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dutchess 09-22-2013 12:40 PM

Changing trainers--how would you proceed?
For the last 8 weeks, I've been riding at a dressage barn in my area that primarily works with owners who are competing at high levels, but which also has a small and nice lesson program. I can't afford the regular instructor, a highly regarded rider with international training, because $100 a lesson is way out of my price range. I'm riding with her assistant, who charges at about the top of what I can afford. She just received her USDF Bronze and is a very kind, good-natured instructor. I'm not sure how long she'll be there. I like the barn, and the schoolmasters are of a quality I can't find anywhere else, but I also feel pretty alone there--this isn't the kind of barn where people just hang out and watch lessons, and about 90% of the clients are very experienced competitors so most are at regional shows every weekend and I don't get to know folks.

I've found another barn that's a further drive, but it's something I can afford, I love the horse I'd be leasing, the lease is more flexible with my schedule, and the instructor is very experienced (she's USDF Silver, has trained horses through GP and I1) and I like her personality a lot. The barn seems a little more rough-and-tumble: small, a bit shabby, but well-cared for horses and a community of adult riders who show but also have fun together. It's a good fit for me, I think.

The problem is breaking up with my first barn. They are WONDERFUL, accommodating people who have made me feel so incredibly welcome. All of the reasons I'm changing (financial, community, etc.) aren't because Barn A is bad. Barn B is just different in a way that I think will work better for me long-term. I need to tell them this week, because I'm supposed to start a lease there soon (which I can barely afford) and I want to free up that horse for someone else.

I don't want to burn bridges or offend the people who've been so kind. Has anyone ever been in a situation like this? Would love to hear what you'd do.


Speed Racer 09-22-2013 01:03 PM

This is a business arrangement, not a relationship. Leave emotion out of it. Just give notice and thank the instructor for her time. Trust me, if they're working with high level show people they're not going to be insulted if a lower level 'fun' rider decides another barn and instructor is a better fit.

churumbeque 09-22-2013 01:24 PM

I would offer the simple explanation that it is at the top of what you can pay and that you are not able to commit at this time. All is true and you won't burn any bridges if the other place does not work out. If someone gave notice and thanked me for my time I would be offended as it sounds as though you are upset and leaving.

Speed Racer 09-22-2013 01:28 PM

Why would you be offended? She's only been there 2 months, so it's not like there's a lot of history. If you're the type to be offended because someone finds a better fit and you think you're owed a detailed explanation, maybe you need to realize you're merely a service provider, not a friend.

churumbeque 09-22-2013 01:44 PM


Originally Posted by Speed Racer (Post 3697922)
Why would you be offended? She's only been there 2 months, so it's not like there's a lot of history. If you're the type to be offended because someone finds a better fit and you think you're owed a detailed explanation, maybe you need to realize you're merely a service provider, not a friend.

Because as I stated it sounds as if she is upset and leaving. Most people develop a relationship in less than 2 months and can develop a friendship and deserve more than a mere thank you goodbye. I didn't say she needed a detailed explanation but a simple one seems appropriate. She said they make her feel so incredibly welcomed and are extremely accommodating not cold service providers.
Some people have feelings.

franknbeans 09-22-2013 01:56 PM

I probably would give a brief..."I really appreciate what you all have done and how welcome you have made me feel, but it is a bit expensive long term....." I prefer to leave doors open if at all possible, and since they have been nice, there is no reason not to let them know. 2 months is no time tho in the big picture. Plus, OP, you have found a place to lease a horse it sounds like which is a different arrangement than the current place is offering. Yet another reason you are going.

dutchess 09-22-2013 02:56 PM

Thanks for the advice. I definitely want to keep the door open--the one con to this barn that I'm moving to is it's an hour away, while the current barn is about 45 minutes. Not much, but the difference can be much greater in I'd like to have a fallback option. :)

I'll be honest with them: they are wonderful, but my current situation means that I have to stop riding with them for now...

Saddlebag 09-22-2013 08:39 PM

Have you worked your additional fuel cost into the equation? You may not be ahead financially at all because it is an additional 30 min driving time altogether.

dutchess 09-22-2013 11:08 PM

That extra driving time is only 15-20 miles round trip. Even twice a week, that works out to about 8 extra gallons a month in my car, so not a real price difference there.

Honestly, it has more to do with the specific horse (I adore OTTBs and have worked with them for years--at the other barn I'd be on a New Forest pony who's great but a very different animal) and the culture of each barn. The scenario is basically:
--Barn A: Easier to reach. USDF Bronze instructor who works for an active GP trainer/competitor. Small group of school horses ranging from a schoolmaster to my forest pony, who's competed through second or third level. Not a lot of community feel and more expensive.
--Barn B: Further away. USDF Silver instructor who's trained horses through GP. 11 year-old OTTB gelding who's just begun training third level. Smaller barn with a close group of women who ride and compete together.

This is why I feel so bad: there is *nothing* wrong with my current barn at all, and at another time in my life I might want to go back to it. Right now though, I'm looking for slightly more adult amateur-centric and am just an impossible sucker for OTTBs. It's not a bad problem to have, but I really respect and like my current folks and don't want them to feel in any way that I'm dissatisfied with them. I really appreciate everyone's suggestions here. Thank you all. :)

Gossalyn 09-23-2013 03:12 PM

You're in a great position because you kind of can be honest with them, I think. Nothing you said is insulting to them. They are professional and top-notch, and your budget is tight and you aren't a pro yet - you don't NEED super pro instruction to get the basics down. (I mean, ideally it would be best to be trained by the best from the beginning... but.. if money is an issue, it's completely understandable).

Just say it's a lot for you to take on - but maybe when you get some of the basics down and are in a better financial situation you'll return. (you know, when you're showing weekly and have more in common w/ their clientele! :)

i hate ending services/lessons for anything. I always make a personal connection & feel like it's personal. You don't owe them any more than a "this isn't working out for me" but because I always feel that connection I would let them know you really did like their establishment and may be back in the future. As much as they make like you personally, you aren't likely a huge client for them and they'll be ok w/o you. :)

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