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Leaving a Trainer and Show Barn - Advice Needed!

Too long, didn’t read: not sure how to go about leaving a barn I’ve been at for a long time that I generally like. Mostly want to save money and achieve goals that I can’t at current barn. What should I expect? How should I go about it? Should I stay where I am? Advice and your success stories when moving trainers/barns. I have zero experience doing this since I had my horse at my house as a kid.

Here’s the long story:

I am essentially a lifetime horse girl - I am nearing my 30’s with 20-ish years of horse experience. Most of that experience was having my horse at my parent’s home and having a trainer come to me.

Now, I’m an adult with a green (but amazing and amateur friendly) OTTB boarding at a big show facility. I bought him from the trainer’s connection and at her advice (she was essentially my buyer’s agent - I bought him completely sight unseen through videos with X-rays on file). I’ve been at this facility for quite some time before purchasing, I work there, and I show with them. I like the facility and I think it’s very reasonably priced for what it offers (pricey, but completely appropriate). I don’t need training rides. The horse himself is easy-going, travels well, goes out with a herd, and is generally an easy keeper. I feel like I hit the lottery.

I’ve had the horse for a few months now, but I feel like I’m starting to get burnt out between working so many hours at the barn for so little money off my board and not being able to go to shows I want to attend (TB shows, special events, etc.) because I don’t have my own truck and trailer AND because I worry that my trainer will be upset with me showing without her. I show currently at a nice, competitive, regional rated series. It’s starting to get a little stale, but I keep going because it’s my only opportunity to show given my lack of transportation.

There are other little things that kind of have me thinking that I can achieve what I want elsewhere - this isn’t necessarily the fault of the trainer, but often in group lessons, other clients will talk and gossip with her throughout the duration, so I don’t get much feedback. Essentially the only way I can get more attention is through private lessons. Even when I do get full attention at shows, I am being told to correct things I already know - I know what I did to miss a lead change, I know he got in front of me because I wasn’t using my seat effectively, etc. I’m not perfect, and I like having the guidance, but essentially any feedback I do receive are things I already know that need to be fixed and how to fix them in my own practice. I am constantly looking up things to improve my riding and reading books and articles to supplement my knowledge.

So this brings me to my next point: I have the opportunity to move my horse to a smaller, low key facility where I keep my retired horse. Board for both horses at this place costs what I pay currently for my show horse, but obviously I lose some of the great amenities. This place has everything I need, though. The owner at this facility has goals similar to mine, and her trainer was actually who trained me when I first started riding as a kid (but not the trainer who came out to me as a junior). The owner and I have chatted and she would totally take me and my horse along with hers to shows we’d want to attend. Meanwhile, I’d be able to save money for my own truck and trailer. I wouldn’t feel pressured to go show at shows I could give or take going to since it’s my only opportunity. Even if she couldn’t take me, I could find transportation elsewhere OR I could simply save the money - it’s funny how your feelings about showing change when you pay a lot more to own a young horse.

That’s about it in a nutshell. I have very little experience navigating this kind of thing since it’s the only big boarding/show barn I’ve been to, and I know there’s the reputation of drama. I don’t want to burn a bridge by moving, but I also don’t want to resent being there. I also don’t want to be making a hasty decision. Words of wisdom for the average adult ammy who is trying to enjoy her amazing horse?


You can also say you’re feeling stretched thin right now and that you’d like both of your horses to be at the same facility (both of which are true). No one is owed a full explanation of all your reasons.

Just be polite, thank the current barn for everything they’ve done for you, and move on to have more fun!


I worry a little bit because I probably would see this barn at the local show series they do. However, plenty of people who have ridden with this barn go there, too, without incident. I’m not sure why I feel so loyal! The barn I’m at is made up of good people, so that must be why it’s hard to leave.

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I like being honest, because that always works out better.

Being honest does not require you to tell them all the details.

Write a nice note and tell them that you love their program and you are so thankful for everything it has taught you and how you enjoyed being part of the barn family.

OK, I am going to stop typing now because as I was typing @Night_Flight posted the perfect answer.


Thank you!! I do dream of my retired guy and my new guy being buddies - and maybe even get cute pictures of all of us together.


So this is kind of beside the point but as a trainer this mindset drives me nuts. You say you already know the things you are being told to do to fix missed changes etc but the mistake is still happening so… would you rather the trainer just not address the major faults in the round? Because you “already know” how to fix them… even though they are still happening?

I digress. It sounds like at this point you’ve made up your mind and just need help with how to tell you current barn you’re leaving. It really doesn’t have to be a big deal, and if they are mature professionals they shouldn’t make a big deal out of it either. Just say something along the lines of, “Barn X is more convenient for me because my other horse is there. Per the boarding contract this is my 30 day notice and board will be paid 30 days beyond this date. I really appreciate all of your guidance and hard work over the years, best of luck!”


Thank you for addressing my point about the feedback - I appreciate the perspective because it helps me see things I didn’t previously consider. I guess maybe what I really should do is work on myself on my own as homework to strengthen where I am lacking, and then return to lessons. I ride weekly in a group currently and 2-3 times on my own. I feel like I don’t have enough time in between lessons to ride and improve my faults - so my trainer just sees the same thing over and over. It’s customary to ride in a weekly lesson (that’s the general culture there), though, and I’m not sure if she’d be able accommodate me doing a lesson once or twice a month due to her busy schedule (no fault of her own, she’s busy because she’s good at what she does). I think if I slow down and pick one or two things to work on on my own (rather than getting the repetitive feedback weekly) and then have a lesson, I might be more successful.


Your last thought sounds solid. :+1:
That said, don’t be surprised if current trainer can’t accommodate your occasional lessons once you are no longer boarding a horse with her.
Not saying she’d do it out of spite, but the program you described might not have room for independent lessons on your schedule rather than hers

I haven’t shown Hunters for a bazillion years, but left a scenario pretty much as you described.
No enmity & when I ran into my former trainer & show teammates - still with former trainer - things were cordial. Whether I was there by myself or with another trainer.
So it can be done.
Think of it like grocery shopping:
You go where you get products you like for the best price.

Wishing you Fun in your future with your greenie.
BTDT & ended up with him for 20yrs :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:
Lamplight - circa 1989 :grin:


What a cool picture!! Thank you for your kind words.

I wouldn’t be able to do lessons with this trainer at all until/unless I am able to haul in - she owns the barn I board at and does not travel to teach.

It is true that my decision is solely based in keeping me happy with my horse - I’ll have more freedom financially and show-wise if I do move. And I’ll be able to take lessons more a la carte, which I think fits my needs better.


There comes a point in some of our lives where we realize this horse thing is our fun and we want to do fun differently than we have always done it.
That does not in anyway make it wrong.
So move, enjoy your horse, learn new things.


To me, the way you’ve described it, the decision to move seems like a no-brainer. As others have said, just be polite and positive.

Good luck!


I think a perspective to consider is that not all situations and trainers are the right fit at all points in our riding life. I think you have reached a point where this is no longer the right fit for you and your horse. So it’s time to find something that’s a better fit for the situation you’re in right now.


Just want to offer an alternative to the alternative—a good trainer seeing a client making the same mistakes over and over will tailor lessons in such a way as to work on understanding why those mistakes happen, and fixing them.

Also just want to caution that rigs have become insanely expensive, so think hard about your future plan vis a vis when you think you could afford a truck and trailer. It’s not a bad plan, just be realistic about when you could be trailering yourself if that’s an integral part of your decision making.


Something that makes me feel a bit guilty is that I essentially used her connections/help for a short period of time to purchase this horse a couple months ago. I half leased a school horse from her for 2 and a half years (with the eventual goal of owning but in no rush), and we both agreed he was telling us he was ready for a step down. I then switched my sights to seriously buying, and within a week and a half purchased my little dreamboat of a TB all without extensive measures (I simply asked her a couple things to pass along to her connection/the seller, got my answers, and wired the money. After telling myself that I would be selective, wanting something maybe with a trial, wanting to go try a bunch, etc.).

Now that I have this horse, I feel kind of bad “moving on” since I haven’t given it much time - but I know I don’t want to constantly do the same show series over and over, year after year. I’m not interested really in chasing points any more at this point since I’ve done it for a few years with the half lease. I want to say I’ve shown at the Brass Ring or Culpeper. She does go to some of those shows, but not often and not consistently (the show series she normally does fits the needs of most of her clients, so it makes sense for her to do it). I want to do TIP stuff, which she hasn’t done in the time I’ve been there. Even if I had my own rig to go to these shows, she probably wouldn’t be able to come with me and that’s totally fine.

All of this isn’t to say I’m unhappy with her and how she conducts her business - I just need something different than what she is able to offer me I guess.

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Regarding the trailer: I don’t have a truck currently, and that’s actually the only missing piece. My parents still have the barely used trailer we used when they had my horse on their property. They aren’t in a rush to sell it clearly. It’s been kept all these years under a pavilion/out of the weather and would need minimal maintenance (a general tune-up, safety check, and new tires) to take back on the road. I’ve expressed to them I’d be interested in it, but also to not hold on to it for me. They’ve since still made no effort to sell.

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I feel like this makes it even more of a no-brainer, since the money you’d save on board is going to add up to a vehicle to tow with (or a lease on one) a lot faster than a truck and trailer.

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100 years ago when I was a working student we had designated lessons and work.
I know it’s expensive to run a barn, but slave wages are not right.

Move. They feel no guilt over charging you.


On the working off expenses? Beating your head against a wall. Doing basic barn jobs just is not going to make much of a dent in todays typical show barn expenses. How many hours of work at the barn’s standard hourly rate credits even the cost a single lesson at trainers standard rate? Do the math. Low cost labor does not pay enough to cover high cost hobbies. Or is there even a set hourly rate and its just bartering your services for board and lessons with no written agreement?

On trainer seeming to give more attention to clients who are paying trainer more for her time? Yeah…its business and its trainers income… Now, trainer no way should be discussing clients with others or not giving you full attention during your lesson. Most unprofessional, red flag at any training barn. It’s enough reason to say, thanks for all you’ve done and give your 30 days notice.

Its a business relationship, not a marriage, not staying with a bad boyfriend. You owe her nothing and are free to move on without detailed explanation. Just frim reading your posts sounds like it’s time to move on anyway. So go.

Don’t feel guilty. And do NOT be afraid of seeing her at shows after you leave (assuming you give proper notice and pay up). Think you might be surprised to learn she is far more important to you then you are to her. You represent a fraction of her business compared to others. She will likely miss your free or cut rate labor, not your contribution to her income producing client base.


Thank you for writing this. That really stuck in my craw also. I think people don’t realize that coaching at shows is different than getting Lessons at home. Lessons at home are where you open up a new can of worms/learn new stuff, address a training issue, and initiate and move forward in skills. Coaching for shows are about putting the frosting on top, hiding problems, and refining the picture. So of course you’re gonna be making the same mistakes and of course she’s going to tell you about them and you need to fix it. If you don’t want to hear it over and over again then don’t do it.


You talk with the trainer at your current barn and tell them that you are so thankful for how much they have helped you and taught over the years but you feel that for your current needs this barn is a better fit for your goals at this time.

No need to burn bridges or have drama or hurt feelings. In the horse world people come and go with regularity. How the trainer reacts is up to her.