How to Know When It’s Time to Change Barns


Should You Change Horse Barns? How To Know When It’s Time To Move On

If you’ve ridden or boarded at a barn for any amount of time you’ve likely made invaluable friendships and memories. When the time comes to move on, it can be difficult to make the transition.

In this article, you’ll find a list of signs that will help you decide if it’s time to move on and tips for communicating with your barn owner or trainer.

Reasons People Move On From Riding Instructors

1. Outgrowing A Mentor

Similar to other aspects of life, sometimes, we simply outgrow our mentor. You may find as you grow as a rider, your lessons become redundant and your instructor either cannot or does not have the desire to teach students beyond a certain point. Generally speaking, when this time comes your instructor will recognize it too. And in my experience, often times your instructor will happily provide a recommendation on where to go next.

2. Lack Of Attention And Improvement

Other common factors may be at play such as, feeling like you’re not getting enough attention in lessons or not seeing enough improvement over a period of time. Sometimes, this can be attributed to simply hitting a rough patch and thus a bit of patience and perseverance will be required. However, if a substantial amount of time has passes and you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, you may want to consider moving on.

3. Learning Style Vs. Teaching Style

Lastly, conflicts between teaching style and learning style often cause friction. In many cases, if an instructor cannot adapt their teaching style appropriately, students leave their lessons feeling inadequate or frustrated. Its important to be open minded and willing to accept constructive criticism in order to learn. But, at the end of the day, riding should be enjoyable. As horse owners and horse enthusiasts, we spend a lot of time and money at the barn. If you’re consistently leaving the barn feeling down it may be time for a change.

4. What Should You Do?

If you have concerns about your riding or the dynamics of your lessons, you should ask your instructor to set up time with you to discuss your goals. Use the time constructively, let your instructor know how you’re feeling and come up with a plan. Although many times instructors can work wonders, they’re not mind readers, so it is important to communicate.

These conversations can be intimidating and sometimes easier said than done, but in the end, it will give you clarity. You may be surprised to find your instructor is supportive and renews your confidence. On the other hand, if the conversation doesn’t go well or your instructor isn’t receptive, that’s a clear indication that you are ready to move on.

Reasons People Change Horse Trainers

This is perhaps the most difficult decision and transition of all, for a variety of reasons. As owners, we spend a lot of time with our trainers, especially if we’re on the road competing together. And, trainers invest a huge amount of time into our horses, there’s no denying that trainers and client horses sometimes become attached. When it is time to move on and there is no egregious reason for doing so, it can be a very emotional experience.

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1. The Horse Has Reached its Potential

One common reason for leaving a trainer is that the horse has reached their full potential and can be maintained without a trainer. When it’s time to take your horse home, you will likely want to schedule periodic lessons in case you run into any difficulties. In my experience, trainers have been up front about the horse’s ability and whether it’s worth paying the hefty price for training board.

2. Not Enough Progress

Your horse is not progressing and you’re feeling discouraged. It may be that the horse has hit a temporary road block or is struggling with a difficult concept. Before you jump the gun and change trainers, give your trainer adequate time to work through issues with the horse and for the horse to understand.

Ask your trainer’s opinion on why the horse isn’t progressing at the rate you had hoped for. Horses learn at their own pace regardless of our hopes and dreams. Is the issue that you have unreasonable expectations or that your trainer isn’t getting the job done? If you find out that your trainer hasn’t been working with the horse frequently enough and that’s the reason for the lack of progress, well, you’ve got your answer. Horses are expensive, so you want to invest your money into a program that works and where you are a valued customer.

3. Unhappy Horse

You notice your horse is unhappy, stressed, maybe even anxious. Is this a new development? If so, be sure you’ve given your horse time to adjust to their new surroundings and routine. Sometimes, stress can be a sign that the trainer is not a good fit for your horse.

Most horses become less anxious when they’re in consistent work. Especially when they’re being handled by a skilled professional who is clear and consistent. A good trainer knows the difference between educating your horse and building their confidence rather than simply reprimanding them.  

If your horse seems to be anxious or his behavior becomes worse, you may want to ask to watch some training sessions. Watch how your horse and trainer interact with each other, observe if the session ends better than it started. Your trainer should also be able to explain what they are doing, what response they were looking for from your horse and when they will either reward your horse or apply more pressure.

4. Trainer Feels Unsafe

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On occasion, trainers send horses home that are either dangerous or they don’t feel they can help. Unfortunately, most trainers can’t afford to get hurt since they have many horses and clients to work with. Trainers rely on income from training and coaching to earn a living and can’t risk being out of commission. If your horse has severe enough issues that a trainer is not willing to work with them, ask for a recommendation. You can also try looking for a trainer that specializes in problem horses. Chances are, your trainer doesn’t want you getting hurt either and will be happy to advise you on how to proceed.

Reasons People Leave Boarding Barns

1. Your Horse Isn’t Receiving Quality Care

Have you noticed your horse losing weight? Maybe they’re not getting enough turn out. Most people make frequent trips to the barn throughout the week and are quick to notice when something isn’t right. Maybe you have shown up to the barn to find your horse standing in a dirty stall with filthy water buckets on multiple occasions.

Unfortunately, sometimes these things happen and should be addressed with the barn manager or owner immediately. While you should approach the conversation professionally, don’t accept invalid excuses.

2. Your Needs Have Changed

As our needs evolve over time, we may outgrow a farm not only our instructors or trainers. For example, if you live in a climate where winters are harsh you may decide you need an indoor arena. Especially if you’ve started to make significant progress with your horse and you don’t want to pause during the colder months.

3. Moving Away From The Local Area

Of course, there is always the obvious reason to move your horse to a farm that is close to home. Customers often leave a farm they love if the farm will simply be too far away. At the end of the day, owners want to be able to spend time with their horses and frequent the barn. Making long trips to the barn to see your best friend several times per week just isn’t sustainable in the long term.

Before You Decide To Change Barns

1. Ask Yourself The Following Questions

  • Have your needs changed?
  • Have you followed the rules and held up your end of the contract?
  • Have you paid your bill on time historically?
  • Is your horse happy or unhappy in their current environment?
  • If you haven’t simply outgrown your farm or trainer, can you find common ground?
    • If so, are you willing to work it out?
  • Are your expectations reasonable?
  • Is your gut telling you that you or your horse will be better off?

2. Talk To The Barn Owner, Your Instructor Or Trainer

It’s important to be calm and objective when you approach the conversation with your barn manager or trainer. Put yourself in his or her shoes and try to understand where he or she is coming from. Make sure you express concerns clearly and discuss a path going forward.

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Ask your trainer or barn manager if there is anything you can do to help or if you need to change something in order to improve the relationship. Next, decide how much time you’ll allow to see if your situation improves. And, if you can’t come to an agreement it’s time to take the next step in finding a new barn.

3. Tour Other Barns

Set up appointments to tour new facilities, ask probing questions to try and avoid experiencing repeat issues. Check out this guide to evaluating a boarding barn or this article on choosing a riding instructor to help you decide if any of the barns you visit are right for you.

Find a way to communicate your concerns without bad mouthing the farm you are leaving. If you’re looking for a new instructor or trainer, set up time to watch lessons and training sessions. Take a trial lesson or two and see how you get along with the instructor.

Lastly, ask for references. One of the best ways to find out about the atmosphere of the barn and quality of care is to hear it straight from another customer.

Making The Final Decision

Make a pro con list and talk to your significant other or a friend. Go with your gut. Once you’ve decided, communicate with the new barn, ensure you can secure a stall or space in their program.

Next, communicate with the current barn manager, instructor or trainer. If your horse resides at the facility you need to give adequate notice (unless you feel your horse is in danger) which is typically outlined in your board or training contract. You will also need to pay any outstanding balance in full before your horse leaves the facility.

Lastly, if you do not own a truck and horse trailer you will need to make arrangements for transportation. Most likely, the farm manager at the new barn will be able to collect your horse and equipment for a fee. I suggest moving as much of your equipment in advance of moving day as you can, to ease the tension and make your move as smooth as possible.

About The Author

Liz Hudon is a full time mom, horse mom and equestrian blogger. As a former horse trainer turned amateur, her blog offers a unique perspective on horse ownership. Liz, her mom Jane and daughter Brooklyn enjoy riding and showing quarter horses and paints in all-around events.

On The Flaxen Filly blog, readers can find helpful guides and tips for beginners and experienced horse owners related to horse care, riding and navigating the horse world. You can find us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.


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