Instructor attrition - normal? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 04-08-2019, 02:15 PM Thread Starter
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Instructor attrition - normal?

So, I was just wondering if this is normal. Iíve been at this barn for almost a year now. In that time, Iíve had:

- Instructor A, who was also the barn manager, but who left after six months to go to a real show barn
- Instructor B, who left for another barn because she, I think, ultimately didnít agree with Barn Ownerís training style (see my post about running my pony around for more about that)
- Instructor C, who Iíve been working with for a few months, who just told me that she isnít going to be able to stick around for personal reasons
- Instructor D, who has been teaching my daughter and me for a couple of months, but who seems to have a lot of health issues and doesnít always show up
- Other people who have been proposed as instructors (and who actually arenít that bad, at least for someone at my level) but who come and go and show up when they want, as they are mostly paid not in money but in free rides or something

Except for the barn owner, there is not one instructor whoís been at this barn for more than six months. They just come and go. Is that typical? I donít necessarily mind, as they are all good enough for me and I have been able to learn from their different approaches; but at the same time I do wish I could have one consistent instructor (besides barn owner, and again see my post about running my pony around for why I am not overly thrilled will her instruction).
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post #2 of 10 Old 04-08-2019, 02:44 PM
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In my experience, retaining instructors is a nightmare for a barn, perhaps unless they are a high end show barn that has built a program around a particular person who is a trainer of both horses and people and "brings home the ribbons." Or, a barn where the owner is also the instructor (which was the case at the last barn I was at- and she was quite honestly the best teacher of adults I've ever met, and that includes over a decade working to train school teachers). My BO only charged boarders ~$40 for a 30 minute private dressage lesson and non-boarders $50. And to teach, that meant she'd be losing time on other horse care, training, or farm maintenance, but she just loved the teaching and was truly invested in seeing partnerships between horse & rider grow. She didn't allow other instructors to teach from her farm unless it was an unusual circumstance (e.g., she approved me having trainer come do some groundwork lessons with me when I was having trailer loading issues with one of my horses).

There are a lot of thankless aspects to being an instructor. If there are kids involved, there are know-it-all parents demanding that lessons are either harder or easier. There's showing and the competitive aspect, which can make people act crazy. As an instructor, you often get roped into doing barn chores even if that's not your job ("oh, you'll be the last one to leave because your last lesson ends at 8pm, so could you just run around real quick and do night check to make sure waters are topped up and everyone has hay?"). I was on the Board of a therapeutic riding program, and also volunteered as an (unpaid) instructor, and I'd say outside of fundraising, making sure we were keeping good instructors was the hardest part of being on the Board. Instructor wages are horrible. If I recall, we paid our instructors $15/lesson, which included working with the rider to catch/tack the horse, 40 minutes mounted instruction, and then untack/groom. There were no benefits, no time off, and most lessons had to happen in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate rider schedules. To teach therapeutic riding, they had to have gone through a national certification process that costs several hundred dollars and requires several weeks of supervised training, so not a small investment on their end. They got paid the same rate for an individual lesson or a group up to 4 people. The lessons were ~$40/rider and we still lost money on every lesson when full horse care and personnel costs were factored in. Stereotyping a little here, we also generally found instructors who were young women in transitional parts of their life- e.g., had just graduated high school and were thinking about college; had small kids at home and not wanting to go back to work full time; teaching lessons part time while getting established in an entry level full time job that didn't pay very well. A lot of times when they left, it was because something changed with work or family and they no longer needed to or had the time to teach lessons. It's a thankless job; I don't really see any way to make a living as an adult on an instructor salary only.
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post #3 of 10 Old 04-08-2019, 02:57 PM Thread Starter
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@egrogan thanks! For sure, at my barn, instructors get roped into doing chores ALL the time. I also suspect they aren't paid very well. I have thought, more than once, that I wouldn't want to work for this barn owner, for those reasons and others (she seems to be not an easy boss). It's good to know, I guess, that this is pretty typical.
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post #4 of 10 Old 04-08-2019, 03:29 PM
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That's rotten if it's typical. You really are getting messed around!

I suppose it depends on availability and how well the instructors are managed and paid. I had different instructors but no matter who it was, generally, they taught the same things, which is the only way to make progress.

In my first riding school, there were any number of them and we never knew who was teaching until they walked into the centre of the school. It was a training yard with two owners, four or five permanent staff and a large number of students.

Iíve had lessons at other yards as well but they were smaller with fewer employees, so the chances of getting the same person was a lot higher.

There was a yard which, I heard, had the same problems as your one and they closed down. They donít last very long as most customers start to feel the same as you.

When I was teaching, one yard allocated you times and you stuck to it unless you had to cover for shows, illness or holidays; while another yard swapped their instructors around depending on availability. We regularly met with the bosses and head instructor(s) to discuss the students and what we were teaching.

None of my boarding yards offered instruction though. Those who wanted lessons had to travel or hire-in a private instructor. There are a few in the area that have introduced lessons but they seem to be the yard owners, who fit the lessons to what they can manage.

Good luck getting things sorted, it must be frustrating.
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post #5 of 10 Old 04-08-2019, 05:35 PM
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Totally normal, unfortunately. Horsepeople, in general, are just not the most responsible bunch. The grass is always greener, someone else is going to make them a world champion, they have world champions, so they must be better....etc....
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post #6 of 10 Old 04-08-2019, 06:54 PM
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Unless the BO is the trainer then not unusual at least not on lower levels.
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post #7 of 10 Old 04-09-2019, 07:51 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone, it's good to know this is normal. I'll try not to make long-term plans with anyone moving forward, I guess.
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post #8 of 10 Old 04-09-2019, 09:27 AM
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When you have some who isn't tied to a location, like they don't own the place, you're going to have people moving. Lots of instructors get into it because they like riding and horses, and it's easy money for them. Then they need a better job, get burnt out, go to college, ect.

Even more accomplished trainers will move around. It's not unheard of for a trainer working out a barn to leave, taking with them a dozen students and horses.

If you want a consistant trainer, you either have to be prepared to move with them or find one who owns their own place. Second best option is to find a trainer who's been working out of one barn for a long time, but even then, they can move once management doesnt suit them anymore.
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post #9 of 10 Old 04-09-2019, 10:46 AM
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Being an instructor is hard - student's show up late, don't show up at all, bring an extra friend without informing you, etc. Running a consistent schedule is difficult with horses as it is. The pay isn't great for the hours spent, or the pay is better elsewhere?

I was offered a job running a summer camp. I inquired if they had a swimming pool or air conditioning. Nope. It was from 9-5pm in the scorching Florida heat with 105 degree heat index. Add a bunch of kids and horses to the mix and it sounded like too much work. I want to be inside by 11am to prevent heat stroke.

In fact, I've even started doing my own chores at night in the dark- no bugs, cooler weather, and no sunburn. I got a super bright light that attaches with a head band. I can muck, fill water and do whatever needs doing just as easily at night. I want arena lights next, but it is on my wants list, not a needs list.
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post #10 of 10 Old 04-09-2019, 12:56 PM
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It happens. I've been to some places that have such a high turnover. Some people try it out & it just doesn't workout, or it becomes too much for them I guess.

Can you find a trainer that can come to you? A lot of trainers around here travel to different barns.

Ride more, worry less.
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