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MudPaint 01-15-2012 10:50 AM

Stepped on some toes, time to board elsewhere?
I board at a PonyClub farm though I am well above the age of most of the riders, it's a great place (people wise) and it's nice to have others to go to competitions with. I am wondering if it's time to leave before my experience becomes an issue.

The situation is, I've ridden here for 4 years. Though new to eventing, I have ridden/trained for 20 yrs. Though not the most advanced rider, I have a lot of experience under my belt and we have a TON of inexperienced riders and horses on the farm. The owner/trainer is not able to ride so relies on her more experienced riders to help the kids if they're are having problems with their horses that they can't be coached through. It's been fun being able to get on another horse here and there to fix an issue. Though I'm dedicated to my green horse, the break is nice. However, my training philosophy is that the rider needs to be able to work their horse, and understand how to fix the problem not just me getting on when it rears it's ugly head again.

Originally the owner/trainer was ok with me coaching them once the issue was under control. It's not like I was charging or taking place of a lesson. In fact I generally encouraged the rider to take lessons on the lesson horses to fix a problem they may have to better help their horse. the barn owner and I had something of a verbal agreement that I was the assistant coach, she helped with riding, I helped with horse training issues. This became more evident as her "daughter" left for college and wasn't able to hop on horses during lessons to aid in their schooling.

A particular rider was encouraged to purchase a young, green horse, though she herself was just starting to canter and is mentally unprepared for training a horse. He was supposed to be very quiet... to make up for his greenness. However, he's turned out to be a sensitive soul who doesn't like inconsistency, so he bucks if she hits him in the mouth and if she over cues for the canter he takes off. But he didn't come knowing leads or what poles or jumps where for... *sighs* Is my frustration evident? This rider was the start of the strained relationship between the owner and I. We never verbally argued, but the horse's owner asked me to help even though the barn owner asked another rider (younger, less experienced, but a good sticker-on) to work him. I have continued to try and help the rider by just having her ride when I ride, so that I can help her with issues and she can gain confidence by riding my horse.

I may have encouraged loyalty or something from some of the other riders. A lot of the kids want to ride with me. Because I am an adult (by barn rules) they are allowed to jump or ride out with me. Often they are left in my care (which I've enjoyed) and riding has turned into mini lessons... though I have always made sure to get clearance from the owner/trainer before doing something. I generally know what they are working on in lessons because I'm always there and am the coach for the rallies. I also have a horse here and there to work (and get paid for or have made other arrangements like shipping to events for free). Currently I am working a mare of a boarders that no one else wants to ride because she needs a sensitive and consistent hand... she's also the only Hunter trained horse in a barn of dressage/event riders. She is also for sale so I am representing her since the owners want nothing to do with her.

I don't know when things became so hostile, as she's sweet to my face or ignores me. But I walked in (well heard from outside the barn) a conversation she was having with another student... how that "dressage clinic" ( i put quotes because she said it with such venom in her voice) was such a joke and how can I be crediting it with my horse's sudden break through in the canter (Primo is finally accepting the bit and relaxing his jaw at the canter... YAY!). That trainer doesn't even ride at my level or hers and is a joke, it's just because I've actually bothered to work my own horse for once... I stopped listening and went inside, changed my horse's blanket and left. Until then I didn't realize she was so resentful of me going to a clinic (which she always encourages other riders to do) or working other horses. It hurt, I've considered her a mentor and a friend... she's helped me grow as a trainer, offering me t coach the D's and low C riders at rallies, asking me to coach when she's away and (originally) asking me to work horses of her students or lesson horses when they're needing schooling.

Hind sight is always 20-20 they say. I now realize that she has been avoiding me and making rules to make it more difficult for me to work other horses, like charging me to use the arena if I'm working a horse. I have not gotten a lesson in a while, though still pay her to coach me at events. I need specific dressage help and that is not her forte (she's great o/f and with beginner riders). She pointed me towards trainers that I'd have to ship to (no trailer) and were really expensive. Currently the issues we're having are so basic that anyone at 1st level can help me. If her background were not Hunters as well, I would have turned to her.

I don't want to cause discord at her home/barn... I can't just not help a rider who is riding while I am, I've tried... it tears me apart, especially when the kid's parent approaches me asking for help, opinions, etc. I feel it's time to bow out and find a new home for my horse. It will mean turning to a rival farm that has less amenities, like an indoor, but I'd still be able to bum a ride to events and have people to ride with.

I hurts to part from so many people I love riding with and I'd love to somehow keep this relationship between the owner and I civil, but I'm not sure if that's possible. I don't know if it's possible as someone who has trained, is more advanced in riding... to step back and just say no to those who need help and stay. Or is it wiser to just say goodbye?

I know... a lot of venting. I am torn because she has been my mentor in one way or another, and I view this farm as my second home. I have always tried to respect the farm as "her" farm, not brought in an outside trainer or encouraged the kids to do so (even if it was in their best interest) or encouraged the kids beyond what they were lessoning on. Has anyone here ever dealt with this? Or advice on how to handle it?

I have tried asking if there is something wrong or if she doesn't want me helping the kids with anything... She says that they need someone more advanced to ride with, she can't give them a lesson all the time. So...??

*head desk*

Daisy25 01-15-2012 01:17 PM


This sounds like an issue that can be solved with some clear boundaries...

At the moment, well-intentioned or not, it does seem that you are over-stepping the owner/trainer. You've explained that you cannot "just not help"....but you are NOT the trainer. By helping, you have assumed the role of trainer.

If you want to work as a trainer/coach - then BE a trainer/coach with a formal agreement set up as to whom you teach and when and what is your rate.

If you want to simply be a boarder - then BE just a boarder.

There is nothing wrong with telling another rider "I'd love to help, but you really need to schedule a lesson with the trainer for this."

franknbeans 01-15-2012 01:57 PM

Wow. You are taking on a HUGE liability without any of the benefits. Personally, I would gracefully "back away" from training/coaching, unless it is something you want to get extra insurance and get paid for JMHO.

DuffyDuck 01-15-2012 02:07 PM

Agree with DC, if my kid was jumping, under your instruction and had an accident, I would be wound up.. a lot, even being a horsey person- can you imagine the reaction of a non-horsey parent who doesn't quite get 'flight' animal. You may not be paid, but you've been labelled as 'assitant coach'.. get some sort of insurance.

Secondly, jealousy is a big thing. We're only hearing one side of the story here, but the BO may be jealous of your relationship with HER customers. Speak to her, sort it out, or leave. But if you have so much under your belt and enjoy where you are.. why be hounded out by one woman with her nose stuck up her behind.

Get clarifications, or a sort of contract and sing off the same hymn sheet.

Dreamcatcher Arabians 01-15-2012 02:18 PM

First, you are crossing boundaries and stepping on toes, however innocently. Second, you have also crossed the line between amateur and professional by exchanging services and/or pay for instruction. That can come back to bite you HARD at USEF or breed show competitions.

So......if you're going to be a pro, go find your own barn to train out of. If you wish to remain an ammy then quit the coaching/teaching and refer all requests for assistance to the BO/Trainer. If you decide to go pro for real, get some liability insurance. If you decide not to, then stop giving advice, riding other horses etc etc, and stick to working your own.

Either way you decide, stay or go, you need to sit down and talk to the Barn Owner and a/apologize for inadvertently stepping over the lines and b/to express your dismay that she'd gossip about you and your horse with another rider. Very unprofessional.

If you decide to move, then give notice and go find a dressage barn with a dressage trainer or to an eventing barn with an experienced eventing trainer and mind your own at the new barn.

DuffyDuck 01-15-2012 02:22 PM

Baha.. sorry, I meant to put FB, but put DC.. who I also agree with.. apologies ;D

MudPaint 01-17-2012 07:52 PM

I totally agree with what you've all said. The legal ramifications never occurred to me. It was explained to me in a contract I signed as a PC coach I was covered under their insurance, I don't know now that I think about it, if it would cover me on her farm day to day. All the kids I ride with are in PonyClub, and I am registered as a coach.

The whole coaching thing was actually what had me started hanging around at lessons so I knew what the kids were working on for the mounted meetings. Which led to me originally being asked to coach a specif kid and then all the kids riding with me.

As for my Pro/Am status... I only show non-rated events. Otherwise I am aware I've long ago lost my Amateur status.

I do have a day scheduled to talk to the BO. In the meantime I keep shopping for another place. Sadly Eventing and Dressage specific barns are few and far between within and hours drive of me. The other farm I am considering has an old friend who has ridden through 4th level who offered to help me out (much the way I am helping the riders at my barn) with Primo.

Northernstar 01-17-2012 08:18 PM

I think you are a genuinely kind person who has been willing to help, and as had been pointed out, rather innocently may have stepped on some toes - I'm a naturalist, and if I were in the back of another's guided hike and saw some bird or wildflower species not mentioned, you bet that in my sincere excitement I'd quietly point them out to whomever was next to me! Good deal that you've scheduled an appointment with the BO, and if your instincts direct you elsewhere however inconvenient, maybe the change would be refreshing....Best of luck to you! :)

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