Monthly Archives: August 2013

How to Find the Perfect Lesson Barn

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As an equestrian who doesn’t own her own horse, I have spent hours and hours trying to find the best possible barn to take lessons at.  Riders that have their own horses may have a different set of priorities when looking at barns to board their horses.  This post will focus primarily on lessoning and leasing riders.

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Before I go any further, all of this advice is from my own experience and is meant to be helpful!

When looking for a place to take lessons you have two best friends: Google and your actual best friend.

Whether you are a first time rider or have been riding for years, when looking into a new barn: Google it.  Google long and hard! I cannot say how many hours I have spent looking at barns within a 50 mile radius of my town in hopes of stumbling upon a gem.  At any one time I will have between two and six links on my desktop of “potential” barns. (yes, judge me, I’m a barn hopper!)

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The second thing you should do is ask your horsey best friend for her input.  If you are new to riding, go to the closest tack store and start chatting with the employees–they ride too!  Lucky for me, my best friend also rides and she is always eager to spend hours talking horses/barns/etc.

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After you’ve done your initial google search and talked with some people, email or call the potential barn.  Inquire about a rate sheet if they have one (a complete list of all their services including lesson costs).  Only you will know the typical cost of lessons in your area (if you’re a current rider) and if you don’t try to do some research beforehand so you’re informed.  **Where I live in Connecticut, lessons are anywhere from $60-$120 depending on private vs. group, 30 min vs. 1 hour but everywhere is different**

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Once you’ve found a potential barn that you’re interested in, VISIT!  Either call and schedule a visit if necessary, or stop by anytime if you’re allowed.  I’ve found that some barns may appear perfect from the description and pictures but a visit might show something you wouldn’t realize (like the indoor is a million miles away from the barn!).  While you’re there, try to talk with some lesson riders (or even boarders) to see what they like/dislike about the barn.

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If you enjoyed your visit, the next step is to take a lesson at the new barn.  Almost more important than the barn itself is how your first lesson at the new barn goes.  As a strictly lesson rider, you don’t have to worry so much about the size of the tack room, number of wash stalls, or type of hay they feed because you won’t be boarding a horse.  If there are multiple trainers at the barn, find out if one teaches your preferred discipline, or try a lesson with each one to see who you mesh with the best.  **Some barns have head trainers that only teach the show riders or boarders and assistant trainers teach the schooling riders**

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After your first lesson or two, carefully evaluate your experience.

  • Did you like the trainer’s style of teaching?
  • Did you get along with the school horse or horses that you rode?
  • Did you feel safe at all times?
  • Is the commute to the barn reasonable for weekly lessons?
  • Are you comfortable with the price of the lessons?

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Finally, if you feel that this is going to be “your barn,” ask the barn manager, head trainer, or owner about lesson packages.  Often times barns will have a special buy 5 lessons, get the 6th free or something similar if you pay for a number of lessons ahead of time.

I hope this post has been helpful to fellow lesson riders like me.  I have been taking riding lessons for 8 years…and like I said before, I’m ashamedly a barn hopper.  The first barn for 4 years, the second for 1 year, the third for 2 years, and the fourth for 1 year.  This post is at the perfect time considering I have to move barns yet again. 😦

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Whatever barn you end up choosing, remember that you should always expect excellent treatment.  I don’t mean that you get waited on hand and foot by a groom, but you should never feel you are being skimped in your lessons, mistreated, or disrespected.  You can always leave your current barn if you feel for any reason that you aren’t satisfied with your lessons, remember YOU are paying to ride there so why shouldn’t you have a fabulous experience?

-Val

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Half Way!

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Tomorrow it will be exactly one month since my foot surgery.  For me that means:

  • the pain is almost completely gone (I only get occasional  tingling from circulation)
  • completely off all forms of painkillers (prescription or otherwise)
  • I have one more month in a cast

Now that the pain is gone, my biggest struggle is beating the boredom.  If only this surgery had been on my left foot I would be driving to the barn everyday just to visit (if not sneaking on for a no stirrup ride!).

With all this downtime I’ve made some calls to various barns to inquire about leasing.  I think I might eventually write a post about finding the best fit for lessoners/leasers like me (who don’t have their own horse).  I’m sure other people are in the same position as me trying to find the absolute best barn without selling their kidney to be able to afford it….

-Val

P.S. I’m checking out one of the barns I’ve talked with to meet a potential lease (6 year old jumper named Angel!) I can’t wait!!!

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Horse Racing and Journalism

I write for my school’s newspaper, but just this summer I have become particularly interested in journalism.  Here is an amazing piece of multimedia journalism put together by the New York Times about horse racing and jockey Russel Baze.  I highly suggest taking a look at it as well as Snowfall.

I for one am fascinated by horse racing.  That may be because I’m a sucker for racing movies (Secretariat, anyone?), but I do not always agree with the treatment of the horses.  That’s why I 100% support off the track adoptions and think that a second career and home for these horses who didn’t make it racing is a beautiful thing.

That is just my meek hunter/jumper rider’s opinion of another equine sport…

Let me know what you think!

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Aaaaand We’re Back

…to the ER, I mean.

Monday night/early Tuesday morning I had a trip to the ER. I left later on Tuesday feeling pretty much better. I was prescribed some anti-nausea meds and something to calm my stomach/intestines. Fast forward to Friday and I felt good enough to make a day trip to the aquarium with my mom, cousin, and best friend. Unfortunately Friday night and Saturday morning I felt a relapse coming on. Saturday morning I had the same pain that prompted the other trip to the hospital. Trying to figure things out once and for all I went back to the hospital Saturday morning.

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I will spare all of the unnecessary details but let’s just say I have a high pain tolerance and I was doubled over in pain with tears streaming down my face. Not pretty.

Anyway, the ER doctor was perplexed. I had a “GI cocktail” that didn’t help, a CAT scan that showed nothing out of the ordinary, and I haven’t even taken my narcotics for my foot in almost a week now. Who knows what this is…maybe I just have the world’s most sensitive stomach…

I’ve used some riding visualization to get me through some of the tougher pain. I imagine myself riding that perfect rocking horse canter around a course always getting the perfect distance. 🙂 It might sound silly but anything that gets my mind off of the pain is worth it!

Ruby's canter is pretty perfect

But, between all of these hospital visits and bouts of extreme pain, I haven’t given up on sorting out my lease. I’m still emailing the owner of a barn I used to ride at. As soon as she returns from CHJA finals we’re going to schedule a day for me to come by and talk (I won’t be able to try any horses until my cast comes off in September!).

Enjoy a few of the iphone pictures from the aquarium…

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in honor of shark week

-Val

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Surgery and Recovery

You know those events that you don’t expect to be as big as they actually end up being? My surgery for example.

I expected to be home from the hospital in one or two days max. I was there for four.

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I thought I would be up and active in a week. It’s been three and I am hardly able to leave the house, let alone be “active.”

In case anyone was wondering, I had my right foot realigned. It was just correcting something I was born with, not the result of an injury. Anyway, this surgery is putting me out of commission for 6 weeks (no riding or weight on the foot in general).

Not to mention, I’ve had terrible side effects that are almost worse than the pain from the surgery. The painkillers screwed up my GI track relentlessly, nausea is now an everyday occurrence, and I have next to no appetite. I even had a surprise visit to the emergency room the other night (2 am!!) because of all of this business.

As a result of all the downtime I’ve been having, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my riding and what I’d like to be doing and where I hope to see myself in a year. I’ve been in touch with an old trainer and briefly discussed leasing during the upcoming year. It tugs at my heart every time I think of JJ and what we could’ve done together so I’ve been trying to look forward rather fixating on what could’ve been.

Has anyone else had a big life event like surgery that put everything in their life in proportion?

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-Val

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