After many years of talking about it, I am FINALLY going to my first riding lesson in over a decade tonight.
I’m so excited, I keep forgetting to breathe. Not an optimal state when trying to command a highly sensitive, 1000 pound prey animal, but whatevs.
I’ve spent the past few months looking for a suitable barn nearby (as in, less than an hour away), and found many, but most were quickly eliminated for various reasons, namely:
1. Barn was too expensive.
I would love to be able to spend the equivalent of a month’s rent on lessons and leasing (not owning!) a horse, but I just can’t.
2. Barn was poorly run.
I read a LOT of Yelp and Google reviews trying to get a feel for places. Absence of reviews doesn’t necessarily mean a place is good, but it d0es mean no one has been pissed off enough to tell the internet about it, which bodes well. The ones with bad reviews, I still studied carefully to try and make a determinations of whether it would be worth it. One bad review doesn’t mean much, but when you have people legitimately complaining about the owner/trainer violating horse safety, time to run the other way.
3. Barn caters to the wrong discipline.
I’m a total English-riding snob, and if I so much as glimpse cowboy boots and neck reining, I’m out. I know there are probably many, many perfectly responsible Western riders/horse owners out there, I just haven’t met them. Western riding tends to either be rough or lazy, and the whole redneck persona is not appealing at all. I grew up in I-dee-ho, so I feel entitled to this opinion.
4. I don’t own a horse.
This means that I must rely on riding schooling horses for the foreseeable future. I didn’t think this would be much of an issue, but a lot of the most highly recommended trainers do not have lesson horses available. Disappointing, but understandable.
Prior to finding the barn I’m going to tonight — fingers crossed, it’s as good as it looks — I spoke with a very nice trainer named J, who, as it turns out, was absolutely terrifying.
J owns a small “boutique” stable (her word) about fifteen minutes from me. Perfect.
J was very friendly and talkative. A good match for an introvert like myself — I don’t have to say much.
J wanted to be “honest” with herself and her clients. She reiterated this many times. She was very honest. Honestly, a little too honest.
For instance, when I mentioned my budget for a horse was under $10k (which, let’s be real, that’s a lot of fucking money in my income bracket) she replied, “what? You’ll only get a broken down old nag at that price!” Then, she tried to convince me to buy a nice starter horse at the very reasonable price of $25,000, plus her $1000 finder’s fee.
Fortunately, this conversation took place over the phone, so she couldn’t see my face.
I have high hopes for tonight’s adventure. First step: try to squeeze myself into tall boots. Why, oh why didn’t I get zippered boots?