Some Tricks of the Trade
Like in any business, not all trainers and stable owners are good, honest people. There are some very common ways in which novice horse owners are taken advantage of. Learning these tricks of the trade can give you a great advantage on the road to having a positive experience in the horse world.
Some of the most attractive things about horses, their mystery and sometime inscrutability, are what makes it possible for people in the know to pull the wool over the eyes of amateurs, even ones that have been riding their whole lives. Horses are esoteric. In a sport where confidence and ability do not always go hand and hand and the stakes are high, namely your safety, it becomes easy for trainers, while otherwise honest people, to manipulate their clients. The trainers don't always shoot straight.
If you are over-mounted, you are mounted on a horse that is too much horse for your ability and experience and beyond your skill to ride well. You might have bought the horse without appreciating his size, strength, temperament, or greenness, or he might have behaved in a riding ring where you tried him out but won't behave in the field. He might have behaved under one trainer or work regime, but not under another. However you ended up in the situation of being over-mounted, it might work to your trainer's best interest to have you in this position.
Over-mounting is more often than not due to the owner's stubborn refusal to give up on a horse. This is often for sentimental reasons or because the rider doesn't like to think of herself as a quitter. There is no shame in changing horses to one that suits you better and that will keep you safe.
Over-mounting is generally much more beneficial for your trainer than for you. Over-mounting will generate money for the trainer in the way of extra training for your horse and extra lessons for you. You will be all too happy to pay for the extras to hasten the great potential your horse seems to have from time to time, especially when you are in a lesson or when your trainer rides him for you.
Your confidence and ability will diminish as you continually have bad experiences on your out-of-control horse and embarrass yourself. Even though you will from time to time, especially in a lesson with your trainer, ride him well and feel the thrill of coming out on top of a challenge, ultimately, such a horse in such an environment will destroy your confidence.
Your confidence in and dependency on your trainer will increase in converse proportion to your own waning confidence and ability. You might be susceptible to this because of your pride, the embarrassment of being over-mounted, or that you simply don't have the experience to know that you are being fooled.
If you are under-mounted, your skill, talent, or job you have in mind for your horse surpass the talent, level of training, or ability of your horse. A common scenario that occurs between trainer and client is that your trainer will encourage you to buy such a horse so that in a year's time you will be looking to trade up. The next horse will most certainly be a more expensive horse, which means another commission for your trainer on the sale of your old horse and on the purchase of your new one, as well as a more rigorous training schedule for you and your new, more demanding horse.
Your Horse Is Always Lame
Another common scenario is that your trainer tells you your horse is lame and that you can't ride him. It is not uncommon for this to continue, off and on, for years, and you spend more time at the barn feeding carrots to your horse than riding him. This, of course, is an easier horse for your trainer to keep while still getting paid for the stall.
Some stables are full of these perpetually lame horses. If such a horse cannot be managed to be useful, then you should consider a twenty-four-hour turnout situation, which is better for the horse and usually much cheaper than stabling in an active riding stable.
The horse might be lame, but the degree to which he is lame might or might not prevent you from riding him. There are plenty of good horses that are not 100 percent sound but rather “serviceably sound.” This means that with medicine or special care their health can be managed to the point where they are perfectly useful and happy horses.
If you are paying extra for your horse to be exercised or trained, make sure that the people doing the riding or training are professionally trained. If you are paying a head trainer or barn owner for this service, then she should be paying the riders who work for her. If they are riding for free, then chances are they are not professional quality riders and might be doing more harm than good to your horse. Ask to ride along some time with the rider who exercises your horse and assess her riding ability. You have the right to do this. The professional riders should at least be better riders than you are.
Tipping the Barn Staff
If you tip your groom for the extra care and attentiveness he shows to your horse, make sure you tip him directly and not as an add-on to your monthly board check. The barn owner or manager might choose to disperse your tip to all the help or might choose instead to keep the specified tip for herself. Keep track of where your money goes. Likewise, if you are paying for extra training, grooming, turnout, or whatever, take care to make sure that the person providing the service is the one getting the tip.