X-post from H/J: Entering a training program, what should I know or ask?

For the first time in my life, I can afford to really put some money into myself and my horse, and I’m thinking of moving us into a training program. This is all very new to me, so really looking for advice on what I should look for in a program, general watch-outs, or if there’s anything I should ask.

The backstory here is that I have a 5 year old OTTB who is wonderful in so many ways, but is still a baby. My personal goals is to have a happy, confident horse (and me as a rider) and do some low-level eventing (or just jumpers if he winds up hating eventing). While my OTTB is very brave and willing, as an adult amateur, I want to make sure I set him up for success and educate him well, and I know I have some holes in my education and I want to avoid that with my OTTB.

Anyway, I’ve found a program that I really like–board and a customized training program is included, typically 3-4 rides/training sessions including a trainer riding and lessons for myself. The head trainer has worked with a lot of OTTBs and loves them, and believes in taking your time and developing the horse, which I really believe in.

That being said, I’m new to this whole program thing, and want to make sure I ask the right questions before fully committing. Horses are fed 3x/day, get daily turnout (weather permitting), and there is no showing requirement.

I’m paying a visit to the stable soon, but have met the trainer before at an event and really liked them. When I go out, I’ll be viewing the facilities and watching a lesson (or 2!). What should I ask about as I go?

Thank you so much for any advice/tips, I’m really excited at the direction this could take me, my horse, and my riding!

One question is to ask who will actually be riding your horse.

I have heard several cases where the horse owner thought the head trainer would be the only other person riding the horse, but it turns out that an assistant trainer, a working student, or even a boarder ended up doing the “training rides”.

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This is great! I have confirmed that the head trainer is the only one who rides, and is adamant of that, too

In that case, how many horses are there at the barn? One person can only ride so many horses in a day. And if it is not a daily ride, how often? What happens on a non-riding day? I wouldn’t mind an assistant or pupil riding if it was under close supervision by the trainer but it should be clear.

How many days notice do you have to give for leave?
Can you swap training rides for lessons?
How much notice to cancel a lesson and still get a training ride that day?
24/7 hay?
Extra fees up charges?
How do they introduce new horses?

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Not as big of an issue as at many H/J barns but maybe expectations about competing, if they are on the road for any length of time (like heading south for 2-3 months). and if they do go south for 2-3 months what happens w training rides / lessons if yuo don’t go

Are you “allowed” to take lessons/clinics with someone outside of this trainer/their circle? I know it sounds silly, but I’ve worked with so many UL trainers who became super passive-aggressive when they found out I went to a clinic with another trainer or took a lesson with another person. When you enter a training “program”, sometimes the trainer feels like they own you and you can only do what they tell you to do - IMHO this is what is wrong with so many of these programs, they make the client feel like you must rely 100% on one person.

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