As I get ready to move my horses to their new barn on September 28th (squee!) I find myself thinking back to last two "lesson" barns I boarded at. Part of me is terrified of being at a "real" barn again. Most of the barns I've boarded at in the last 7 years have been quite casual and provided very little of that "community" feeling. I have been without regular lessons for a looonnnggg time. I am almost always alone at the barn now. Now I'm moving to a "real" barn again! Eek!
I was at my first lesson barn I spent ages 15-21. It felt like a huge family. Their were lots of lessons and lots of things going on. For most of my high school years I took two or three lessons a week. It was an absolute blast and my confidence was off the charts. Many times I would ride in the arena at the same time as another lesson and I would be made an example of (look how lovely Kate sits the trot/bends her elbows/etc). When my gelding, Blue, started having soundness issues I found my "barn family" slipping away. The barn had taken a sharp turn into natural horsemanship and now felt his soundness issues were my fault (not that all natural horsemanship followers feel this way). The general consensus was that my years of jumping and riding had caused his pain. The barn was put up for sale and I felt like such an outsider for the last six months as I investigated his lameness with little support (besides my awesome mom). Blue and I were invited to the new facility after the sale but the barn owner had given up on proper horse care and he lost a lot of weight.
On we went to several other casual-type barns. Nothing was terrible but it wasn't quite right either. I missed being part of a barn family. I had recently purchased the very green Apollo and I wanted to take some lessons again. So off I went to lesson barn number two.
Sometime in 2009/2010 I found lesson barn number two. Everyone seemed so friendly and there were regular lessons and holiday events. I boarded there for a year. The on-site instructor was not a good fit for me. I drove home from almost every lesson in tears. I pretty much felt like the worst rider ever and seriously considered selling Apollo. I don't understand why I persisted taking lessons there. I think I hoped that if I kept at it I would start to improve but it seemed every week the instructor had worse things to say. Apollo and I are both kind of slow learners. We need small pieces and one at a time, please! Being constantly screamed at and called stupid does not exactly create a fun learning environment for either of us. After I had lost almost all of my love for riding and Apollo became impossible to catch - I was done. I heard later on that she was removed from that barn and others have told me that her whole tactic is making riders feel bad about themselves so they take more lessons ($). Lesson learned: I will never lessons from someone like that again. I am still sometimes affected by my time at this barn. I have spent more recent years at very quiet facilities in my comfort zone (being alone, ha!) but I still feel very nervous to have anyone see me ride. I have worked at a dressage barn for four years and no one has seen me ride because I feel too embarrassed. I have found a few mobile instructors to give me the odd lesson but no one was quite right for the long term.
When I was shopping for a new barn it was the utmost of importance to improve my riding skills but tried to underline that my main focus is having fun (for me and Apollo!). My fingers are majorly crossed that this new barn is a good fit. I think have recovered from the "lesson sourness" I felt for years after I had left that barn. Heck, I'm even riding in a clinic at the dressage barn in November!
It's been really inspiring to me to read about other people in the horse community (all over the world) who are pursuing their dreams and goals. It's been one of the things to give me the final push towards taking lessons again. So thank you other bloggers! :)
To end on a happy note, here are some things I bought this week (yayayayay):
Spiffy new scarf from Greenhawk (I look like Powder here for some reason):
New-to-me cross country vest: