If I want to compete, what should I look for in a barn/coach? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 12 Old 08-14-2013, 09:23 PM Thread Starter
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If I want to compete, what should I look for in a barn/coach?

I'm a newbie and though my intention for now is to master the basics, I'm beginning to think I might have an interest in competing some day. I'm wondering what I should be looking for in a potential barn and coach, and what should be glaring red flags to high-tail it out of there. And in contrast, are there good signs to look for in potential barns/coaches?

I'm also not sure if I should be focusing on private lessons or group lessons. Will I be taking lessons with a coach forever if I want to compete? Is it "frowned upon" to do group lessons at one barn and then leave that barn to take private lessons somewhere else? Are there some unspoken rules about this part of the horse world I'm unfamiliar with - politics, if you will?

Thanks for any advice you can provide!

(and sorry if this has been asked before. I tried to wade through related subjects to see if it was somewhere around here already!)
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post #2 of 12 Old 08-14-2013, 09:51 PM
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I can only speak for my discipline of eventing as far as instructors go. A lot of riders use a few different instructors and nobody seems to give a hoot. It might be because eventing requires expertise in 3 different training areas, but many of us take dressage lessons with one person and jumping with another. What type of showing would you be doing? That might help others point you in the right direction.

You just have to see your distance...you don't have to like it.
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post #3 of 12 Old 08-14-2013, 11:05 PM Thread Starter
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Since I'm so new and I've never had lessons in anything before (riding farm horses is what my people do; my uncles would keel over if they knew what I'm willing to dish out to ride horses), I haven't decided what discipline I'm interested in yet. It all seems great. I'd like to get a feel for the various disciplines and then I assume I'll be drawn to one or two favourites at some point.
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post #4 of 12 Old 08-15-2013, 01:45 AM
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Find most barns are more discipline specific,Having more clientele & lessons geared more either English or western.First you should know what type horse & what style riding{english or western} interests you most. From there take your lessons with a barn & coach that has knowledge in that.After taking lessons you can decide what discipline/events interest you. There is some barns that do more rounded in what they offer,Both English & western lessons & clientele is mixed.Generally geared toward lower level competition & all round fun.Those type barns are often harder to find but if you can ,would be a good to get yourself started.
If you get more serious about competition,then seek out Trainers/coaches that specialize & show in that.
As far as lessons go I prefer having private lessons learn more about my riding & getting most from my horse.That said I do like having Occasional group lessons,as they are beneficial to learn from others their good & bad .Also gives you chance to be working your horse in traffic/other horses.
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post #5 of 12 Old 08-15-2013, 01:59 AM
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I personally have never met a trainer that has had a serious problem with me taking lessons with other people. If I had a trainer such as this, I probably would try to find a new one. It never hurts to have an extra set of eyes instruct and critique you. Although if you are just beginning, you might find it useful to stick with one trainer for 6 months to a year before branching out. I've taken lessons with multiple different people who tell me different things, and sometimes these things conflict, which I would imagine could be confusing to a new rider. Over time, I have learned to sift through the things various different instructors tell me and have learned what works best for my horse and what makes him happiest and most comfortable.

If you want to compete, you won't necessarily be taking lessons "forever", but it depends on your definition of forever. I'm not sure what the general amount of time is to wait to compete. Personally I waited for about 3 years but that was due to financial limitations more than anything.

Once you find a barn, you could always ask to audit/sit in on a lesson and watch the instructors teaching style to see if its the right place for you :)
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post #6 of 12 Old 08-15-2013, 04:01 AM
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Generally folks who do group lessons are not going to be offended if you are taking privates, or leasing a horse off site. However, once you have chosen a discipline and a barn, it is take it or leave it. A good competition barn is going to have an all encompassing program that you are either in or out of.

If you are looking to be competitive, you will be spending lots of money on coaching. And it gets worse as you ride higher levels - people at the Olympics still have coaches!!

Things I would say to look for in competition barns - look at the competition results of the high level trainers, and their coaches. Look at the competition results of the high level students. If the highest results at the barn are in low hunters, first level dressage, and pre training eventing, then it's probably not a very competitive barn, and if it is, it's not one which encourages students to push their limits and move up the levels. When reading descriptors, ignore the word "champion" - a horse/rider can be champion of a division that they are the only ones entered in!! Look for high end shows in the area, high level classes, good scores and pinnings out of how many horses. And lastly, look at the treatment of the horses - do they stand in stalls all day? Are they too fat? Too thin? Fit for the work? Happy?

But before the point of getting competitive, it is essential to develop a good seat and choose a discipline. Most competitive barns require you have your own horse, and before that point you need to be pretty sure of what you want to do!

Good luck!
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post #7 of 12 Old 08-15-2013, 06:33 AM
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If you're serious about competing, I'd probably look for a skilled instructor in your chosen discipline that can sort of be your mentor along the way. I'd look for someone who has either successfully competed themselves, trained horses who went on to successfully compete, or instructed students who went on to successfully compete.

You might also want to look for someone who regularly goes out to shows, that way when you have a horse you can get a lift in their truck, they can instruct you at shows, maybe lend you show tack etc.

Chances are you won't have this instructor forever, but you might have many in different periods in your life. If you're just wanting to do one level of competition then you can probably be trained up to that level, then have a touch up now and again, but if you want to constantly improve then it's good to have regular instruction.

You will be able to have lessons with others, but I'd question why. For things like eventing it makes sense, but otherwise the instructors are going to be playing catch up with you, and they're all going to be working on different things, teaching you different methods and using different terminology.
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post #8 of 12 Old 08-15-2013, 09:10 AM
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I would firstly audit a couple of different trainers/disciplines of riding so you can choose which one (discipline you like best). A lot of these questions depend on what level of showing you're wanting to do.

Do you own your own horse? As you advance into higher levels, it's often suggested that you do so that your horse can grow and compete and perfect together. Fees get up there, as well.

Saskia offered good advice--look for a trainer that has an impressive record (both of herself and her students) in the discipline you are most interested in.
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post #9 of 12 Old 08-16-2013, 10:55 PM
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You've received really good advice. I just wanted to add that it's really important to be in an environment you like because you'll be spending lots of time there and with your stablemates at shows and you want to enjoy yourself.
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post #10 of 12 Old 08-16-2013, 11:30 PM
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Look for a trainer who is knowledgeable in the discipline you choose. Also, make sure you are comfortable with the barn, it's staff and the other riders.
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