Q: I’ve been riding with my current trainer for many years, ever since I was a little kid. I feel like I’ve outgrown her and want to move to another barn where all my friends ride. The lessons are more advanced there, and I believe my horse and I would really improve. How do I tell my trainer that I’m leaving? How can I stay on friendly terms with her? Will it always be awkward when I run into her at shows? I’m so nervous about this!
Any professional who’s been in the horse business for any length of time realizes that clients come and go. It’s a fact of life that no trainer can be all things to all horses and riders. For example, one trainer might be a wizard with starting green horses while another one might be a miracle worker with nervous adult riders. So take some comfort in knowing that you aren’t the first client who has graduated from a childhood trainer to one with a more sophisticated method of instruction. Chances are, the trainer you’re about to leave has heard the Good-bye Speech many times before.
To keep your relationship on friendly terms, send her a handwritten note a few weeks after you leave. Tell her again how important she’s been in your life, both on and off a horse. Then, when you do see her at a show, be cheerful and polite. Speak well about her to others. Recommend her to other young riders seeking quality lessons in basic horsemanship. After all, this trainer gave you a wonderful start. Let her do the same for someone else.