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