Is Full Training Board Standard for H/J Programs in Northern Virginia?

I know there are older threads on this topic (which I’ve read), but hoping to get some current information since a number of new barns have opened and some have closed.

My child has been in hunter lessons for a couple of years in the Northern Virginia (Loudoun County) area and shows locally. We are considering leasing or purchasing a pony in the next year but at the same time we know we may need to adjust our expectations based on the cost of boarding/training in this area. We understand the high overhead costs of running a barn and are not questioning the reasons, just looking to understand the range of options see if we should consider possibly looking at other barns.

As background, the barn where we currently take lessons is small but nice and has an indoor which is great for the winter and bad weather. However, the barn offers only training board, which is around $2,500 month (including 5 training rides or lessons per week). My child takes lessons 2x week on a school pony with a junior trainer in their late teens (would probably flat/free ride another 1-2 days if we had our own pony), but we don’t really expect to need full training board in the near future.

Is full training board a fairly standard practice for H/J programs in this area? Or should we consider looking at other barns that may offer stall board with lessons without a full training package? We haven’t been able to find a lot of information online so it’s hard to gauge. We are willing to inquire around and get on waitlists as needed since we are not in any rush, but only want to do that if what we want/need is a reasonable ask for this area.

Thanks for any advice.

This is where a “how to be a pony parent” book would come in useful. Here’s some things to think about: 1. How far do you want this to go because the sky’s the limit. There are programs where you can spend $100000 per year on pony, board, training and shows. If I were a new parent, I’d really think about how much money, time, and emotion the family is prepared to put into this new passion. Because if you are only interested in doing it for “fun”, you have to avoid full board/training programs that include shows because while it is fun, it is a serious commitment of time and money for a family. 2. The next thing to consider is how fast you want your child to progress in riding. If you want to think about medal finals, then a $2500 program is pretty cheap. If you want to just do local shows (I have no idea if your part of the world does local shows), then maybe that’s high. 3. The last thing is how broke is the pony you own or are considering buying? If it’s a totally been there/done that pony, you may be able to keep at home or a board only place and do occasional lessons, but if’s it green or your child has big dreams then you should consider a full training/board program. Where I used to be (living in SW now), full board/training at a A barn was easily $3000 per month, not including shoes, shows, vets etc. I think for the east coast that’s a pretty good price but I could be completely wrong. Enjoy your pony adventures!

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Hi there, I run a lesson/training program in Loudoun County (but I can tell by your wording that you’re not one of my clients :slight_smile: )

There are certainly farms and programs that do not require full time training. It kind of depends on what you want to do in your future. Are you looking to go to A shows and compete frequently? Are you looking to show lesson and show locally occasionally? Or do you just want to ride and not show at all? I would suggest that you find the program and trainer that are going to help you achieve your goals, whatever they are, and mentally/financially commit to that.

If you want to do the A show experience, you will probably find that most places do a full training package board. But not all do this. If you are looking for less showing than that I’m sure you can go to a program that does not require that.

Feel free to PM me - I’m not even a hunter trainer so I’m not self promoting or anything. :slight_smile:

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Thank you so much! I will PM you.

@CaliGirl444, What are your expectations in terms of competition? If you are looking to consistently show the As, then yes, that is probably the price point you are looking at. If you want to focus more on learning to ride and doing local shows, I would expect there to be a more affordable price point for that.

I am located in a horsey part of Maryland, we have many programs that are more “school” programs where the kids lesson/lease/own and show locally. Many of these programs will also go to the occasional A, but mostly stick to the local. I am not as familiar with the programs in Loudoun County, but since we are not super far from you, I would guess that there are similar style programs available.

Good luck!

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Thank you! I think part of our challenge is that we don’t have any set expectations right now. We have a kid who thinks it’s just super fun to ride and show (although doesn’t seem to care much about the ribbons, level, etc.), and is itching for more time in the saddle and a pony to bond/grow with. I think mostly local with some rated sprinkled in (what our current barn does now) is probably a good fit for us. We are definitely not focused on A rated shows at this point. I’m going to talk to our current trainer about what things would like if we do lease/purchase and see what they say or what advice they have for us. I’m just sensitive to not coming off uninformed when/if discussing options!

Training board only is the norm for most upper level A-show barns, and probably for some smaller barns that need to keep their revenue consistent to survive. But I looked at the websites of a few Loudoun County barns that I know do the local A shows and, assuming the websites are up to date, they seem to offer full care board with ala-cart lessons and show training. I’d budget $1000-1500/mo for full care board at a barn with an in-house trainer. A quality boarding barn that is not show oriented starts at about $700 around here (you probably won’t find an indoor at that price, tho, and may have to trailer out for lessons), if you are comfortable taking on full responsibility of the pony’s care. There are also several barns that focus more on local shows and may be more flexible in the board/training programs, if you want to stay at the local level.

As Pokerface said, think about what your daughter’s goals and expectations are. What level of shows has she done, and what would she like to do? Do you like your current barn, or have you noticed a barn or trainer at the shows you’ve attended who seems to be offering what you want in terms of attitude, training approach, etc? This is a great (if expensive) area for horses, you’re lucky to have many good options to choose from!

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Thanks! This is all great advice. We like where we are very much, but just don’t want to find ourselves committing to something that we don’t really need quite yet. We’re going to have some discussions and also look around a bit to figure out what’s right. You are so right that we are lucky to live in a place with lots of options. We love Virginia Horse Country!

In that area, I would not expect to pay $2500 a month for a barn that focuses on unrated shows with the occasional rated show sprinkled in, and where your daughter’s lessons are being taught exclusively by a teenager. It sounds like you may be able to find a better fit price-wise.

I worked at a barn in VA that only focused on higher level A-circuit jumpers, and those prices are comparable to what that barn charged.

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:skull_and_crossbones: :skull_and_crossbones: :skull_and_crossbones:

Man this drives home the fact that all but the elite are being priced out. Woosh. I am in a high COL area and my farm mortgage isn’t that much.

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I’m not too far away in MD. Granted I’m not generally looking at kid-focused programs, but IME the expectation at most hunter barns is that you’ll be in some kind of “program” but it’s usually more along the lines of what your kid is already doing-- lesson(s) or lesson+pro ride is required weekly, but not full 5-day-a-week training. There are certainly programs like that out there, and for serious show barns or upper level horses/riders its understandable (and I’ve seen in across disciplines, not just in h/j), but not something I would expect as a requirement at a local/localA type barn.

ETA: For full training at a good barn, I don’t necessarily think the price point for full training board is out of line for the area. But for that price I would also not be expecting to be taking lessons from a teenager.

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I live and train in this area (my primary discipline is not hunters). I don’t think that’s out of line for full training at a good facility, however, I wouldn’t be paying that much for a teenage instructor.

I would consider exactly what your daughter and the future pony will need to be successful. If you have the budget to purchase an experienced, packer type pony, you may need less help than if you have a more modest budget and are purchasing a greener pony. Two lessons plus one free ride weekly may not be enough work to keep the pony fit and behaving well, in which case you may need the additional training rides. There are many variables and you won’t necessarily know what is needed before you actually find a pony. However, I personally would want the option of tailoring the amount of training to my needs, as opposed to being locked into full training.

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This is why Pony Club / Pony Club games and all related was invented: to bring instruction and competition to children who couldn’t afford the things affluent families could, like showing ponies vs competition riding that is not judged on the pony and it’s quality. Go to some rallies to spectate and talk to other parents and see if your kid is interested. You will be able to find a lower cost situation and also good instruction and good horsemanship…

I have volunteered for PC/ 4H or similar programs for many years now. The kids are great, the parents are great, the other volunteers are great. The kids learn to be tough and smart and to work hard. It’s a good program.

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Definitely not the standard - in my experience in that area, only the top-level, boutique show programs require full training board. Plenty of places that offer board and lessons separately. And $2500 is really getting to the top of the range of what I’ve seen/paid there… what I consider to be one the best hunter barns/trainers in the region is $2k for full training board.

My sense of the region is that some barns have full training packages like this, but many charge for board and training separately. If you want something a bit more flexible, you can find it.

I live in the area, but MD side. For a beginner rider, you can find plenty of options in between your current situation and the $2500 a month package option. As others said, it depends on what you’re looking to get out of it and how serious you want to be.

Feel free to PM me and I can send you some recommendations or thoughts!

OP, how old is your daughter? Important.

Just because a kid wants to ride does not mean they need to be in a regimented, competition driven program, sometimes they just want to love on a Pony and braid flowers into its mane, maybe ride in a field with barn buddies…(horrors) bareback. Get some joy out of barn time, not constant correction. Just a little supervision.

Compare it with a sport like swimming, most kids love to go to the pool and need to know how to swim plus need some supervision. That does not mean they need to be diverted into lap times or correct advanced diving technique…they just want to hang at the pool.

Trend these days is to helicopter parent and over organize everything the child does to the point everything has to have a goal and aimed at winning something. Give that some thought. Don’t end up with a burned out 14 year old who just wanted to ride and didn’t care if they won anything or not now feeling they failed their parents.

Anyway, you need to look for an “a la carte” priced barn, set board price and pay by service. Often there is a required minimum of additional services ( lessons, pro rides, lunging etc,) and thats fair. Kid can learn without being told what to do every second they are at that barn from stepping out of the car to getting back in,

Such barns are out there but don’t need to advertise and often have a waiting list, word of mouth keeps them full. Often driving around visiting tack stores, checking their bulletin boards (yes those are still around) or visiting small shows and talking to folks around the schooling ring can be very helpful in determining how much pressure to show and win, win, win clients are exposed to.

Think about these things.

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You have had some great info here, and the promise of some private discussion helps. Sounds like your child is more geared towards the program that has learning with the prospect of fun and friends. I like that someone mentioned Pony Club.

A program that makes and measures horsemanship, team spirit and goals is a good plan for anyone. Depending on the pony/horse you get you may need to start with a little more saddle time by a trainer to establish the mounts skill.

Just wanted to repeat this. 3 days a week is not enough for most ponies. Also, many VA barns use the term “full care” when what they mean is “in/out/feed-make sure not bleeding”, not grooming. If you are only there 3 days a week you would need training board to maintain the condition of a show pony.