Young professional and already feel burnout, wwyd?

Just need to vent… people said don’t get into the horse industry despite it being my passion. I’ve been in the industry in various capacities as a trainer under somebody else/part-time for about 8 years, but have been full time/on my own for the last 3 years and am starting to feel burnout.

I run a program out of a farm with full board run by the barn owner. I teach on a couple of my own horses and have rough board for them, about half my income is from that. The other half comes from training clients long/short term that come in on the barns full board (since they won’t give me anymore rough board stalls). The full board isn’t great, and i lose clients pretty frequently because of issues with it and have to really work hard to get clients because of the poor quality of care and the arena being busy with multiple lesson programs. So, I’ve started supplementing the full board care for clients in 2 or more training sessions per week and who also pay a small monthly fee. But, I’m really starting to feel burnt out doing all of the extras I’m doing on top of teaching and training. I do have a couple working students helping me but even with that it feels like I never have time to ride my own horse or clean my tack or anything like that because of all the extras I’m doing to supplement the barns care (for the full boarders in my program I do turn in every day so horses can stay out longer, outside waters, turnout for most of the winter when the barn otherwise wouldn’t turnout, blanket changes, nightcheck every night since I’ve found a full board horse without water once and I’m paranoid now, putting up boards in the paddocks that come down, emptying and cleaning inside water buckets, picking a couple of the smaller paddocks).

I really feel like the barn staff should be doing more of this but the barn owner is ancient and the 2 guys doing most of the work are generally lazy and unreliable, and I feel like I have to keep my boarders happy so just pick up slack. There is no other farm in the area with an indoor arena (essential in this area for getting clients and for being able to do anything December-March) that I’m aware of that has space for my program and isn’t astronomically priced. There is a barn 20 min away that could fit 75% of my current program, but I would have to do all the care/set up all the care myself from scratch, and I think just being 20 min further from the city would put it out of the driving area for at least a third to half of my clients which would mean a substantial loss of income, and my end game is to keep saving money so I can someday have my own farm that I live on.

What would you do? Would love advice and commiseration

Have you considered going back to work for a top barn, with a top professional, for a while longer, where you can be in really nice surroundings, better by far than you seem to be struggling in now?

There is a real need in those barns for people like you and you may make more money and get more contacts for another try later on your own?

Why work so hard where you are now for little to show for it?
I agree that a change is worth it, don’t burn out, put all that passion and work ethic where it will help you get ahead and in a top barn for a while longer may tide you over into a better situation later.


@Bluey has given you excellent advice! My suggestion is to consider making the horse industry your hobby. I know people say, “Do something you love for a job and you’ll never work a day in your life,” but I disagree. Any job comes with a downside. With a hobby, the downside is less crucial, I think, and the entire endeavor is flat out more fun because the pressure is YOURS. I enjoyed teaching HS for 40 years --I didn’t enjoy grading essays just about every weekend, sitting in on endless meetings, and interacting with less than professional colleagues. BUT it was part of the job so I did it. And I went home to my hobby --horses! I could do what I wanted with each, take care of them how I thought was best, train them as fast or as slow as I wanted, and love them to pieces knowing that they were MINE. Sure, horse ownership has its downside --right now it is 16 degrees and in an hour I have to wade through a foot of snow and feed my 4 lovelies --but I WANT to do that --no one is making me.

The last three or four years I taught --I felt like I was in a prison sentence --I HAD to go to work, I HAD to grade papers, I HAD to go to meetings --and I did, but my heart wasn’t in it. I WANT to see my horses this AM --and possibly ride --yeah, it’s cold, but I have a warm coat and a warm horse!


I would love to be an assistant trainer at a well run barn, but in all of the arrangements I’ve been in before being an assistant etc I I earned less than of half of what I’m making now and certainly wasn’t able to save up any money/was living paycheck to paycheck, if anybody else has had a different experience and found one of those positions where you earn enough money to save $ would love to hear it, but that’s not my impression of those positions.

Plus when I did that before I had to be flexible about what area of the country etc and right now I’m living near my family.


Too bad, guess that won’t work for you then.

That is a tough spot to be, maybe others will come with better ideas for you. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

I feel like I’m burning out because of the barn I’m at, not because of the actual teaching lessons and training portion of it. Just doing all of the extras that the barn doesn’t do for caring for the horses and constantly filling in the gaps with the horse care for full boarders (who are paying the barn for full board, not me) both because I feel badly for the horses and because I want to keep the clients happy so I have the training income coming in. But i also don’t have a better option for a barn in this area that I could run a program out of. And also maybe that’s just part of running your own program regardless of where you are.


In my youth, I thought that I would make horses my living. I could have done so. But I figured out that is not the life that I really want.

It is true that turning a passion into a living can take all of the fun out of the passion. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not on the right track. You seem to have done very well considering the situation.

Paid help (in addition to the BO’s ) is a way to share the load BUT I realize that may not be financially feasible.

Before dismissing paid help outright, put pencil to paper and calculate if you could spend more time on income producing activities if you had help that is paid and managed by you. That is, paid help would actually help you earn more.

The other idea would make for a rough transition, and possibly a longer one than you would wish. But if you were able to push it through, it might solve a lot of problems.

Would the BO be willing to turn the whole thing over to you? A completely different contractual arrangement where you run the barn 100%.

You would need to hire a barn manager - full or part time - because otherwise you will do nothing but horse care. That would be part of the plan for increasing your time on training and teaching and greater earnings. You need to be sure work is allocated so that you are doing the income part that you do best, and someone else is doing the care, and doing it well.

If you do take over, the lazy helpers would have to go of course. You would control all aspects of care.

How to approach the barn owner with this plan in a persuasive way would be a whole other conversation. But that is the best thing I can think of that would correct the situation where you are now.

My last thought is that you need to be carefully controlling how you think of the situation so that you don’t unintentionally block good solutions. Such as, I can’t do this because. The other opportunity doesn’t work because. Think of positives first. Then rather than jumping to negative conclusions, give various scenarios some real thought and put pencil to paper. Sometimes we inadvertently block ourselves from the solution right in front of us.

Also, don’t consider yourself so locked into this barn that you are making yourself not available for a really good opportunity to make the life you want. Keep looking for other facilities.

You’ve already been successful with a situation that is not ideal. Sounds like you do have what it takes. Hold positive thoughts and intentions that help you be open to better solutions. This will work out for you, hopefully sooner than later. :slight_smile:


Can you sit down with the barn owner and discuss hiring better help? Bluff and threaten to leave. Barn owner probably doesn’t want to lose income if your clients leave.


I hate to say it, but you’re basically propping up the barn owner’s incompetence/inability to provide basic services. In any job, once you’re asked as an employee to do things that aren’t your job and essentially to keep a business viable that you’re not getting the benefit of as a business owner…it’s time to leave. So no wonder you’re burnt out. If you walked, the barn owner would be shit out of luck, and I guarantee that they don’t fully appreciate this, or they know you don’t have any other great options.

I wish I had a great solution–maybe just to board your personal horse and work as a traveling trainer, while you save up for your own facility. The commuting can be draining, but at least you wouldn’t be responsible for barn care and lose clients due to circumstances beyond your control.

Like, imagine if one of the boarders was posting here: “I’m boarding at a facility, and I love my trainer. She’s a young pro who goes over and beyond to give me great training and even steps in to help care for my horse. The problem is, the actual care given by the barn owner is seriously substandard and I am worried about the health of my horse. Should I stay? The pro is saving up for her own facility, but the market is tough right now, and if she moved it would be to an area I couldn’t commute to after work.” Probably most of us would say no, sadly.


Yes, you’ve gotten yourself into a people pleasing downward spiral where you are doing extra work with no pay.

You have a couple of choices.

Stop doing the extra barn work.

Move your operation to a better barn.

Hire a helper to do the extra barn work.

Boarding is often problematic at lower cost barns because the barn cannot afford to do things in best practice. That might mean less food, less bedding, or less manpower to do turnout change blankets etc. It’s pretty common for staff to do turn in and night feed way too early because otherwise they have to be paid to stay late. There’s nothing you can do to change those economies.

Right now you are working for free for the barn owner

As far as not having time to ride your own horse, that’s typical of being a trainer. But it’s not helped by you taking on a second volunteer job as barn help for the owners

I personally think you need to relocate. Nothing is going to change here because they cant afford to. Maybe find a barn with runout paddocks.


Is there any possibility of taking over the care of your student’s horses? Like, you pay the dry stall rate and then the boarders pay YOU board, you supply the grain/hay/bedding and do the care? Or sublet the work out to someone so you have more time. It sounds like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I don’t see going to the owner and telling them their hired help stinks will go over well. Better to just get compensated for the extra work you are already doing if that is a possibility.


I agree with the ones suggesting talking to the barn owner about taking over the barn. If I was you, I would calculate how much the BO is making per month and then seeing if you could pay that if you where to take over (take out the stuff that has to be paid for from the board, such as hay, shavings, feed, etc but keep leave power/water to the BO I think). Figure out what would keep the BO making a similar amount of money. Then you could keep the on hand help or replace them but you would be their boss & have more say in the care of the horses.

How can you make it easier on both you and BO? Sounds like the BO isn’t very involved, so as long as they don’t loose anything and you make it easier on them, seems like a win win for both of you.


I was sort of where you were…except I was also the barn owner. So all the work did fall onto me. Hiring was horrible…lots of turnover even when we paid well (as well as we could and within the local rates). I did it for about 5 years. Went to a weekend education session and calculated I was paying myself .25 an hour. Got a few really naughty horses in for training and decided I could only physically do so much…and had a few boarders who made me not want to go to the barn when I saw their car. Major burnout.

Had I wanted to stay that route, going somewhere as an assistant or manager at a major operation would have been the best option. I had the skills and credentials I could have done that.

I opted to go back to grad school. Picked a career that was flexible, and made sense (physical therapy). Now I can just enjoy my horses and not feel burnt out in the barn.

I think you have to take a deep dive into what you are willing to give and take on…and make changes based on that. And look at your strengths and weaknesses as to what is the best pathway. I knew I could manage the horses just fine…the owners, not so much! So, better for me to find something else that would pay for having just my horses to enjoy.


When I was in grad school, I learned the Harvard Business School problem solving model. It involved looking for all possible solutions, no matter how crazy, and seriously, thoroughly evaluating them. Pretty eye-opening. Also, carefully look at exactly what the problem is, what’s wrong. And keep evaluating any choices you made. Works for all aspects of life.

I strongly suspect you’ll find that another career field will be the answer, as suggested above.

1 Like

Also another part of the state or country with more choices. Particularly as you do have credentials to help build a new client base.

It is hard to consider walking away from a business you have already built. But if you lose clients anyway due to poor barn care, maybe a relocation would be a better option. But, it does take some funding to move.


I tried to PM you with a far more in depth answer, but it wouldn’t let me.

Let me be frank, I have been doing this for well over a decade now. I was at a crappy barn and now I am at fancy, boutique barn.

It doesn’t get better. The complaints change, but they don’t go away.

I wish someone would have told me this a decade ago. I thought once I was good enough to be at a fancy barn that things would be easy (in terms of the client/barn relationship). No.

I have wonderful clients for the most part who love their animals and all of them pitch in. We are like a family.

But at the end of the day, it doesn’t end. The strain and stress this job has put on my life isn’t worth it anymore. You have to look at why you got into it, and if you want to move forward, you have to be progressing with your own (or a client- but a good) horse. If that isn’t happening and that’s a goal, then think about if running around making sure that suzy’s horse gets more shavings is helping you with what you want, or if you are spinning your wheels.


Thanks so much! This is really useful advice

1 Like

Yes I think that is the first thing i have to try,’just have to figure out the right approach.

Yes i agree, and it’s very frustrating. To be honest though, some of the boarders don’t have a lot of other options for board with indoor arenas in this area that doesn’t break the bank. But most people who can afford it and make it work distance wise somewhere else do end up leaving.

1 Like

I agree with most of this and thanks for the response! I did find out what one of the barn guys was making and I do feel like for what she’s paying him better help could be found if she’s willing to go down that road…she has complained in the past about the barn guys and wanted to find a new person or two but it depends on her mood.