A friend of mine recently confided that she was considering moving barns.
As we chatted, we realized how difficult it is to consider leaving what quickly grows to be your barn family, but, just like so many of life's decisions, sometimes it's absolutely necessary.
After more than two decades on the show circuit and working and riding at different barns, I've learned a lot about what makes a barn effective and enjoyable. I've seen young girls gain confidence and a sense of responsibility that sometimes gets lost at school, I've listened to returning riders who never thought they would get on a horse again after a bad fall, and I've rehabilitated horses from abuse and neglect who came to love their jobs.
And I've also seen some scary sh**. Trainers drugging horses before each ride to avoid treating core safety or soundness issues, domineering boarders throwing tantrums in barn aisles, and riders and trainers who use brute force to handle their anxious or uncertain horses.
So. While this quiz is not exactly scientific, we hope our experiences will help you decide if it's time to move to greener pastures!
The most important question is first. If you have to wonder about this one, or know that it’s true for your barn, it is ABSOLUTELY time to go. Now.
1: Are horses being physically abused or neglected at your barn (excessive whipping, bleeding spur marks, binding/severe rigs, wires over jumps, skinny and listless horses with dull coats, obvious lameness while riding, dirty stalls, festering wounds)?
Yes to any of those? Get out of there quickly and contact a vet you trust to confirm/check what you can do to help the horses.
No? Phew. Continue the quiz.
2: You have a lesson this afternoon! You feel _________
a. excited! You love working on your riding and enjoy the barn.
b. a little apprehensive - you’re worried about being yelled at or getting a horse you don’t quite feel safe riding.
c. sick to your stomach. The barn used to be a safe haven, but now it just causes you deep anxiety.
3. You notice a new or unclear charge on your monthly bill, so you ask your trainer/barn owner.
a. She immediately answers your question and makes sure you both are clear on the charge or adjusts it, if necessary.
b. She takes several days to get back to you, but does eventually answer your question. The charge is new and will continue each month.
c. She gives no explanation for the charge and takes offense that you would dare bother her to ask. You’re wasting her time.
4. Your New Year’s resolution is to get more comfortable hand galloping to a fence. You share this with your trainer!
a. She's excited that you’re setting goals for your riding and discusses how she'll help you accomplish your goal.
b. She tells you that your goal is unrealistic, but does suggest things that you could improve, instead.
c. Your trainer laughs at you & calls the other riders around to hear the 'funny' joke you just told.
5. You take a bad fall at a show. In your next lesson, your trainer_______
a. helps build your trust in your horse and confidence in your riding with thoughtful exercises.
b. acts like it never happened.
c. demands that you to attempt the move that caused your fall because, otherwise, how will you ever learn from your stupid mistake?
6. Your trainer has set an ambitious show schedule for the barn in 2016, but you don't think that your budget or your goals align with that many competitions.
a. Your trainer reassures you that you only have to compete at a level that you’re comfortable, financially and emotionally. She picks out a few shows that are less expensive or easier for you to participate in.
b. She tells you that if you’re going to go for year-end high points, you’re going to have to show a lot more than you did this past year.
c. She tells you that if you can’t participate in that many shows, maybe you shouldn’t be in a show barn like hers.
7. The new assistant trainer has a very different style from your trainer, and you two have butted heads in each lesson. You ask your trainer if you can just have lessons with her, rather than the assistant.
a. She suggests a meeting with all three of you to help y’all work better together. If you still don’t, she helps you find a new time to ride with just the head trainer.
b. She tells you that you can learn a lot from the new trainer, and that you should just listen to what she has to say instead of fighting it.
c. She says that you just have a bad attitude.
8. Your horse has come up lame for the 3rd time in three months. What gives?
a. You and your trainer sit down with the farrier and the vet to discuss the horse’s workload and possible underlying problems. The horse’s health comes first, of course!
b. Your trainer says it’s probably a fluke, so just don't worry about it.
c. Your trainer says that it’s the way you ride.
9. After a year of spending 5-6 days a week as a working student at your barn, you ask your trainer if you could start getting paid.
a. She gives you a direct and honest answer about how and whether she could start paying you (or negotiates another type of deal to make you feel appreciated).
b. She says that when she was a working student, she worked 7 days a week for 2 years before asking anything of her trainer.
c. She tells you you haven’t actually been doing a good job, and that you’re going to have to double your efforts next year if you expect to make it in this industry.
10. You pay for training rides twice a week. You stop by the barn on one of the days your horse is scheduled for a training ride.
a. Your trainer or assistant trainer welcomes you to the barn and lets you know when your horse will be ridden so you can watch.
b. The assistant trainer says that your trainer is gone for the day so your horse is just going to get a hack, but you’re welcome to stick around to watch.
c. As you pull up, you see one of the high school-aged working students riding your horse bareback around the ring.
Five or more A's = Your barn sounds great! You have a solid working relationship with your trainer/barn owner. Continue to cultivate it by speaking up about the parts of your barn that you enjoy and those about which you have questions or concerns! Well done.
Five or more B's = You might have some trust and communication issues at your barn. Request a meeting with your trainer or barn owner to express your concerns. She should be receptive and willing to work with you on your issues. If not, listen to your gut and weigh your other options.
Three or more C's (or all B's & C's) = Something feels pretty wrong over there, doesn't it? Request a meeting with your trainer, but prepare yourself for the possibility of finding a new barn. You and your horse should feel respected and appropriately treated, not taken for granted.
**Want more quizzes? Wondering how to find a new barn? Let us know, and we'll post a follow up!