated shows have dropped that end of their business.

This, 1,000%

The problem is at many lesson barns that there’s a creep from “adequate care” to “inadequate care” when finances get tough. The shavings in the stalls get fewer. The stalls go longer and longer without being properly picked because the help doesn’t show up (or kids graduate or move on). Horses get pushed to do “just one more beginner lesson” for the day. More and more bumps, bruises, and soreness are left to work themselves out rather than get a once-over. Also, I think there’s a difference between “adequate care” for a horse not in any real work (like a retiree) and a horse who is still being ridden, even if it’s just basic crossrails and canter. But if a barn is trying to stay solvent and know they can’t raise rates without losing people, a lot of them will try to cut those kinds of corners.

It’s unfortunate, and it’s also why I think more and more barns are catering to higher-end clients. If rates are raised as overhead costs go up, someone with a horse who can afford a higher-end barn is more apt to accept the price increase, while a middle-class family just taking lessons may look elsewhere for another activity.


Its very simple, he’s your horse, all you need to do is tell trainer you want him back, is 30 days notice enough, I can get him sooner if necessary.


That rule change is not moving forward.

USEF H/J amateurs cannot, and will not, be allowed teach up/down lessons and keep their amateur status…

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Oh rats. Well that’s a bit disappointing for me, but thanks for sharing!

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I remembered reading the article…

It was interesting that other disciplines were fine with the rule but that the H/J people were against it.

USHJA held a town hall on the rule change proposal a couple of weeks ago and those against definitely outnumbered those for the rule. There was a good deal of discussion about what problem the rule was attempting to solve. It sounded like it originated out of one of the breed affiliates (Arabian maybe?) due to challenges in finding enough beginner level instructors to help grow the sport. Most participants did not feel this problem existed in the H/J discipline, where admittedly there are generally large numbers of lesson and other barns available to introduce beginners to the sport. As I understand it the rule change will move forward but only apply to the breed disciplines (I don’t recall the exact list, but H/J, Dressage and Eventing were excluded).

In addition, many people expressed concerns about enforcement, safety/liability (insurance coverage for amateur instructors) and the proposed 20 hour a week limit which most people felt was too high and moved beyond helping with occasional lessons to a part-time or full-time job. It’s also important to note that as currently written, lessons would have to be given under supervision of a USEF professional and could not be done from an amateur’s private farm for example.

The session recording is available here: https://www.ushja.org/about-us-and-news/town-hall I don’t know if you have to be a USHJA member to access.

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Not jut H/J. Only TWO disciplines ( (Roadster and Saddle Seat Equitation) were in favor of it. ALL of the other disciplines are against it. Only a few breeds are in favor of it (Andalusian/Lusitano, American Saddlebred, Arabian, Friesian, Hackney, Morgan, National Show Horse, Paso Fino). The other breeds are against it


The breeds in favor of the rule must have been what I was remembering, it’s been a while since I read the article. It seemed that there were a quite a few breeds in favor. What other big breed shows are there beside QH?

I provided a link to the article for anyone interested, but didn’t re read it myself.

I apologize for the derail.

That’s the problem I have with it. Insurance and liability questions aside, it’s written in such a way that someone who is essentially an assistant trainer at a “program” and for whom teaching lessons is a very significant portion of their income could be considered an “amateur” but Jane Doe giving up-down lessons to 1 or 2 neighborhood kids on her mostly-retired 20-something-year-old horse in her backyard has to compete as a professional. The current system may not be perfect, but the changes IMO would make it so much worse.