Wednesday, September 10, 2014

questioning the hunter barn

I haven't written much yet about the hunter barn ST... Mostly because I wonder if I'm at a crossroads with the place.

The lesson program is affiliated with a private girls boarding school and can be a touch on the hoity toity side. It's mostly pretty friendly, though, and has great facilities and a lot of nice horses. I *really* enjoy riding different horses every week, too. 


especially when they're as cute as Gwyneth

The head trainer's philosophy is summarized as: 

1. She avoids the traditional hunter courses (outside inside outside etc) during lessons, preferring instead to do very technical bending lines and circle exercises so that when you get to the show, the courses are way easier than you've been schooling. 

2. Her focus is track, rhythm, and balance - if you nail the flatwork the jumps will take care of themselves.

3. The horses don't need to school over fences every day bc they break down too fast. So most exercises use ground poles & cavaletti. 


still hard enough werk to get all sweaty

All this is great in theory (at least to me), but the reality has played out a little differently. 

The technical exercises have definitely improved my riding, and I see value in using poles and cavaletti in training rather than jumping all the things all the time. 

But my problem: actual jumps or courses never actually appear (we've had maybe two lessons in the last 6 months where something 2' has been involved) for my once-a-week lessoning self.

They do, however, appear weekly for the twice-a-week team riders - just inconveniently on days that I'm not there. They also appear for boarders and students who lease horses (and twice-weekly lessons are required in the {very pricey} lease agreements). 

My gut says that the jumps DO happen, but not for people like me, who only pay for one lesson a week (and these are NOT cheap lessons). They happen for people who spend more money, whether it be through extra lessons, shows, or lease horses (ideally, it's all three). Money talks here. And the more you pay, the bigger you jump.

Meanwhile, I found an eventing barn, OF, when I decided to go for it with Isabel this past spring. This was mostly because Isabel is *not* a hunter pony, and would probably resent being made to go like one. Also, I wanted to actually, ya know, jump over things. 


Izzy can rock some Xs

We started small and the trainer has been careful to build confidence rather than over-face us. But we're getting there. 

So here's the dilemma.

I still ride at ST for three big reasons:

  • LOVE riding all the different horses; some of them are very cool
  • the exercises and riding philosophy are solid, even if the actual jumping content leaves me underwhelmed
  • the facilities are both amazing AND a really short and easy drive from my house
The cons include:
  • the cost of the lessons ($$$)
  • I'm getting more experience elsewhere at the things I actually want to do 
  • treatment depends on how much I money I will spend 

Other considerations: 

-Isabel's home barn GE does not have an indoor, and we went 3 months without riding last year bc the outdoor was frozen. They plan for an indoor (fingers crossed!), but we won't know for sure until November. And then how long will it take to be built? 


right half is straight up ice. left half is concrete

-The eventing barn OF (which does have an indoor) is another 20 minutes beyond GE up winding, hilly roads. This is no problem during good weather, but how comfortable will I be towing the trailer in nasty wintery weather?

So... if we have the shitty winter everyone is predicting, will I end up not riding at all for a few months? Not if I'm still lessoning at ST (which was my saving grace last winter)...

tho this *is* pretty fun...

Plus, god forbid, where would I be if something happens to Isabel or my lease situation changes?

At the moment, I'm taking a one-month break from ST to figure out how much I really miss the different horses and exercises, and how much I love pocketing that money instead of spending it. Hopefully I'll have some sort of decision made in October on whether to stick with ST or move on. 

Sorry this is such a word dump... but I'm just trying to process my thoughts. Has anyone had similar experiences? How did you weigh out your costs v benefits? What were the deciding factors for you? 

19 comments:

  1. After reading your pros and cons list, I suggest leaving the barn where money talks, and train full-time at the eventing barn where you have already jumped over things and feel like you're improving. You said it yourself: your barn has nice horses and nice facilities, but do you really want to spend your time in a 'hoity toity' environment with a bunch of people that have more money than God? That doesn't' sound like much fun. And, you don't feel like you're getting instruction on what you really want to do. Sure, the trainer's philosophy sounds good on paper, but you've already experienced that the execution of that philosophy can vary. Personally, if you don't feel like you're getting your money's worth with your lessons, it's time to move on. You are paying for a service and if you aren't 100% happy with that service, there is nothing wrong with going somewhere else. Life is too short not to be 100% happy with your trainer (trust me, I know this from personal experience)!

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    1. thanks for your thoughts Jenn! i agree with you about being 100% happy with a service provided - tho of course some trainers might claim that my dissatisfaction stems from my shortcomings as a rider - rather than their instruction. But if i'm happier elsewhere, then, that should be that, right?

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    2. Any trainer who says that is not a trainer worth keeping, IMO! Satisfaction comes from personality compatibility, quality instruction that matches your learning style, and being challenged enough without hurting your confidence. Doesn't matter what skills you have or how fast you learn - everyone is different.

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  2. Sorry you are in a conundrum. I wasn't going to say anything advice wise, but liked what Jenn says. Always feeling second tier sucks. I hope you find the perfect answer and situation.

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    1. thanks! hopefully the month off will bring me enlightenment lol

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  3. You know - I didn't realize how unhappy I was at my old barn until I was forced to move to my new one. Even though it's a 10min longer drive each way, I don't mind it at.all. The new barn is light years better than the old. I had no idea I could be so happy.

    I think the break is a great idea. You don't have to make a decision and you can get a feel for how you feel not being there.

    Also - if it's as bad a winter as they say, who's going to be riding anyway? :)

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    1. thanks - i've got my fingers crossed that my situation will be like yours - the break alone will give me the epiphany (or whatever) that i'm looking for. and i actually am a bit of a winter warrior - perhaps it was my years in rochester? so long as it's safe to ride, i do it lol

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  4. I totally agree with Jenn and if you're not 100% happy with the service you're getting there is nothing wrong with going with something else. And part of what the trainers are saying about your dissatisfaction could be true, I know a chunk of my riding frustration stems from that, but it's all about the journey and overcoming those shortcomings, right? But what the trainers are saying might just be a way to keep another lesson-taker around. I know its a tough decision but I know it'll work out! :)

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    1. thanks - you're probably totally right. YES riding can be tough and we need to face mental and physical struggles to improve.... but also YES it's supposed to be FUN and i am ultimately just an adult ammy and don't need to crush myself into some specific mold

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  5. What Jenn said. If you don't feel like you're getting out of it what you're paying for, stop doing it. And yeah, those barns where if you spend more you get to do more? That's not a fun feeling. :(

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    1. thanks, and that's the truth. unfortunately (or maybe fortunately??) my lesson budget is maxed out, so i better be happy with what i get for the price, or go somewhere else.

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  6. Most definitely don't keep throwing money on something that makes you unhappy.

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    1. that's the truth - thanks! i can rationalize just about anything, usually by making things more complicated than they need to be lol

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  7. Before you leave entirely, have you expressed your thoughts to the trainer? My experience lately has been people don't often share their worries with their trainer, and the trainer never knows so therefore can't fix anything.

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    1. that's a nice point too - thanks! i mentioned it some months ago - and that's when i heard the 'we can't jump the horses every day or they'll break down' bit. perhaps it's worth bringing it up again tho?

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    2. Yes, perhaps your trainer doesn't realize you've jumped only 2 times in the last 6 months? Doesn't hurt to give them an opportunity to address the concern.

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    3. maybe, i'm fairly certain that's not the case - but i won't know til i ask!!

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  8. I agree with Jenn and also with Lauren. If the trainer gives another half-assed answer when you ask about jumping again, then I would leave. It's a legitimate concern and deserves a little more of an explanation than what she gave. In the end go with what you're happy and comfortable with. It's better to miss a couple of months of riding and the rest of the year advancing than to spend all year feeling like you aren't getting anywhere.

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    1. thanks! that seems to be the consensus. it's hard to move on from such nice horses and facilities (and the proximity!!!), so a talk with the trainers might be in order. but i need to go in with clear ideas of what i need before signing on for another lesson package...

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