Difficult conversation:
Taking my horse home

All of us feel anxiety when we have difficult conversations. We all want to have good relationships with those in our circle – and not be shunned or shamed by anyone. But certain situations in a barn or with other people bring up feelings of vulnerability.

When can, though, muster the courage to be clear and confident when we state the truth about our personal situation and what we want going forward. Then we know we have done all we can do.

That’s what this podcast is all about.

. .


Recently I received this question from a member of my Core Confidence Course. I know this rider is not the only one who has ever felt these emotions, so I decided to share my thoughts with all of you, too.

This is from someone who rides with a trainer:

“I’m really nervous about telling my trainer I need to take my horse home.

It is a financial decision.

What is the best way to tell your trainer you want and need to bring your horse home?

I still want to take him for lessons with my trainer.
I still want to go to the same shows and be part of the team.
I still want to take him for tune-ups once or twice a year and leave him there for a month at a time.

My trainer does have amateurs that have their horses at home, and the amateurs haul their horses to the shows themselves but still stall with my trainer or by my trainer, and he and his assistant still help them at shows.

It has come the time where I need to do this too.

How much notice do I give him? If I tell my trainer now, do I run the chance he won’t ride him between now and when I bring him home?

I am just trying not to burn bridges. I want to keep this relationship and do the right thing.

I’m nervous about this.”

It’s important to know that you’re not alone. Lots of people feel that same anxiety.

We all want to have good relationships with the people in our horse lives – and not be shunned or shamed by anyone. However, your responsibility is to yourself and your family first.

That being said, I think that although you feel vulnerable (which is not easy), being honest about your situation without trying to over or understate it – and without apology – state the facts clearly about what you want – those are the keys.

Regarding the timing for when to tell your trainer – the sooner, the better. That helps trainers plan.

I would ask for a time to get together, so neither of you will be rushed or interrupted by others around when you meet.

Start by telling him how much you appreciate all he has done for you, your new situation, and why. Tell him it’s hard not to keep your horse at the barn, but you really must make a change because of your training and showing budget. You don’t need to go into more details than that – unless you want to.

Then be very clear about what you would like to do moving forward so you can express that to him succinctly. You’re not really changing trainers; you are asking him to help you in a new situation.

After you say what you need, ask him if he would do that for you?

Before the meeting, be careful not to set yourself up that he will feel a certain way – or fire you – or think poorly of you. You have no way of knowing his situation. Maybe he wants to have fewer horses in the barn who stay there all the time. Again, you have no way of knowing. All you have control of is setting up a good meeting situation, presenting the facts, expressing your appreciation, asking for what you want, and letting the cards fall.

No matter what he says, it will work out. It always does.

Change is never easy. We never know what’s around the corner, but if we believe it will be good – and even if it’s hard, it will work out to our advantage – you can be confident in doing the right thing for yourself. You can take the pressure off because you are also doing the right thing for yourself and your husband.

Sketch out points about appreciation and what you want ahead of time. Do your best to be calm and confident. Rehearse it easily, so you feel prepared, and then see what happens.

All the best to you, and thank you for such an awesome question that everyone can relate to.

Those of you listening – can you relate? Leave a comment for me.

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7 Comments on Difficult conversation:
Taking my horse home

  1. Arlene Kelemen on Sun, 19th Sep 2021 12:50 pm
  2. Such a difficult situation that I’ve been in a couple of times. I’m a capable rider, but cow horse was new to me, so I put my horse in training. On one occasion it was a money thing that caused me to bring my horse home, in another instance it was the fact that I felt able to take up the reins mostly on my own, with support via haul in lessons. I had that difficult conversation and feel that we were both able to move foreard in our new situation. No regrets

  3. Moe on Sun, 19th Sep 2021 1:29 pm
  4. I just went through a similar situation with my trainer a few weeks ago but I haul my horse in for lessons but communication was lacking. Issue I have is some shows I can’t haul to because my truck can’t handle the long distance (it’s a 6 cylinder) and he didn’t have room to haul but by the time I found out it was too late to find a ride(hence, lack of communication)so I didn’t go. I had the conversation with him and he understood my issue and would try to do better. It was VERY hard for me to approach him because confrontation freaks me out. I usually cry when I have to confront someone and this time I didn’t!! I told him what was on my mind and told him the good things he’s done for me over the years. I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders and communication is better now. Im glad I did what you have lined out!

  5. Donna Shapka on Sun, 19th Sep 2021 2:02 pm
  6. As a Non Pro Bridle cowhorse competitor, this is a conversation I have had with trainers for sure. and yes, initially, i was nervous to have the conversation, but, in the end, it all worked out, and I was able to keep moving forward. I think a lot of non pros struggle with this situation, but in the end, it is all about our own goals, and our own journey. Thank you for touching on this subject.

  7. Christine on Sun, 19th Sep 2021 2:57 pm
  8. Boy, can I ever relate- and this went to an even deeper level after the barn I’ve boarded at for years suddenly imposed a large number of rules, restrictions, and fees out of the blue – and began treating me far different than they used to (amid my not having changed a thing, at least that I’m aware of). Even though the situation on their side changed, I did my best to communicate the facts (“my horse needs to go back home for the summer due to his longtime health issues and need to graze a pasture rather than eat hay during the grazing months, but I still want to bring him back here for the winter as we’ve done the last ___ years”), and left the rest up to them. When I left, my more recent interactions had seemed peaceful and friendly with them, yet I find myself losing sleep as summer turns to fall and the knowledge I’ll be bringing my equine back there sooner rather than later begins to form a cloud over my every waking moment too, worrying about what they’ll feel upon our return and how they’ll treat my horse and myself. My horse means everything to me, and to have any fear like this is driving me insane!

  9. Camille Abbott on Sun, 19th Sep 2021 8:57 pm
  10. This is always the most difficult of conversations. I have found myself forced out of a barn that was toxic in all ways. I went home crying after every lesson and my husband would say “you think this is fun?” I was sure I would never recover. But I did and went on to another barn that I was sure was THE one only to have the trainer systematically and sometimes cruelly dismantle his barn. I was “dropped off” at a barn that was two hours away with a trainer who I was sure would think I was the dumbest person regarding horses he had ever met. And THAT was the turning point in my riding career. Eight years later I am still there and it was the best thing that ever happened to me AND my horse. I had no idea what I didn’t know and how much fun I was going to have learning. I am so glad I finally gutted it up to tell that first trainer that it was time to leave. Not being one to burn bridges because we all know the horse world is small, I have stayed in touch and we have reached our own “terms.” It was a difficult but necessary decision and I am the better rider for it.

  11. Janice on Mon, 20th Sep 2021 3:57 am
  12. I certainly can relate to this, especially, since my trainer is also a friend. I was anxious about how this would affect our friendship but, in the same way as you suggest, I discussed it as a plan for next month. I feel that we came to this more as an agreement to move on rather than an ending.

  13. Vera Widmer on Mon, 20th Sep 2021 9:07 am
  14. Yeah, this is a hard one. I did not change the barn, but I stayed 3 years too long with a trainer I thought I really need, otherwise I have to give my not so easy to ride horse away. Because I loved this horse so much I did stick with her and got sick. I vomited before I had my daily training lesson and lost fun and kilos and my horse also was not happy. After all these years I stoped it and found someone else. She is very nice, loves my horse and was astound how well trained my horse is. Then I was riding with Brad Barkemeyer and Al Dunning in Arizona and got back my selfesteem. Now I am back in Switzerland and took this “mean” trainer back for a weekly training session and it worked out. Because I KNOW NOW that if it gets bad again, I have the force to send her away. Cowgirls and Boys and all horse lovers. I love you all. Especially Barbra, you are the greatest for me. Vera

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