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Newbie Advice Needed - Daughter wants to do more in Hunter/Jumper

Thanks, exactly where we are headed for sure!

Agreed, this is sage advice nd definitely reflects our experience thus far and what we’ll need to know going forward. Thank you!

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Yes, we’re adding this to the list and I think it’s a necessary To-Do BEFORE we do anything else honestly. She needs to see what A or AA level really looks like for the teenagers and above!

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Thanks, for her it is certainly both. She is competitive, but even more loves the connection with the horse while in the ring and her own personal “pursuit of perfection” while on a horse. Ribbons are certainly secondary - but that is one thing that makes her a good rider. She isn’t riding to win, she is riding because she loves riding - and often that helps her to win.

She also loves taking care of them and it’s really hard to get her to leave at the end of the day. But, with the structure offered at barns around here, the connection can only go so far with Lesson Horses so she definitely doesn’t have exposure to a real relationship with a single horse.

The focus on saddle time (and show time) is going to be key! And she honestly loves riding multiple horses, but I don’t know if the barn is going to allow that to be a true path we can pursue or not… We’ll find out when we have our meeting with them in a couple of weeks for sure!

Saw your post at 10pm last night, read an excerpt from the book, and ordered it at 11pm :slight_smile: Thank you so much for the recommendation, I can’t believe a book was written that speaks directly to what we have and will experience! We can’t wait to read it (and see if I can convince DD to read it too).


Go watch the 3’6” Eq classes, the junior jumpers, and the junior hunters, specifically. Then go watch a grand prix in the jumper ring. It’ll be fun, and you’ll also get to see where she will need to be in a few years to realistically hit her goals as spelled out here.

There are many many ways to enjoy horses, and show horses, between short stirrup at local shows and the Big Eq/NCAA and Olympics. It’s good to see in person what those might entail!

ETA not sure if anyone has linked this thread yet, but it’s a good resource for some hard number costs. Juniors tend to be similar or more in terms of costs, depending on goals and needs.

Keep in mind that for the most part this is for A/AA rated showing, unless people state otherwise.


I was in a similar situation a few years ago and just wanted to share my story to see if it will be any help to you , OP.
A few years ago I was in the same spot as your daughter. I had been taking lessons at a local lesson barn but my parents and I decided that I would thrive better at a smaller barn with more focused lessons. I moved barns, started progressing quicker and began showing in the short stirrup on a lesson horse.
After about a 3/4 of a year riding lesson horses, My trainer had a conversation with my parents similar to the one your trainer has had with you, OP, about how it was time for me to lease a pony that could take me up the divisions.
I wanted to show more and just like your daughter, increase my riding time and knowledge with horses. Just like you, OP, my parents were on the fence about it. They had no previous experience with horses but knew this was something i wanted to do seriously. They figured, let’s do it and see what happens after if she wants to even keep riding after this. My trainer found us a older, schoolmaster pony that would be able to take me from 2’-to the Children’s Ponies(which is 2’6) and show me the ropes. It was a Full lease for a year in the lower fives(not including trainer commission). I really lucked out with that pony. She was a great confidence boost and improved my riding very much.
I loved the fact that I could have unsupervised riding time(meaning one of my parents still watched but i wasn’t having a lesson) and I lived for spending time in her stall after I rode. She was priceless in my opinion. I also was able to increase the time i showed, I went to my first away shows with that pony and really got a taste of the upper level shows. Once our lease ended, I ended up buying an nice younger equitation horse to take me to the 3’6 medals. But hard work is key. I showed my parents i wasn’t going to give up on the horse world by going to the barn every day i could and working my butt off. On the weekends I would go from 6am-7pm and do everything i could. I learned how to make grain, give ulcerguard, ride all different types of horses, etc. I don’t know if these opportunities are possible for your daughter but I feel that I learned truly from just working.
I agree with above posters that you and DD should take a day trip and go spectate at an A show. If that’s not possible, you can also look up on youtube some of the bigger classes. Some examples:
Maclay Finals
International Hunter derbies
Grand prix classes
If you look some of those up in youtube you should be able to find some educational rounds to watch.
Your daughter is very very lucky to have such a great supportive family!
Good luck!


Hmmmmm….this might sound silly and its no way hard reality but…

Theres an old circa 1960s movie called The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit. Ifs a pretty good family story about getting into AA level HJ showing that actually focuses specifically on the Big Eq Medals and the challenges the family faces. All watered down, dummified and Disneyfied of course plus it is pretty dated and corny.

But the horses are well done, few cringe worthy blunders, the riding is amazing and the biggest lesson the family learns is riding for the love of the horse and the sport, not to impress and outspend. And who can forget Aspercell and that tricked out RV :rofl:

Bet your DD would love it if she has not seen already. Its around, should be easy to find. Probably easier to get her to watch that then read the book.

There was also a TV miniseries maybe 15 years ago called The Road to the Maclay following several Big Eq riders in an early reality show format. It follows them through the show year trying to qualify then on to the Finals. Its largely dead on target concerning the reality of the challenges, including horse injuries and finances.

These riders are really some of the very best riding with the very best trainers, hard to envision what the upper levels of the sport looks like when you are immersed in backyard/ beginner type barns that don’t produce anything off the lowest levels so riders have nothing to compare what they are doing to. If that makes sense. This program is probably floating around somewhere and would very much be worth getting.

Anyway, watching is free and the better the horses and riders you watch, the more you can understand what needs to happen to move along towards a goal. In other words, don’t major in the minors.


Yes I’d say for young children, beginners, newbies, the whole competition structure between here and “the Olympics” is opaque and invisible. And whenever I hear a child at that level mention the Olympics, I smile. There was a rather sweet 15 year old from a somewhat dysfunctional but reasonably well off financially family with a busted up TB. She said several times that her past coach said she had a nice leg and should go to the Olympics. My coach worked on her and she learned to sit the canter, eventually her parents bought acreage and she spent a lot of money on a couple of proven sport horses, and worked hard to get to the 3 foot/ 3 foot 3 local rated level. And that turned out to be a huge accomplishment.

There is so much between here and wherever you end up, enough to keep you happy for a lifetime.


I Think we have about $20 to $30 thousand dollars of just tack in our house, could be more as daughter who keeps her horses here just imported a new dressage saddle form Europe for her dressage horse.

Admittedly she is an adult and paid for it herself but the saddle was supposedly used, however when the saddle fitter came to see how or If it fit daughter’s horse said that saddle had never been on a horse. (And said the saddle fit daughter’s horse as it had been made specifically for her horse )

our falling out with trainers came when they thought we should sell our kids’ horse as they had a Very Wealthy Grand Parent wanting to purchase our kids’ horse for their grand kid.


My young life with my horse was nothing like that. I did ride bareback at times but apart from that your description is way, way off.

I learned how to really ride because I rode every day for hours. I made many mistakes and many things we did with our horses makes me wonder how I am still here. Looking back I am amazed we came out as good as we did( my horse and I) but no way would I have learned anything riding 2 days a week for 40 minutes tops.

My point is ( was to the OP) that her daughter is 10 years old and deserves to experience the joy ( and despair) that goes with having a horse of her own.

To pay out big $$$ to ride a show horse 2 days a week and have it all about showing is no life for a kid who wants to ride. There are other ways to gain experience and skills outside of lessons.

This kid is 10 going on 40. She has a lot of time to be an adult. Let her be a real horse crazy kid if that is in the budget.

ETA: I am not saying she should ride unsupervised by an adult ( even though I did).


I would definitely look into IHSA then instead of NCAA. There are only a handful of schools offering NCAA equestrian teams and they may not end up making sense for your daughter’s academic goals or any financial considerations you guys might have. On the flip side, there are hundreds of IHSA teams at schools all over the country offering a pretty similar experience. Depending on how things unfold over the next several years she could also end up preferring to take her own horse and continue with more traditional lessons that aren’t tied to the school (this is what I did, minus my own horse). There are a ton of ways to keep riding through college no matter what she decides!

I also think it’s useful to keep kids/teens from getting sucked so far into the horse world that they don’t get a chance to experience other things in life. I was never as competitive as others but for me college was a time when I stepped back a bit and tried some new things which ended up being a great experience. The kids on the high-level showing track tend to wind up in online school, their whole social lives revolve around the barn, they don’t have time for other hobbies, etc. This works for some kids but there’s something to be said for being a well-rounded person in addition to a good horseman. It sounds like you guys have a pretty balanced approach, but just something to keep in mind going forward.


Indeed, I drifted away from horses in college and as a young adult because so many opportunities were more important than horses at the time. I don’t regret it either


My sister and I have watched that movie probably about 60 times. In our 30s we still quote it and I plan to introduce it to my 4.5 year old niece in a few years :slight_smile:

Again to echo everyone else here:

The range of experiences, finances, life events, health, goals, etc. between:

2x a week riding lesson ponies >>> Olympics is massive

99.9999% of us don’t bridge that gap. But we all enjoy horses in some capacity in the spectrum between.


I didn’t make it thorugh all the responses so this may be redundant.

If leasing a horse seems like the most logical next move, and I do agree that more saddle time should be high priority, you do not HAVE to lease a horse from your current barns program. There are several off site lease options available. It may be a better structure - if anything it’s worth considering.

Consider signing up for lessons elsewhere, too. Maybe she takes lessons 2x a week at the H/J barn and 1x a week at an eventing barn. Get her out there. See what she enjoys. See what opportunities pop up.

Kudos to you for offering her so much constructive support! I come from a family riddled with athletes and I had a really hard time garnering any type of support when I walked off the court for more saddle time. Keep showing up for her, that’s the best support you can give.


I see horses as a general good or life necessity for those of us who love them.

We teach children to read and write without counting on them becoming published novelists. We teach children to play an instrument without counting on them becoming rock stars or orchestra members. We encourage them to draw and paint without expecting they should be a professional artist.

All these things add to our lives without needing to get to the very top.


And my point is that for most people today, that simply isn’t an option. Most people don’t live in an area where owning a horse is something they can do. For most people, it’s completely unrealistic to tell them to go out and buy their kid a horse.


The book it is based on, “The Year of the Horse”, by Eric Hatch, is even better.


I’ve been reading along the past couple days. I’ll be 40 in October but I started riding and showing around the same time as your daughter. Based on your original post and your newness to the horse world, I would be cautious on basing your decisions on “how talented she is for her age”. I didn’t do hunters at that age, but I was competitive and didn’t have an amazing show horse or anything. It sounds like she’s a solid rider on a nice horse which can get a lot of wins, especially at a younger age and depending on the competition.

I’d suggest basing your decisions, especially the more expensive ones (!!) on what is making your daughter happy. Is she just as happy to ride and take lessons? How much of it is that vs the wanting to show/being competitive? Sometimes barn cultures push kids towards that because that’s where they make their money. I started showing around 8 maybe? And continued to do so until I went to college and I didn’t realize until I stopped showing how stressful it was and was like, “why did I put myself through all that?” I will say it taught me a lot about winning/losing/politics, team work with not only my show group, but also with my equine partner that may be having an off day at any given show.

I did go to a college with an equestrian program. I started out as a bio/equine teacher/trainer double major and dropped the equine one real fast. I saw within the first week SO many of the students had everything handed to them, did well on their expensive horses, but would have melt downs on the school horses because they weren’t that strong of riders and could only ride their horse well. I saw at that point, the degree didn’t actually matter in many cases. I continued to take lessons every semester, usually two classes so 4 lessons a week and just loved it. I did do one jumper show on my own accord and also joined the drill team. They did ISHA and IDA but I chose not to participate with either.

On this note, I was sucked into the horse world since I started riding and THAT is not a regret in any way. I stayed out of trouble when a lot of peers were finding it. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything at all. Before I started riding my mom put me in every activity under the sun and I hated them all. I was naturally gifted at the flute and ended up dropping band in high school once they required marching band and all the time for that over the summers. That was horse time. Don’t regret that to this day.

I was thankful to have supportive parents through everything. They were really good at helping me make decisions like quitting band which I didn’t want to do but you HAD to do marching band full stop. Even though that’s where my natural talent was, they let me weigh the pros and cons and make the decision myself.

No matter which way you all go, she will have SO many chances to learn about life, what the world is like outside the classroom and pick up a lot of life skills that many kids just don’t anymore. @clanter spoke to that very well.

Have fun! :unicorn:


[quote=“Scribbler, post:176, topic:788162”]I
see horses as a general good or life necessity for those of us who love them.

We teach children to read and write without counting on them becoming published novelists. We teach children to play an instrument without counting on them becoming rock stars or orchestra members. We encourage them to draw and paint without expecting they should be a professional artist.

All these things add to our lives without needing to get to the very top.

Worth repeating.