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Riding schedules at h/j barns?

I have a jumper in full training at a small h/j barn ($1800/mo for some combo of 4 lessons or pro rides). We just moved here because the care and turnout are spectacular and it’s closer to home. It’s mostly AAs and a couple juniors, all of whom are boarders. Most people ride 2-3 lessons a week but few seem to hack their horses. Maybe as a result of this, the BM is very weird about people riding outside their ‘ride times’ which is really just their lesson times. This doesn’t work very well for me since my horse is happiest working 5-6 days a week and I don’t need all of those to be lessons or pro rides. We have a small indoor, so I don’t expect to be able to ride during lessons, but I would like to be able to ride in the evenings or on the weekends when the arena is free (which is, frankly, most of the time). Has anyone else run into this anywhere? Any suggestions on how to broach with the BM?


Is the barn manager associated with the trainer?
Or is this a situation where the barn manager has nothing to do with the trainer and what they do?

Does your boarding/training contract have anything in it about scheduling hacking times?

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Those are good clarifications. Barn manager is also the trainer and contract does not have anything about scheduling hack times.

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Then yes, I think the best answer is to simply ask what the rules are around hacking on the non-lesson/trainer ride days.

It seems weird that you are not supposed to hack.


You maybe should have clarified this before, but definitely now check the actual barn hours for riding. Training barns vs boarding barns are very different. You can’t ride at just any time, there’s generally a window and people need to know you are coming.


The barn hours are in the contract and are 8-8 so it didn’t even cross my mind. I’ve been at both training and board-only barns and this is the first I’ve encountered this.


I’d straight up ask - just like you did here. “Hi Trainer! I like to hack my horse in the evenings and on weekends, and I want to make sure we aren’t in the way. Should I let you know when I’m coming out, or is there a sign up sheet for arena time? Or is it fine to just come on out as long as it’s operating hours and not a lesson time? Thanks!”

Sometimes when the barn culture doesn’t have a ton of people riding on their own, the staff and trainer get used to having the place to themselves. You’re not breaking any rules, per se, you’re just the exception rather than the norm. I rode at a barn where 90% of the boarders were kids, so we all showed up after school. A friend had her horse there for a month of tuning, and showed up to hack one weekday morning when she was out of class. The trainer (lived on site) was doing barn chores in their pjs and was rather shocked to see her! They were always in the Tucked In Polo And Belt uniform, so it was weird for everyone. She started texting the trainer when she was headed out to ride :sweat_smile:.

A little communication should clear this right up - you’re paying board and (I’m assuming) taking your contracted lessons and rides. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to go hack unless you’ve been informed otherwise!


That schedule sounds like a recipe for soft tissue injuries. This is absolutely a hill I would die on.


Define “weird”
Is it watching you ride sans their input?
Providing that input as if you were in a lesson?

Unless your contract specifically says “No riding outside of scheduled lessons”, IIWM, I’d just ride until someone with the authority explained to me why I couldn’t.
& Then I’d be looking for a new barn.

I boarded at a very fancy Dressage-focused barn where board included weekly lessons.
Charged to your bill whether or not you took them.
BO compared this to Greens Fees at a golf course.
But I could ride as often as I liked outside of lessons. Including using the indoor, outdoor, Xcountry course or trails on the 40ac.


Maybe I’m misinterpreting – and this isn’t an answer to your question – but this sounds like a terrible idea. Tell me some of these lessons are flat only? Tell me people are taking their horses on trail rides or doing groundwork? Nobody should be riding their horse ONLY to jump it 3x/week. As @Amberley said, that is a recipe for injury.


I missed it where the OP said lessons were always jumping.


I don’t see where the OP said that? My assumption is the assistant trainer rides the horses outside of lessons to keep them fit and the owners show up for their lessons.


Maybe I’m reading it wrong. She said full training is 4 contacts/week, and a lot of clients are using 3 of those contacts for lessons. In many h/j programs, lesson = jumping (I understand YMMV). If a horse is getting jumped 3x week, and flatted once by a pro, that’s still a lot of jumping. Again, I may have misinterpreted, but I am curious for the OP to explain what each lesson/contact entails. Yes, I know I am going off the rails from the OP’s question.

OP, as far as your initial question, I think you’ve already gotten wise advice about just asking what the rules are. If you go about it with an attitude of “I’m a team player and I want to follow the rules,” the trainer should be receptive.


Remember that even a “jumping” lesson can mean lots of different things—I have one who’s half-leased in the barn, and he usually jumps once per week with me and twice with his lessee. I would say only one of those jump lessons is an actual jump school over a course; the other two might be small gridwork or working on a singular exercise over 2-3 jumps. I personally don’t find that to be that much jumping, and he almost never jumps over 3’ at home.


Circling back to the OP’s original question…

I understand what you’re saying. I half-leased a horse from a woman at a dressage barn, and the arrangement was three rides a week, with a stipulation one was a lesson. However, the barn owner became increasingly irate when I actually rode on those two days (even though I came during low-traffic times when I was the only person in the arena mid-day). I asked her when the ideal hours would be to come, and she kept saying “any time is fine, we work around one another,” but when I was there would communicate in no uncertain terms she didn’t like it when I was there and not earning her income. Gradually, she began to place more and more restrictions on the hours I could ride (by which I mean a “window” of a single hour). I eventually left.

Most of the boarders only rode during lessons, maybe once or twice a month outside that when the weather was perfect. Sometimes that’s the unspoken expectation of the barn, and if you’re the only person who enjoys riding your horse outside of a lesson, it might not be a good fit for you. You can ask, but also keep an eye out to see if that’s what the trainer really means, if she says “ride anytime but lessons get priority in the indoor” or something normal like that.

At another barn, I felt there was some subtle discouragement to ride horses outside of lessons because instructors obviously preferred getting the income, and didn’t want the owners to “mess up” the horse’s training.


Too many missing details and OP is not at the barn when all lessons or Pro rides are taking place so may not know. I know some find it shocking how much serious flatwork (as in the D word) is done with Hunters and Jumpers in good barns. Don’t throw shade on busy Adults who don’t hack out, its their choice if barn time is limited and maybe they just don’t want to. Thats why they pay for full service.

The answer lies in a chat with the trainer. Have you asked about yet?

Oh, far as the barn hours question? My last several full care H/J barns required paid staff on the property anytime clients were there. Sometimes its required by insurance but between the value of the horses, skyrocketing saddle and tack costs and the possibility of clients bringing random guests, kids, dogs etc. they leave to wander the barn while they ride? A reasonable precaution.

Long as the hours are disclosed in the contract, its their business and might involve a landlord or their personal property and/or residence.


Thank you for this! That story about your friend is amazing. I think this is exactly what’s happening. It’s a small, family run program (though there is staff who live onsite) and I’m beginning to see that very few people ride on their own. I wanted to ask here if others had experienced this because they have sent a couple reminders via the group chat to ride at your ride times to avoid there being multiple horses in the arena at one time. I’ve been at other barns where there was a limit on the number of horses hacking in an arena at one time, and I had no problem waiting when that was the case.

And for folks worried about over jumping - lessons are usually an even mix of flatting and jumping (1 flat + 1jump or 2 flat + 1 jump per week). Training rides are similarly split.


At the barn I spoke of, DH & I were the only ones who used the Xcountry course & trails, besides the trainer.
Not my problem what other boarders did, as long as we could do what we wanted.
If it hadn’t been for the annually increased board/lesson cost, it would have been near-perfect.

We have a small indoor with two programs using it, so there are specific windows to flat. During the height of COVID, we had assigned mounting times, with a time limit, even to flat/hack outside of lessons and a stricter limit on the number of riders for each slot. It’s a little looser now, but we still try to limit the number of people in the ring at once. Lessons always get priority. When we are outside, it’s not strict. Although sometimes if it’s crowded, I will go in the indoor to avoid traffic or wait until it clears out. But there aren’t really set rules about that.

My horse needs to be in a good 5-6 days of work to be fit, same and happy… especially during the winter. I try and mix it up so she has two “light” days, two conditioning days, and two lesson/pro ride days. I wish I could hack out, but she isn’t the best outside the arena. Otherwise I would mix that in too on light days. But it’s important to me that I can ride outside of lessons.

Personally, I would just ask about the parameters and how you can work your rides in. If I wasn’t allowed, or even encouraged to ride outside of lessons (assuming one is not a total beginner), I would personally leave. I think low-key non-lesson rides, independent riding and consistent exercise are important parts of being a good horseman.


I would be gone tomorrow. Not just the restrictions but also the fact you have bsc passive aggressive BO/trainer who lures you in then changes the rules by psychological pressure to be something insane. Not being able to ride daily is insane.

I’m guessing they like peace and quiet and extra revenue of banning horse owners during lockdown and want to keep it up. Lots of Horse Owners are happy to only ride 3 times a week and pay for pro rides.

If that’s not you, get out now.

There is no telling what other self serving bsc ideas they will spring on you about horse care, vets, carriers, showing, supplements.