My "friend" doesn't like my trainer... Long post!

This is sort of a confusing, convoluted situation, so bear with me here.

I started riding at a new barn back in the fall, where I leased a nice jumper for a couple of months and then purchased a green project back in December. The head trainer left for Florida in January, so I’ve stayed home to work with the assistant. I’ve been very pleased with the progress my young horse has made with her—I do 90% of the riding myself and find that my lessons with the trainer are productive, positive, and we end up with a horse who is better than where we started. I’m happy. The horse care and support staff is also great, and I now consider both trainers good friends.

Shortly after I first started riding at the barn, I met a young woman who was half-leasing a jumper at a different trainer’s barn and was concerned about where she was going to ride when her trainer left for Florida. (No assistant to stay home, whole barn ships down.) Additionally, her personal life was changing meaning she was losing access to a car—and as we live in NYC where not everyone has cars, it was limiting her barn options.

I offered to drive her out to lesson at my barn with the assistant. She is an average rider with some nervous tendencies and bad habits. On her first lesson, she got to ride a solid, cute 3’ hunter who requires a lot of work to package on the flat and will stop (not at all dirty in this case) if you don’t put your leg on. He tried this a couple of times with her, she mentioned how nervous stoppers make her (I get it), but trainer coached it through it, and she ended up with a good lesson.

Since then, she’s come out sporadically—she’s either canceled last-minute (literally 10 minutes before we were due to leave) or she’s been out of town or just not wanted to ride, etc.—and thus, she’s ridden three times since mid-December. Her lessons have been—in my eyes—unremarkable. She works on courses and gridwork around 2’6”, which is where my trainer feels she needs to be due to her lack of consistency and strength. The issue is that, from day one, she’s continually argued with my trainer, whether that be about finding a canter rhythm, lengthening her stirrups, how to count strides, etc.

This came to a head yesterday when my trainer had her on a different horse (older equitation horse who is the kindest soul out there but really makes you work for the shape and rhythm). She had been riding a hot little mare that gives you a fake frame and really takes you to the jumps—the type of ride she says she prefers. I missed her warm-up on the flat, but I know my trainer made her lengthen her stirrups and spent a lot of time having her get the horse balance and off his forehand. When they started jumping, it was fine. In fact, I think she was smoother and more polished on this horse than the mare, even if it was harder work. Right after her second course, it was like something snapped—she told trainer, “I’m riding terribly. I’m good for the day. I’m done.”

I was hacking my own horse, so I didn’t hear too closely the conversation that followed, but in a nutshell, she told trainer how she feels her riding has gotten so much worse and how she’s riding terribly, and how she was jumping so much bigger with her old trainer, and so on. My trainer told her that that’s to be expected when you’re only riding once a week or less and that the jumps aren’t going to come up until she’s strong enough. I go out six days a week despite the drive and my trainer pointed that out too, to which she made an excuse about how far it is.

Anyway, it made for a really awkward car ride home where she tried to tell me that she doesn’t think my trainer is a very good trainer and that I’ve only made progress there because I was already such a strong rider to start. I explained to her that yes, I am probably stronger than your average amateur, but I listen to what trainer has to say, I try what she suggests, and, if I want to try something different with my mare, she respects me and listens because I don’t complain or make excuses when things don’t go my way. She also said that she thinks she’s developing bad habits from not getting to ride the same horse each time, to which I told her was likely the opposite—she’s seeing holes in her riding that her last lease probably hid.

We eventually changed the subject (thank God), but the whole conversation really offended me. In addition to being inconsiderate of my time with her occasional last-minute lesson cancellations and seeming ungrateful for the continual free rides to the barn, she has the nerve to insult my trainer who has a barn full of happy clients and horses? It was just weird, and I’m unsure of how to address it or if I even should.

She left her saddle and gear there even after the meltdown yesterday, so I assume she’ll want to go out again. But short of a “Well, bless your heart!,” I don’t know how to emphasize that a) please don’t insult the trainer/barn that has done a great job with my horse and given me tons of riding opportunities in the short time I’ve been there, and b) that you’re never going to improve or get where you want in your riding if you argue and make excuses during lessons. Help? LOL


It sounds like she was having a crappy day/ lesson and just wanted someone to empathize with her frustrations and share her outrage. If she starts it again, I would just say, “I actually agree with “trainer” about your stirrup length, consistency, or jump height.” That way your friend knows that you won’t be the one to feed off her negativity.

It’s a little different but I have a friend who does this with her barn owner (at a different barn from me.) She’ll text me and be like “OMG can you believe BO didn’t blanket Dobbins?!?!” And all I say is, “yes because I agree with the BO that it’s too warm to blanket and which is why my horse isn’t blanketed either.” They just want someone to share outrage with. Just don’t give it to them and they’ll stop.


She doesn’t want to do this anymore. Doesn’t matter why.

All the discussion and trainer-dissing was just to cover for her lack of true will and interest.

She doesn’t know how to tell you to back off. She doesn’t want to appear uninterested to you, or like a weak rider. So she is making ridiculous excuses instead. Telling you the trainer is bad is just more smoke screen.

Just let it go. Don’t invite her again, she is experiencing that as pressure to perform. If she wants to go, she can ask you.

It sounds as if your friendship with this person is based on horses, and maybe not much else. People usually don’t like to feel, or to feel that the other person feels, that they are ending a friendship. So for reasons of ego or convoluted friendship feelings or whatever, she’s weasling around the real problem of no longer being that into the effort of riding. If you two don’t converse much on subjects other than riding, you need to be ok to just let this friend go on her own way.

Let her drop this, as she clearly wishes to do. It’s no reflection on you. And it’s not really a reflection on her either. Other than that she is finding this a difficult transition, perhaps because she knows more horse people than she knows people not into horses.


Or it’s symbolic of leaving riding behind.

Next time you go out, pick them up and return them to her, as it will probably be a favor to her not to have to go out again. If you no longer keep urging her to ride, those things may all be up on ebay before too long.


I would totally agree with this except for the fact that I don’t invite her. She typically texts me to ask about my riding schedule for the week, I share it with her, and then she coordinates her lesson accordingly.

Also, because of where we live, she really doesn’t have other “horsey” friends. We’re just not really friends outside of the barn because of how we met, differences in lifestyle, career, age (I’m a little older and more settled).


She is an acquaintance, not a friend. You have kindly been helping her travel to the barn but nothing more. She isn’t happy: not your problem. Next time she contacts you just say you can’t help her. The end. You have no other ties to her, she has no significance in your life, she makes you upset. Life is too short and horses are supposed to be about fun.


It sounds like you handled the last conversation pretty well - I’m sure it felt awkward but it might be interesting to see if her attitude toward you changes (or if she even asks for a ride again). Like a previous poster said, you didn’t feed her negativity and you calmly agreed with the trainer. Good job.

Some people are not good riding students. They take it too personally and they do not handle challenges well. This is super annoying as a personality trait but not actually your problem to solve. So I would say that if you don’t want to totally cut her off, you will do best to mentally disengage. If she cancels last minute, who cares - you were going anyway. Let her be miserable if she wants and let the trainer handle her as a student - you float above it.


As someone who rode in NYC for years, offering someone without a car a ride to the barn is an amazing favor. She’s repaying you for this favor by canceling last minute and trashing your trainer. I would just give yourself props for trying to do the right thing and let her figure out her own way to the barn. I’m a coward so I’d just say “My riding schedule is a little up in the air the next few weeks, huge work project is due / nagging old injury has cropped up again / car is in the shop! Sorry!” the next time she asks when you’re going out, and repeat until she gets the picture.

Obviously something is going on where she wants to ride, or wants to please/impress you, but then actually isn’t enjoying it in the moment and is therefore canceling/arguing/wanting to get off in the middle of the lesson. Maybe she’s just struggling with the transition from her old barn, maybe something else is going on, but it’s not really on you to figure out.

Odds are she won’t be back. Or she’ll come pick up her saddle and then go back to her old barn when they return from FL. You did your best!


Redlie44 said exactly what I was going to say.

I will add that you aren’t responsible for her bad behavior, nor is it up to you to try to discover her inner motives - you aren’t her mom! If you can’t cut the cord completely, I would simply do what someone else suggested: let her know that you actually agree with the trainer, you think riding lots of horses IS a good idea, and that generally we get worse on the road to getting better when we are riding with a new trainer.

Hopefully you can avoid her altogether, though. She sounds like a drag! Some people are just not good students, especially when they are being challenged.


I agree with all ^^^ Fact is some people want to learn how to ride, and well. She’s not even trying. It’s a humbling sport bc a good eye sees all. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to ride different horses and learn more when I first started. I’d tell her a and b.

I know about clinic situations (knowing the organizers) where clinicians refuse to teach a rider, who thinks they know everything or argues, again. Suddenly the entries are full.

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Thank you—and thanks everyone for the advice/confirmation that I handled it correctly. I should add that I do think the conversation ended well. I reassured her that she does not look terrible, even if it felt that way (and offered to video in the future), and that everyone goes through some form of a winter slump, in addition to what I said above. After talking about other subjects for a bit, she short of sheepishly said out of the blue, “I think maybe you’re right about the riding,” so maybe she did get some food for thought from the conversation.


In the event that she does have another lesson, maybe grab your phone and video her. A picture speaks a 1000 words - She can listen to the trainer’s advice and demeanor, watch to see if she tries to do as suggested, and maybe she will mind her manners if she knows she is being recorded. I try to teach my husband and I can tell you it is frustrating for both of us! He tries, I try- And he does not care to ride with anyone else, before you ask- But a video ! Keeps him on his toes and keeps him from bitchin’ ! lol


Not sure I would continue being her chauffeur. She is causing stress, and isn’t having fun. Why continue?


I also think that you handled the situation very gracefully.
My only caveat is that you may want to be mindful of your own emotional health going forward. If she continues to disrespect your favors, and continues to trash the teacher, you are going to experience a pretty significant emotional deficit.

It may be a good idea to draw some parameters in the future.
If she starts being extremely negative again, you could say something like:
You know, I work hard to keep my riding experience positive. Riding is a challenging sport, and there are always going to be ups and downs. Finding time for it in my life is also challenging and important. I guard this time.
I don’t mind critique, but it needs to be to a good end. This does not feel like that. This is not the kind of discussion that I want to engage in. I get a lot out of my lessons. If you don’t respect this the trainer’s opinion, find a different one. I really don’t want to hear about this anymore.

I know that this might sound confrontational. Really depends on your personal comfort zone. It is not unkind. It is clear.


I agree totally with this. OP I think you need to let this person know how you feel and if she is unhappy with your trainer/barn, she should look elsewhere for her riding fix. You have handled the situation well so far and been very gracious.

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I hope she has been offering to pay for gas.

If she does pop up again asking about a ride to your barn, honestly I would say “hey, I’m surprised you are still wanting to come out. After last time I got the impression you were done with that barn and it wasn’t working for you.” I wouldn’t offer a ride time, leave the ball in her court. See what she says. If she apologizes profusely and shows some self awareness, I’d say" OK, that makes sense. But I need to say that I’m finding the lessons really useful, and I agree with the training techniques. I don’t want to have to argue about the trainer on the drive. " Ball in her court. If she promises to behave then give her another try. Maybe.

You have no obligation to continue giving rides to a Debbie Downer freeloader who is just an acquaintance. The only situation you’d be obligated to continue interacting with someone like this would be if this was your own sulky 14 year old daughter :slight_smile: in which case you can reasonably hope she’ll grow out of it.

I certainly have met riders who bounce between trainers and end up bailing from each trainer in this kind of conflict. It’s a common enough tactic for folks that dont really want to put the work on, and often because there are other emotional or physics issues in the background. I expect this is not the first trainer she’s gone sour on, who knows why she left the last lease?

All my suggested text replies above are actually challenging maybe even insulting, and if it was me, I’d be trying to push her a little so she just stopped contacting me and quit the barn.

Her saddle is not your responsibility. Just ignore it. When she wants her saddle she will find someone else to drive her to the barn.


I love this, thank you.

And to answer what someone else said—she’s chipped in a small amount for gas exactly once. Now, I’m going to the barn anyway, so I don’t need a huge monetary contribution and have never asked, but it’s a 40-mile drive and a $11-13 toll each trip.

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Ok, anyone with any adult sense of responsibility offers up front to pay for gas. Offers every time. Knows it’s a huge privilege to get a ride. Has a handful of $20 bills in advance to stuff into your glove compartment if you demur.

I take my friends trail riding. They always insist on generous gas payments for the truck.

Just cut her loose.

There’s often a temptation with people like this, to try to help them out or make them happy or change their mind. It’s not going to happen. You’ve got a free loading argumentative 25 going on 13 year old who is at best ambivalent about actually doing the hard work of riding. She probably “gets disappointed” and turns on everyone in her orbit eventually. Just let her fade out.

Don’t get caught up in trying to save your coach’s reputation with her. Your coach will likely be relieved she is gone.


Everything @Scribbler just said. Gas AND tolls? Gee whiz.

As someone who also has a long drive to rude, I have found that the drive is an important part of the process. I decompress from work on the way out there, and gird myself for whatever work poses on the way back (hmm, very healthy sounding). It would drive me bonkers to share that time with the wrong person. You need to protect your riding experience, OP, and the commute is part of that.


What kind of friend lets you drive them and doesn’t offer you gas money or buy you lunch ect? Not a very good one? Honestly, she kind of sounds like a Debbie Downer mooch type.

My suggestion is to offer your ‘friend’ another opportunity to drive along to the barn. Mention you think she should collect her things at that time. That you will not be able to continue the drive to ride services. She needs to take responsibility here. Not you.

I would be concerned about her asking you to collect her things then accusing you of something(s) being missing.

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