Long Winded Goals - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 07-14-2020, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2017
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Long Winded Goals

Hi guys!

I've been debating whether it would be worth it to create a journal or not. And, I think I want to do it. One, because if I *do* achieve this goal, it will be nice to be able to look back and reflect on the roller coaster ride that I am sure awaits. And two, because there are very few true "horse people" in my life, but no shortage of "be realistic" debbie downers who would keep me not only away from the goal, but out of the saddle, until I'm nearly retirement age. I am realistic, cautious of big decisions and driven. But I don't want to spend all of my life locked in Corporate America, never going near horses but always watching videos and reading articles and wishing for something else.

So. My recent activity on HF has been pretty telling of this goal, but in case someone is reading this in the future (here's looking at you, CountingCrew!) and wondering just what I'm talking about. My goal is to one day own and operate my own lesson and boarding barn, and to be an instructor at my own facility. My goal for this barn is to provide students and their parents with a thorough equine education, in and out of the saddle. I want to provide clinics on 'horse ownership readiness' for parents of very enthusiastic children. Basic and advanced survival skills for trail riding, in the event of a fall. Basic weather information and how to read clouds. I actually have a rather large word document just full of ideas. And, as expected, this of course means that I myself have tons to learn. My time line for this goal is to teach my first lesson either 5 to 10 years from now, hopefully instructing religiously by year 10. Within either 20 to 30 years, I hope to purchase my own facility. Hence, long winded.

This is an extremely ambitious goal and it presents a handful of glaring challenges. The first and probably biggest challenge is the fact that I haven't ridden since I was roughly 16, and before that, I didn't start riding when I was 2. I don't have a lifetime of horse experience to back me up, and I already know that this fact could serve as a deterrent to potential customers. Who would choose an instructor with only a few years in the saddle over an instructor with 30 years in the saddle and an impressive show record? Just on paper, the latter sounds much more appealing. There is the fact facility ownership comes with a plethora of maintenance items, fences to upkeep, heavy machinery to acquire, know how to use and maintain. There is also the fact that any sort of property with land, in the area I am interested in establishing, is beyond over-valued. All those realistic details to consider.

In terms of outside employment, I am established in a very large company. So large, that unfortunately, there are nearly 12,000 of our jobs at stake due to the current COVID pandemic. Including my job. What I will do outside of this job is very much up in the air. Many companies are struggling and in the same boat, and I face the reality of having to go back to the DriveThru world just to have a source of income in the very near future. And honestly, any honest work is good work as far as I'm concerned. I'm not beneath working in a place like that despite what my coworkers say. However, there is a barn in my local area that is hiring. I have mailed them my resume. (They very specifically said DO NOT CALL in the help wanted ad, so snail mail was the way to go.) A cover letter, and am waiting for a response. It wouldn't be perfect in terms of amazing pay and great benefits. But. It would be decent pay and a fantastic way to get around horses on the daily.

I have toured 4 lesson barns in my area and am so far extremely dismayed. One had just miserable manure management and is run by a trainer whom I used to respect, until meeting someone he has truly taken advantage of. One wasn't much better in regards to the manure, the trainer was very disinterested during the tour and disregarded any questions I asked her about horses with a flip of her hand and no real answer. There was one extremely nice facility wherein my interest in becoming an instructor one day was stoked while watching a summer camp lesson. Unfortunately, the trainer has ghosted 3 of my attempts to schedule a lesson with her. And at this point, 3 strikes and you're out as far as I'm concerned. And, the most recent instructor actually verbally scoffed when I told her my ambitions. "You can't be an instructor when you don't know what you're doing." This after I told her the hopeful timeline of 10 years before even trying to teach a lesson. Initially I had no interest in telling her about this ambition, but she asked. Then, she was very dismissive and negative, and so immediately lost my vote. I have also reached out to three backyard instructors, but, no response from 2 of them, and the third sold her horse but apparently forgot to remove her lesson ad.

So, I am now waiting for a call back from an instructor at another lesson barn in my area. She was meant to call me back after a "meeting" earlier this evening, but it's been 4 hours. If she doesn't return my call by tomorrow, I think she'll be out of the running as she did take my number and let me know she would return a call *this evening* after her "meeting."

Let's see where this goes! I really enjoy the advice offered by the patrons of this forum. You are not your typical "crazy horse people" and I genuinely appreciate that. I look forward to the journey with you. Whether I get to where I want to be today, or I get to somewhere completely different, as long as it has horses, I will be infinitely happier.
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post #2 of 17 Old 07-14-2020, 11:13 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Seattle, WA
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The advantage of making your thread a journal is that you have more control over what people can post on YOUR journal. People will have more leniency in just letting the journal author rant when they need to.
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post #3 of 17 Old 07-15-2020, 09:45 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2017
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No response from yesterday's instructor. My instinct is that she got busy and genuinely forgot. Unfortunately, though, this is my second call into this barn and the second time they were too busy to answer any basic questions. Questions like, "how expensive are your lessons?" "Can I schedule a tour?" "Do you provide lesson horses?" I didn't want to give them another call, but I might. Three strikes again.

There are a lot of barns and instructors in my area trying to make it. Most trainers require you to own your own horse, which is what makes part this search very challenging. I'm leery of barns and instructors who seem uninterested in my business. There are several in my area that have questionable reviews, vague websites or don't answer their phones. At this point, I have exhausted most of the barns in my immediate access and may have to start expanding my search into other cities. There is one lesson barn that I will absolutely avoid, and it's the one I went to as a teen.

Those people provided "lesson horses" that were mostly poorly trained OTTBs. There was one horse in particular, one the rides that made me quit riding to begin with. He was an OTTB that you couldn't groom out of his stall because he was too anxious when tied. (No one told me, until it was too late.) He was hot and too much horse for me, and he terrified me. I explained to my trainer at the time that I didn't like or want to ride the horse. She explained that I could ride him or forfeit the lesson fee. Then she offered to lunge him first. This horse spent that entire first 20 minutes bucking as much as those rodeo broncs do. Then, she got on him and by the time he calmed down and was completely exhausted, lathered in sweat, she handed me the reins and told me to get on for my now 15 minute lesson. About 3 weeks later, that same OTTB went psycho in the cross country arena with a different lesson student. He bolted initially, and then ... reverted to racetrack mode? I'm not sure, but he was galloping out of control and no one could get him to stop. The student ended up falling off and breaking her neck. There was a huge fall out at the barn following that incident, legal drama and a lot of mud slinging. But, the jeopardy that it put me in had my parents remove me from the situation. And, school got in the way while horses fell to the wayside.

Of course, this was all over a decade ago. By now I'm sure the barn has stricter rules, new horses and new trainers. But, I won't be going back!

Last edited by CountingCrew; 07-15-2020 at 09:59 PM.
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post #4 of 17 Old 07-15-2020, 10:25 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
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It will undoubtedly be a "long row to hoe", but starting without a lifetime of lessons and experience isn't entirely bad. You will need to learn, but you will also quickly find many highly experienced riders don't think about how they ride or how the horse responds or how a change in tack can change what works.

In addition, as you are already finding out, there are plenty of instructors who don't bother calling back, or who seem to have no interest in student's questions, or who can't even describe how to ride well or to train a horse - and everyone who gets near a horse is training that horse to some degree!

If you keep an open mind, read, and spend time asking folks here how they do X, you may progress much faster than some who have years of experience - or as the saying go, have a month of experience repeated for 20 years!

For example, much of the advice I got on handling a spooky Arabian mare - the horse I learned to ride on when I turned 50 - was not only not helpful, but harmful. "Get a bigger whip!" was literally the advice I got from several riders and it was SO not what she needed!

I was told repeatedly that my heel should always be under my hip and shoulder in a straight vertical line. That doesn't work for all types of riding. It can even be dangerous on some horses.

I've been told horses should never be allowed to look around, let alone think. Pretty sad, really.

And too many taught on bored and uncomfortable lesson horses learn to use a whip as a first resort rather than last, and forget that the horse has feelings too! After all, a riding lesson is about the rider, but good riding is about BOTH the rider and the horse. But very few instructors in my area teach riding as a team sport.

On the flip side, you will need years - literally - to start sorting out what does work and what does not. And until you have personal experience with what works, and why, teaching someone else is going to be impossible. If you try to teach too soon, you risk being one of those pee-poor instructors who can't teach. Parrots, mindlessly echoing what they have heard but not understanding the nuances that make the difference between success and failure!

I'm not trying to discourage you from following your dream. A friend of mine fell in love with fighting forest fires. He spent 10 years teaching school and fighting fires in the summer before he was hired full time. Another 10 years passed before he started the aviation side of fighting fires, and another 5 years passed before he got the US Forest Service to teach him to fly the aircraft fighting fires. 25 years working toward his dream, then about 10 years of doing it, and then a few more of largely admin work before he retired.

But for him? It was worth it! He never regretted pursuing his dream, although he often felt like he wouldn't get there.

As a rider, you may find your dream will change. When I took up riding, I thought I wanted to learn jumping. Now I'm a 60+ trail rider, learning still to work with my horse in tackling the Arizona desert. Truth in advertising:

I never imagined I would find happiness on a horse by riding a mustang/Arabian mix solo across the Sonoran Desert...but it is OK if dreams take detours and the detours become the real dreams.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #5 of 17 Old 07-16-2020, 05:51 AM
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I am not sure how "advanced" your area is. If there is a lot of highly accomplished professionals - it will be tough. Most people would prefer to go with people who have ridden their whole lives and have a proven track record. It might be much easier in an area which isn't saturated. I live in a non-horsey country and it is rather common to see girls with three or four years of riding experience (not teaching, just riding) teach beginner lessons - simply because there is no-one else to do it. I don't think this is the best idea but you could learn from what I am seeing. Work towards your goal, ride and and learn under a trainer - and when you think you are ready - find an unsaturated market. You are already at a disadvantage here and it is unlikely that you would be able to compete with people who have ridden to a Grand Prix level by the age of 25. So find a place where there aren't any Grand Prix riders. It isn't easy to do but it might be easier than trying to work against people that you basically have no chance of beating.

Another idea is to start a trail-riding only barn. You do need to be very capable to run such an operation but Grand Prix-type of professionals typically stay out of that market. If you manage to build a client list, you could possibly branch out into lessons for beginners and onwards.

Just a quick story to give you a bit of hope. I went on a trail ride with an outfit which started because a lady moved with her horse into a village with no horses. She never even thought of becoming a professional but what happened is that the kids from the village kept pestering her to teach them to ride. And at first she did it for free. Then after a few years she started charging and now those kids are teaching and taking people on trail rides. She went from one private horse to 15 horses and a fully operational business in 15 years. Obviously, she isn't making an amazing amount of money but she makes a living in a village which doesn't have too many jobs to offer.
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post #6 of 17 Old 07-16-2020, 09:18 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: CenTex
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I really like @Horsef 's idea of a trail-riding barn. We got our introduction (and in fact two of our horses) at such a barn. This lady bought a very scenic 100 acres with a house, and she does group (or private) trail rides once or twice a day. Additionally, she seems to have a pretty good eye for horses so she buys cheap horses, uses them for trail rides for a 3-6 months, and then offers them for sale at significantly more than she paid. In those 3-6 months that she is training them, she gets people (first her, then her assistants, then more advanced riders) on them quickly. The horses earn their keep while they are getting trained. I think it's a great business model. Her land is in a picturesque small town about an hour's drive from here, so I guess it didn't cost too much.

She does actually try to give actual instruction during the lesson, too. It's not just a trail ride. After the first ride, she'll make you break off and do 20-meter circles around some random tree or something, and you will practice being the lead rider, the last rider, etc.

The house at this place was also set up so that another person could live there in some privacy. So she would let people stay rent free in exchange for working for her.

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person

Last edited by ACinATX; 07-16-2020 at 09:26 AM.
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post #7 of 17 Old 07-20-2020, 01:56 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2017
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I really like the idea of a trail riding barn! I will add it to the list of considerations for sure!

@bsms I really like your point about things changing, and I absolutely expect things might change between where I am starting and where I wind up! But, if I don't at least try, then I will definitely regret it! There is one instance of regret when it comes to horses that I have, and it's from when I was 16. Right after quitting from that horrible lesson stable, a family friend who owned a cattle ranch, offered to let me join her for the duration of a summer. Learning the ins and outs of the ranch, riding to my hearts content and helping her train. I really, really wanted to go. Unfortunately, my parents would not let me. I had dogs to care for, needed to get a summer job that paid actual money, and other responsibilities. I have always deeply regretted this and am now realizing that, when I do hit 60, I don't want to look back at my 20s and think "I should have done more."

I received my official notice today. I can expect a furlough on October 1st and now need to focus on finding employment elsewhere. It's not a surprise, we all saw it coming, but it absolutely sucks. It is a good job with good pay and wonderful benefits, and I do hope for a recall in a quick time frame. However, they anticipate a minimum of 6 months before we can be recalled.

In horsey news, though, I found a trainer about 30 minutes away from me who not only teaches lessons, but also works with BLM mustangs! She advertises using these mustangs as lesson horses and is comfortable working with beginners, for a fairly reasonable price. I have a call in with her, having left a voicemail and am waiting for a call back. Hopefully, she actually does call me back! I did end up giving the last trainer a third and fourth attempt. The first time, I was sent directly to voicemail. I left one, waited about a day and a half, called her back and when she did answer, again, she had no interest in holding a conversation with me. The conversation lasted about a minute, just long enough for her to claim to be busy again, take my number, and promise a call. I still haven't heard from her, and at this point, don't want to continue to wait for her interest.

So far, I've been able to find some videos from the mustang trainer as well as some of her patrons. She seems to be a reasonable trainer for horses, is a huge mustang advocate and has similarly big goals. She actually wants to create a non-profit mustang training operation with the enormous goal of taming/rehoming 100-200 a year. She is hosting a clinic this weekend, and I am hopeful that she will call me back. I wonder if she would let me attend her clinic to see her teaching style? Would it be out of line to ask such a question?

I think my main interest is seeing her ride and work with horses, then gauging how the first lesson goes, to determine whether it's a good fit or not. I really hope it is, though!
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post #8 of 17 Old 07-21-2020, 10:29 AM
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: New England
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I am so sorry to hear you were furloughed - this is such a difficult time. I hope you are able to find other employment quickly.

It really can be difficult to get different trainers to answer questions. This is also an extremely weird, busy time for them. That is not an excuse for those still not answering your calls/questions, but why it may take a little extra time at first.

The barn with mustangs sounds promising! If she focuses a lot on training horses from scratch into lesson horses, I bet there would always be a lot to learn.

It isn't out of line to ask to view the clinic, but you may be asked to pay a small fee. This is typically called "auditing" (watching a clinic without riding in it) and is something people pay for. So just be aware.
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post #9 of 17 Old 07-23-2020, 06:41 PM Thread Starter
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@IRideaHippogriff I'm sorry to be getting furloughed too! Thank you. I'm now updating my resume and job searching on the daily. Unfortunately, furloughs are very prominent in my area. It is very likely I'll end up back in a restaurant or something. But, as I said before, any job is a good job as long as it's honest work.

With it being as weird a time as it is, I definitely expected some barns to be reluctant to take in new students. I would just hope that they could simply say something like "due to covid we're not accepting any new students." It's very frustrating to never get a response!

I definitely hope to hear back from the Mustang trainer! A friend of mine and I checked out some of her social media and both of us are extremely interested in lessoning with her. She provides regular updates on the mustangs in her program, and the horses show consistent progress from first touch, to first leading, to first saddle pad and so on. She's also supporting some of her students through a TIP challenge at this time, they just received the challenge horses. Unfortunately, though, she didn't return my first call from Monday, so I called again this morning and left another voicemail. I was really hoping to be able to go and audit her clinic this weekend, but, if I don't hear back from her by tomorrow, I don't want to show up unannounced at the clinic. I'm not sure what proper clinic etiquette is, but with COVID going on, I don't know what precautions or rules she's got in place for social distancing practices, and I do not want to make a poor first impression. I'm trying not to be impatient and would hope that 2 days between calls is ample time to wait between contact attempts, without sounding impatient. I figure I'll give her the weekend into next week before trying to call again if I don't hear back from her. I don't know how busy she is, though. If we gauge solely off of what she presents on the internet, she runs a full lesson program between training mustangs, OTTBs and private client horses. She also keeps a herd of her own in show-shape, though she may use her personal horses in her lesson program. Fingers are crossed!
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post #10 of 17 Old 07-25-2020, 09:58 PM Thread Starter
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So, I didn't hear back from the Mustang trainer, either yesterday or today. I wasn't expecting much for today, given it was her clinic date, and figure I can wait until Monday to try reaching out to her. Per some HF advice, I think this time I will shoot her an e-mail this time and (hopefully) get a response. I've also been looking into volunteer situations at rescues or therapy programs. I found one that is right up my alley! They take in troubled youth as well as OTTBs and run a sanctuary/youth program. It's really quite unique sounding. They take in rescue horses at various levels of training, and partner them with troubled teens. I went ahead and printed the application, but have been having computer problems all day.

The weird thing is that this morning, their website was live and functional. The website was how I found out about the organization, and where I printed the application off of. After (finally) fixing the computer problems (hours later...), it says that the account has been suspended. Weird, right? I'm inclined to think that this is a failure to pay for the account? I can't imagine an organization like this would randomly go out of business, but perhaps it's been out of business for a while and they hadn't shut down the website? I had a friend who has social media accounts look into it, though, and there is recent activity from the start of the month that does indicate successful business vs failure. They were doing well enough as a non-profit to operate out of 2 locations, one closer to me and one further north of my position. No indication otherwise of having closed their doors. If it *is* lack of payment for the website domain, that does leave me a little wary. Not sure how reliable a place could be if they forget basic bills. I'm keeping an open mind, though, as it could also be troubles with their host website.

They do provide a phone number, which my friend has texted to me, and I also plan on calling them on Monday to get the scoop. Hopefully things are much more upfront without technology in the way! And, hopefully they answer. The way I see it, it should be easy enough to volunteer at a non-profit (they were looking specifically for feeders, which I would love to learn more about anyway.) and take lessons. I'm not sure that they cater lessons to volunteers, given it is a *youth* program, so wouldn't want to place all of the eggs in that basket. But, being around those kids would be a good way to gauge my actual interest in being a riding instructor as well.
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