The horse world is small – and I mean the entire U.S. horse world is so small that if I don’t know you, my old trainer knows your trainer’s cousin’s best friend. In that vein, we also need to remember that horse people talk. They talk to each other a lot, which means that what you say can and will get back to who you said it about.

So, to help you not end up being labeled as THAT person (the pot stirrer, the one who bad mouths everyone, the one who got asked to leave their barn), here are some ways you can exercise tact in a world where there are three sides to every story: theirs, yours and the truth.

Changing trainers/coaches:

1) Our training philosophies didn’t mesh.
2) Their teaching style just wasn’t a good fit for me.
3) Our schedules did not coordinate well.
4) I had a lesson with X trainer and I felt like we just really clicked, so I decided to make a change.
5) I am really looking for someone with more/less of a competition focus.

Why the need to be tactful? Well, you have to swim in the same fish bowl with this person – no one wants life to be that awkward. Plus, you may one day have a different horse that might be perfect in their program. The idea is not to burn bridges, if possible.

Changing barns:

1) My horse needed more turnout time.
2) It just wasn’t the right fit for where my horse and I are right now.
3) I am looking for a more customized feeding plan then they are able to provide.
4) I am looking for a barn with an indoor for the winter.
5) I want to be able to bring in my own trainer.
6) I want a barn with a resident trainer.
7) I am looking for a discipline specific (or not) barn.

Horse sales:

The other area you have to be careful in is horse shopping. I will absolutely admit that I am terrible about this, but at least I have gotten better at walking away from something I am clearly not interested in.

1) He/she is lovely, but not what I am looking for right now. Thank you so much for taking your time to show him/her to me.

Done, kaput, get into the car and drive away. If the horse is not for you upon watching the owner ride it, don’t bother to put your foot into the stirrup. Just leave, both of you have 10,000 other things to do.
Only sit on that horse if you think it would be perfect for a friend who is looking or a client.

If you do sit on the horse and find that the description of the horse does not match your perception of what that description means, please bear in mind that everyone’s training ideas and goals are different – especially if you are looking at a prospect outside of your discipline. Feel free to ask questions about the horse’s temperament, how long they have owned it, and what, exactly, they personally have done with it. If the horse still isn’t for you…

1) This is a very nice horse, but is a little greener than what I am looking for.
2) I am not sure that I am a strong enough rider to work through the X-Y-Z behavioral issue you previously disclosed to me.
3) This horse and will make someone very happy, but he/she is just not a fit for me.

Try not to criticize the horse or the owner’s training. If you actually want the horse, it will make negotiations difficult or you may not be sold the horse. And who is to say that next year or the year after, that particular owner may have a horse that you or a friend or client might be interested in.

Finally, how do you tactfully answer a question when directly asked about a horse for sale or a barn? My advice is that unless you have first-hand knowledge of a situation, try to refer the questioner to someone who does have it.

But, when is it ok to NOT be tactful? Horse and rider welfare issues are at the top of the list.
Please speak out about hoarders, unscrupulous sales tactics that you have first-hand knowledge of or if the person in question has a seriously bad reputation that is well known, pedophiles, and equine abuse.