Thursday, January 27, 2011

Boundaries at the Barn

I've been thinking about how to write this post, as some thoughts have been rattling around in my head for a few days, but I've yet to solidify if I intend to simply vent, or attempt a more thoughtful discourse...

Essentially, it stems from a 'talking to' that I received from my BO on Monday following my two great rides on Pia.

She stated that she had heard reports that Supermom had essentially instructed me on Sunday and that it wasn't covered by her insurance, and it couldn't happen again.

I nodded, apologized for crossing any lines and continued cooling out my horse.

My immediate reaction was to instantly tear up and cry. I don't know why I had such a strong emotional reaction. Rationally, I know that it's fair for my BO to not allow outside 'training' on her property, sort of like movie theaters and outside snacks... But still. For some reason it felt very personal. Maybe it's because I felt like we were both beating our brains out over how to communicate with Pia and how to move forward. It felt like we were both looking for any help and any answer under every stone even if we had already turned it over 5 times..

I think I was expecting her first reaction to both an email I sent her and her having watched some of our Monday ride to be something closer to pride, excitement or enthusiasm over our fairly obvious breakthrough.

Maybe she felt those things, I don't know. But when her first sentence had to do with me breaking rules and not with the fact that she had just seen P canter around the ring in a relaxed frame for the first time... ever... I was caught off-guard and sad. Also, I guess in my mind Supermom has been over-the-top generous in her assistance and willingness to come up and give us feedback.

As a 'full training' customer at my barn, my loyalties and intentions regarding ongoing training seem obvious so I would be surprised if my BO felt any sort of threat by our progress. Additionally the chance to receive insight from Supermom on what makes P tick seems totally separate from my goals with the BO... I guess that's why I didn't connect those particular dots, though in retrospect I suppose they were pretty close together..

The whole thing left me uncomfortable. The BO reiterated that she wasn't mad, and she wants to see me succeed even if that means I leave the barn.

I appreciated the lack of anger or upset, but frankly that comment confused me further, as the thought of leaving had never even occurred to me....

I've calmed down over the week (and time away from the barn), but I still feel a bit unsettled. I'm not sure how my BO feels, or where things totally stand. I'm also not sure how I feel or how I want to proceed.

Given my success (however small) on Sunday and Monday, I'm currently thinking that I should take some time and work with Pia on my own for a while as we reestablish a functional working relationship. Our full training clearly wasn't helping us and seems to have been contributing to our struggles. Our stagnation has been clear to me, but my confidence is boosted by feedback and simply having someone in the ring with me, which had been the primary value of our current training setup. However, I feel as though I'm chipping away at those confidence issues and making strides for whenI'm on my own with the beast.

I don't want to leave my barn and I'm fully aware of how hard it would be to find someplace I enjoy as much that provides comparable care for the price. But it is the first time I have felt some coldness radiate out of the BO toward me and my plans with Pia.

It does raise an interesting question of boundaries and realistic expectations. Of course I wouldn't expect a movie theater to 'allow' me to bring in my own candy. But they don't stop me from enjoying my own mints... Or gum.. Or sweaters to keep me warm and comfortable during the movie.

It makes me wonder how far 'exclusive training' goes at a barn. I'm paying a premium price for my facility and I patronize the full service and training options. At the point at which onsite help or insight isn't available (an obvious example is vet or farrier services) when is it appropriate to seek external consulting? Where do you draw the line? If Supermom only assisted me on the ground, would the BO still care? Or is it the fact that I was 'instructed' while mounted?

Also, what constitutes a lesson? No money was exchanged, no formal agreement.. In fact Supermom didn't do much more for me than I've done for fellow barnmates when they've had sticking points or concerns with their horses. Are we not allowed to comment on each other's rides?

I know I'm extrapolating quite a bit, but I don't think it's totally ridiculous. Clearly I unknowingly crossed a line with the BO. What I can't tell is if it's actually rooted in insurance concerns, business protocol, ego or some combination of the three...

Regardless, I need another STP, to get through the next few days and gain some clarity on comfort levels as well as the mare's happiness. So, here's what I've got-

Today: fly home.
Friday: ride on my own
Saturday: ride on my own
Sunday: Supermom Sunday! This time on her turf.

That's right. We're taking our show on the road. Remember way back when one of my goals was to travel off property?

It was in the dim distant past, but I'm reviving it. Right now Supermom seems to be our best tool, so we're sticking with it. If she can't come to us, we'll go to her and see what happens when we throw P into a trailer and then a new ring.

I'm cautiously optimistic about what we'll get done on Sunday, but even if we stay stuck on the ground, I'll enjoy the chance to explore our relationship on new turf.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


  1. I'm coming out of lurking to play Devil's Advocate: Insurance for boarding barns is ridiculously hard to get and stupid expensive. She was perfectly within her rights to say that to you since it's entirely possible that she could have lost her shirt had something happened. You could ask her for a waiver that all involved parties could sign but it's possible that her insurance company won't allow it. She's probably just covering her butt.

    It might have hurt her feelings too...

  2. Gah! I feel for you. I hate this sort of barn drama, and I'm going through a little bit of it myself. Here's my $0.02:

    I would assume that if no money or other compensation changed hands and she's not a professional (does she have amateur status?) then it's not a lesson. It's simply someone commenting on your ride, as boarders/friends etc often do. So, I'd say it's likely an ego thing, and the insurance line is simply the BO's way to avoid any argument. Insurance is insurance, and we can't do anything about it...right?

    Personally my reaction would be: Sick with what's finally working. Pull her out of training with your BO, ride her yourself, and just trailer to Supermom's for instruction once a week. If your BO gets nasty and can't handle it, then you know that it is an ego thing and at that point start looking at your boarding situation. Nothing worse than someone taking their injured ego out on an innocent animal.

    Adventures In Colt Starting

  3. If you're not paying her then you are not getting training. I hate BOs. I had the same issue with mine. I had someone else ride D and she freaked out about it.

    Good luck! You can always come to the Giant Warmblood Barn!! :)

  4. Hmmm, this would leave me feeling unsettled and uncomfortable too. How sucky, just when things were starting to feel so good with your mare. When I first read the liability/insurance statement, my lawyer brain went into autopilot and I thought, makes perfect sense, yes of course, liability is always a concern, the mare hasn't been an angel lately, what if you got hurt while Supermom was teaching, that could be a very sticky lawsuit. But then when I read the other comment she made hinting at you leaving, I have to say that I tend to think the insurance statement was a way to soothe a bruised ego. I don't know your BO and I could be wrong, but it sounds to me like she was a little miffed. Maybe she was hoping you were going to just buy a new horse, and you've now de-railed her plan? Or maybe she just doesn't like her students going elsewhere for help. My trainer is fully supportive of her students taking the occasional lesson with another pro for a different perspective, but I know she's in the minority on that view, most don't like it and some don't even allow their students to take clinics (which I think is crazy). Bottom line, do what's right for you and your mare. It just sucks that others can't always be 100% supportive.

  5. Sigh. Oh man, I hate this crap.

    For the record, I think you have the perfect plan. Ride on your own, and trailer to Supermom. It's not ideal but you're not "breaking" any rules that way.

    My barn has this policy, too, and it's one of the reasons Miles and I are on our own. I understand the insurance thing, I do. But like you said, where do you draw the line? No money changed hands. If you don't want to use the instruction available at a barn, or you want to supplement it (WHY is this so bad!?), or it's not even available, what are you supposed to do?

    Sorry, again. I would have been upset too. You can't know the motives behind what she said, but you can work with her rules, it sounds like. Lucky you-what if you didn't have a trailer? Oh wait, that's me;) I hope in the end this turns out to be nothing and comfortable, happy professional relationships are had by all:) Good luck~

  6. I'm actually quite shocked....since when is seeking advice from a past owner (who happens to be an amatuer) for no money considered training or a lesson? I can understand her issue with liability, but how is the person standing in the ring giving pointers less dangerous than said person riding that same horse? I'd be feeling exactly like you, you have every right to be disappointed and offended. Typical barn can never just be easy and fun!:(

  7. Boy, does this post strike a chord, so much so that take what I say with a grain of salt. I am SOOOOO tired of BO's who think they have a God given right to dictate to me what I can do with my horse, and make passive aggressive 'nice' statements about me "perhaps wanting to take lessons from another". I don't for one second think insurance is an issue when a friend is assisting you, unpaid. Even if you were paying her I still don't get it. There are lots of barns that allow trainers to come in and I inquired one time into boarding barn insurance and it was a lot less than I anticipated. You should check this.
    When I went to my current barn I explicitly stated that having my teacher come and teach there was a condition for my husband and I to bring our 3 horses there. Because the teacher I was bringing in couldn't come for some time, we started lessons with the BO, but then she thought she 'owned' me and my horses. We get attitude about it now that the teacher we told her we'd bring in is back, even though I was continuing as many lessons with the owner. Can you tell I'm sick of it? I dealt with it at a previous barn. Ugh. It sucks the joy out of going to the barn and I'm so fed up. I may make a change over the coming months.
    After I was pushed to the point of not being able to take it anymore (the cutting comments and snotty edge to inter-actions) we talked about it. I couldn't do this unless I was really pushed, but I politely but firmly/clearly stated my intention to keep working with who ever I wanted. I was also stuck in my training at that point, with that person (the BO).
    I don't blog about it because I don't want it read by those affected, but this won't get read by anyone who knows me :)
    Sorry to vent. Couldn't help it. As I said, it struck a nerve. Good luck with sorting this out. I hope the relationship with the BO is okay, but I've encountered this attitude too often. I really think many BO's think they have a right to dictate our lives and training far beyond what I consider appropriate.

  8. Wow I don't know what to say. I've never boarded a horse anywhere so I don't know about insurance or anything. I hope you can get this sorted out and don't have to leave your barn. I think I'd feel exactly as you do if that happened to me. Her response just seems so bizarre.

  9. What a bummer that the perfect board place has a grumpy BO!! While I do understand her insurance qualms, I still wonder why it's a problem if no money was exchanged. It was simply Pia's old owner telling you how to get the most out of your horse!!! I would be hurt as well, and would also take a step back to think about it.
    I think after much thought and consideration I would see the BO's reaction to taking Pia off site for help!!
    I can't wait to hear how the trailer trip goes, I'll be thinking of you both!!!

  10. While I understand the insurance thing, I've never liked the idea of a barn that doesn't allow outside trainers. I mean... what if I'm willing to sign a hold harmless agreement? What if Supermom was just coming out as a friend? Would she be allowed to ride then? It should be up to you to decide who gets to ride your horse. What if Supermom was your daughter? Would she be allowed to ride then? There's a barn around here that only allows trainers who are on the insurance. I got in by getting added to the insurance. It wasn't very expensive and my client covered the cost. Have you talked about the BO about having Supermom added to the insurance? I'm sorry you're going through this. I'm glad you'll be able to ship to Supermom's to continue Pia's progress.

  11. what good comments! I'll post a slight follow up. While I don't think my situation is totally extreme, I do think that it's an interesting "general" practice question. Obviously there's a huge range of norms, and lots depends on what sort of business a barn is.. but still.. it's interesting....

  12. That makes sense, her being concerned about liability. But just getting advice isn't training. At least not in my book.

    It's that passive-aggressive statement about you leaving that annoys me. What the heck? That totally throws away any legit feelings that it's just insurance related.

    Hope this all works out! Keep us updated!


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