Moving away from my first barn was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do during my horse journey. I was at a barn that I had outgrown within two-and-a-half years of being there. I felt like I wasn’t going to advance much more while I was riding with my old trainer but I held out for another six months. I was riding and working there three days a week, nevertheless eventually I realized that I really had peaked. My riding wasn’t going anywhere if I stayed and I had to bring up moving barns. I had the crazy idea of eventing professionally and moving barns seemed to be part of how I would get there. After a show on the last weekend of September 2018 I approached my trainer about leaving. A few weeks before that I had already quit my job there and now it was time to take the leap and leave.
I had learned so much from the trainers at this barn about everything horse related. Whether it was feeding, managing a barn, working with green horses, teaching young kids/students, or showing, they had given me some sort of knowledge about it. I made sure that my trainer knew that she had started me off on the right foot. I owe everything to her for that. I timidly started the conversation about leaving, but it lead to us having an extensive discussion about my departuring to lease a horse and continue my eventing journey elsewhere. She was beyond understanding, knowing that she was not able to bring up top riders and horses alike. We promised each other that we would stay in contact and I said I would be back for one of their schooling shows.
A month after I left, I showed up for one of their home shows. They held between three or four every year to get their students exposed to a show environment. It was nice seeing all the people that I truly had grown up with again. We had a great time and many of my beloved friends took home ribbons. But, that sincerely was my last laugh. I needed to leave for good and continue my journey into the eventing world without any baggage. I had learned so much from there, but that barn was now in my rear view mirror.
When you leave a barn, you don’t have to leave everyone from that facility behind. But in my case it benefited all of us if we just stayed mutual. Many typical mean girl things went on behind the scenes. Continuing being a part of ‘The Clique’ was not going to happen. It was an awfully deprecating circle that was best left in the dust. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t leave everyone behind. One of my best friends was someone I met there and we are still great friends to this day. I held on to a few other people that really are fantastic as well.
When I left though, I felt so free. I had already started leasing a horse and I valued the freedom I was given more than anything. Being part of a lesson program was very restricting and if I wanted to try something new, most of the time it was extremely hard to talk to my instructor about it. I absolutely loved being about to ride without having things constantly yelled at me. I had time to think and plan out my own rides. But, after about two months it did come time for me to go back to taking lessons. I found a dressage barn about 45 minutes away from where my horse was stabled and tried it out. The facility was gorgeous but the long drive and not totally enjoying the teaching style proved to not be worth it. I wanted to settle for that barn but I was encouraged to go to another dressage trainer.
This woman was much closer and she had a lot more experience with temperamental OTTBs like mine. Within my first lesson she proved to give everything she had to give in her lessons. Along with a multi weather facility and an absolutely phenomenal demeanor, I decided to go back. Three weeks later my mare and I were in another lesson. The lessons were physically demanding on both of us but we were learning how to productively work as a team. This woman was doing both of us much good and she still had ever more to offer. I’m still working with her to this day and she’s made a huge impact in my horse’s dressage improvement.
When moving barns there are many different points to consider. But, first you must take the time to really be honest an assess whether you’re going to continue improving or if you’ve hit a plateau. You have to have that difficult conversation with your trainer about leaving no matter what. But, always make sure you’ve let them know that they’ve made an incredible foot print in your riding development but you do feel like you need to move on. Leaving a barn is like entering middle school or high school. It’s a huge change but all for the expansion of your own knowledge.