Trying to get back into horses has been a big fail, not sure what I'm doing wrong

As a rerider it’s been one heck of a journey trying to find a good lesson barn. Started with a few failed attempts - first barn kept cancelling my lessons, second moved out of the area, the third went under because it was a train wreck from the start and the person running the program had no money along with sadly some mental health issues.

I found a new trainer at a show barn who was very highly recommended by many people on facebook. Went there for first lesson, she pairs me up with a really nice warmblood gelding who used to show in dressage. As we start the lesson in the indoor ring I notice she is smoking cigarettes while she is seated in the middle of the ring (at least ask me if I mind first!). It actually turned out to be a great lesson, she was very complimentary of my riding and said the horse and I were a great match and he was just coming off lease. I even overhead her telling someone else in the barn what a good match it was. She could offer next lesson 2 weeks from then because she would be away at a show, which was fine. I was so excited and full of confidence after that lesson! So then my next lesson which was 2 weeks later she texts me morning of the lesson saying the horse lost a shoe so can we reschedule. Ok it happens. So I try to reschedule and no response. I follow up a week later throwing out a couple of different days that I can do. Ghosted!

I’m seriously about to give up. Is this supposed to be that hard? Is it me? I’ve been at this for over 2 years and my riding is so sporadic it’s hard to progress to the point where I’d feel confident enough to lease. It’s not even fun anymore. I don’t remember these kinds of issues when I first came back to riding as an adult in 2002. I’m too old at 48 to deal with this kind of stuff. Maybe I just am too old for this and this sport is for kids.

This is kind of just a vent session but also curious if this is normal!

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Do you want to ride dressage? (In my area, that’s where all us older women are–much older than you, I might add!) If so, I’d recommend that you start showing up to audit clinics, going to shows, joining your local GMO, going to their socials or other gatherings and just becoming visible in your dressage community. You’ll get a much better idea of who is who and what is going on and once people get to know you, you may well get better opportunities offered to you.

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Where are you located?

I had a similar cigarette situation happen in a clinic. I was rather surprised and off put (and I’m a smoker!)… some things you don’t do, and smoking in a barn is VERY high on that list.

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Adding onto Atr’s post, try joining horse/ discipline specific FB groups for your area if you haven’t done so already. They can be a good resource for finding programs, lease opportunities, clinics and shows that would otherwise go unnoticed.

You are not alone in finding re- entry a challenge. Several years ago, after I lost my horse, I decided to take a short breather from riding. I had recently relocated to another state and hadn’t developed too many new horse contacts but I figured after decades of involvement taking six to eight months off wouldn’t pose too much of a problem. Boy was I wrong. It took me over a year to find a coach I wanted to work with who had availability and even longer than that to find the right horse. All in all I ended up taking several times the break I had initially planned upon. During this time I went down every dead end you can imagine: multiple trainers moved out of state, barns moved, horses retired, barns closed, programs were at capacity and there were the inevitable nonresponses and disappearing acts. I have found that even the most talented trainer is often a really poor business manager and the level of persistence needed to push things forward is significant. Like you I was nearly ready to take up canasta and call it a day but I’m glad I didn’t. One great ride, one breakthrough moment and suddenly it was worth the effort.

Good luck OP, I hope you find a situation that works and get your joy back.

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I think there are a lot fewer lesson barns around, which makes it harder to get back into it if you’re not ready to jump into leasing.

Also, (wild generalization here) most horse people just aren’t good business people. When I started riding again at age 40 after a 15-year break I was surprised at how unprofessional most horse professionals are. Looking back on it, the barns I rode at in my teens and early 20’s were probably equally unprofessional but you notice that less at age 18 than age 48.

I think it just takes persistence to find the right situation. Good luck!

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Ain’t that the truth! It’s not just you, OP. I’ve struggled to find a good barn for my daughter to ride at, reaching out to several and hearing back from less than a handful. The one we ultimately went with isn’t meeting expectations (glorified pony rides when she was already going walk/trot solo) so back to the drawing board.

Keep at it, some great suggestions here in this thread.

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Do not hesitate to follow up with trainers who don’t respond, at least a few times. I had to follow up numerous times to get in with my last coach because they are busy, but once I got in to their program they were excellent and responsive.

Also unless you are really set on a discipline, try any program you can get a spot in. I think if you primarily want to have fun and enjoy horses, good horsemanship and a positive environment are more important than what kind of tack you are using.

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Maybe I misread your post, but for me it sounded like that last trainer was looking for a new lease for this dressage horse. And you sound like you are only looking for some lessons. Getting into dressage without a horse is difficult, Maybe rethink your goals and how to get there. Good luck!!!

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I think this is probably the issue. There are just far fewer lesson horses out there than there used to be and those remaining usually have pretty strict limits on their workload (in quality programs anyway). I took 5 years off from riding after college and made myself wait to get back into it until I could comfortably afford to at least half lease, which made it much easier to find a barn once I was ready. OP, if even a 2 day/week partial lease is a possibility for you that would probably widen your options considerably. Otherwise I’d just keep doing what you’re doing: keep an eye on the local Facebook groups and try to build your network until the right fit comes along. You could also try volunteering at a horse rescue or therapy barn or something like that in the meantime; the staff and volunteers are often pretty well-connected in the local horse community and may know of something that would work.

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Volunteering sounds like a good idea. Get involved, learn the local scene, maybe make some new horsey friends, and perhaps do some good. :heart:

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I think the OP took a lesson on a former dressage horse, rather than specifically was looking into dressage? I agree from my own experience that it’s a harder re-entry point of entry discipline-wise if you don’t own or lease, versus hunter-jumper. The upside is, you’re more apt to get adult-focused instruction in a private setting on a decent horse–if you can find a barn.

The number of barns, especially barns looking for new riders, however, is decreasing in general, and for financial reasons, a client with a horse interested in training/showing is a more attractive prospect. And some chaotically-run barns say they want new students, but what they really mean is, “boy, I could use the extra cash every week,” and don’t really have the time or desire to schedule or teach the student!

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Thank you everyone! To clarify, I do love dressage but I’m not limited to that as my focus. I’m just looking to improve my riding and spend time around horses. I’m even considering going back to a Western barn where I had taken a couple of really fun adult group lessons a couple of years ago, just to get some horse time ( I hate the feel of a Western saddle but it’s the least of my challenges right now).

I know some have suggested the Facebook groups and that’s where I’ve been getting the suggestions for barns/trainers. The last one who was smoking cigarettes during my lesson and then ghosted me was HIGHLY recommended on FB. but then I realzed she was recommended by the same 2-3 people every time. Seems every trainer has their vocal advocates on social media. And they are all replying to every post where someone is looking for lessons/lease/board etc… But then you get there and can’t get on the schedule barely once a week! very frustrating.

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My reriding experience. After 2 years out of the dressage saddle I needed to be around horses. I volunteered at a rescue. A trainer was on the board of directors so I started lessons with her. Not dressage specific cuz what I really wanted to do was hunters. Busy lesson barn. After a few rides I leased my lesson horse knowing eventually I would buy her. I got nowhere fast in the hunter world, then the trainer left. I started dressage lessons with trainer 2 but she and I didn’t click. She left and I went to my third trainer who I absolutely adore and we are making such progress. My little 15.2 hand OTTB chestnut mare who cribs (4 things I did not want!) has gone from a schoolie sticking her nose in the air and essentially running away with her ride to a soft and supple decent Training Level horse.

Moral of the story. It takes time, patience, kissing a lot of toads. But you will find a way if you want it.

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If can be hard to find the right trainer, especially if you are also looking for the right horse to lesson on. Some trainers aren’t all that interested in a rider who wants to ride 1-2x per week, especially if they have students in the barn who are actively competing. Those students will always get preference.

That said, many of the trainers I’ve worked with are just not that good at responding in a timely fashion and required more effort on my part to get onto their calendar.

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trying out a new barn on Sunday. It’s run by a US Olympian showjumper, so fingers crossed for a good experience. Please wish me luck!

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Well…being a former Olympian is not necessarily a plus for a returning rerider. It sounds good but the reality may be they aren’t a match for that level rider, especially without a personal horse. And riding ability does not guarantee insightful teaching.

Far as that smoking trainer who “ ghosted” you? That was absolutely nothing personal so don’t take it that way. That “ lesson” on a horse coming back off a lease was nothing but a sales pitch. You didn’t take the hook and trainer does not want anybody who doesn’t own or lease in the program. Cant really blame them for a little bait and switch to drum up potential clients but they should have shared theres no room for non owners/leasers in their program. Again, nothing to do with you personally.

Sometimes you do need to consider deciding if you really want to ride and be around horses or only want to participate in a specific discipline. With limited options, you need to keep all options open.

Enjoying barn time is priceless, saddle time us saddle time and if you enjoyed riding with a peer group at the Western barn? Maybe look at that more seriously? Far as not feeling comfortable in the saddle? If you stick with that and try different saddles, maybe pick up a used one that suits you? Might work. There are different options in bars, seat width, fender size and twist placement and width, including a strainer, that can totally change the feel.

If thats your best option, investigate it.

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OP, I feel your pain.

About 5-6 years ago, I was desperately trying to connect with a trainer to get started again. I was out of shape and needing help rebuilding my strength and confidence.

My experience trying to find an instructor was very similar. I couldn’t believe how many people would just ghost me. I started getting a complex! Was I coming off wrong? Was I saying the wrong thing? Was there a secret blacklist being circulated among instructors that said “do not respond to Texarkana!”

Eventually I found someone fabulous but the process seemed way harder than it needed to be.

I would think AAs with jobs would be almost as desirable of clients as kids bankrolled by mom and dad, but apparently not.

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Being a re-rider is tough! Especially those like us who are of a certain age, and have other demands on our time and disposable income. We’re a little pickier than a 10 year old who’s just happy to be on a pony, any pony.

I think the last two Covid years introduced some really weird dynamics into the horsey market. Demand for lessons spiked sky-high while supply of reliable schoolies dropped to near-zero; the result was that some barns folded while others added instructors and packed in students without doing a lot of quality control. I saw some “interesting” setups when I was barn-shopping – and those were the ones who bothered to return my calls.

I feel like things are beginning to return to a more even keel. I notice barns in my area are advertising for lesson students again, rather than just standing at the end of the driveway and taking checks from hordes of desperate parents.

Hang in there, OP! It’s worth it to find the right setup, but it’s also perfectly fine to start with an OK-ish place that delivers some of what you need, then change (or add) instructors as you progress and your focus or needs change.

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She just found another leasor for the horse so the horse was no longer available. With nothing for you to ride, she figured no need to call you back (see “bad business people” above). I’ve had that happen to me.

Covid oddly enough gave many barns more students than they could handle, since it was a time-consuming outside sport. I found it very difficult to get back into lessons as well (since I am an older adult re-rider, and will not be lining pockets with additional fees for shows, horse shopping and tack, beyond just the basic lessons). I’m still trying to find a place to add myself to a lesson situation with jumping and having no luck (“Only students with leases are on our lesson calendar.” “Only students who ride 3 or more days a week…” “Sorry, we don’t have a horse for you.”) I finally undertook a lease at a trail barn and that’s gone very well, BUT.

If I were you, I’d look into that fun adult group lesson on a western horse and just bring my own English saddle (if they will let you and you have one.) Ride a couple lessons western so they get to know you, then tell them you have hip pain in a western, see if that flies. The horse doesn’t care what tack he’s wearing. You’ll probably still need to handle the bridle in a western fashion, tho. That’s what the animals have been trained on.

It seems to me it takes several months to get integrated into a new barn, so don’t give up quickly. Be cheerful, friendly, and NOT A PROBLEM to anybody for those first few months. (It’s generally a good idea to never be a problem, of course, but we all have lives, and the holidays are coming up, which means cancellations and such.)

Good luck.

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This is all true, however, I recently rode in a clinic with a current Olympian. While I’m not a rerider, and have my own horse, I found this individual to be very welcoming to all levels of riders in the clinic.

That said, such rides are not inexpensive by a long shot and the best value for a rerider is likely not with an Olympian.

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