BY BLOG EDITOR LAUREN MAULDIN
Barns. They’re a mash of ponies and personalities, and are best when they exist as a warm place of community where riders practice their equitation and listen to their horses happily crunching carrots.
But if you think peaceful sounds boring, then you might be able to become a barn favorite.
You could simply learn the rules of the barn, be polite, courteous and enjoy making friends… Or, you could make a push to become notorious. You know, the rider who’s rude and pushy and problematic and so, so special that everyone clears the ring when they ride.
If you want to become that barn “favorite,” all you have to do is follow these five easy steps and you’ll be well on your way to disrupting any pleasant equestrian establishment!
The only schedule you follow is your schedule.
Cantering up to your trainer after not warming up your horse while chewing gum with your cell phone sticking out of your pocket is a great way to show up thirty minutes late to your lesson. Ignore the deepening frown on their face while they figure out how to shuffle around the rest of the day. Just assume that other people will work around your schedule, and while you’re at it… don’t just stop at lessons! Make sure you arrive fashionably late to the horse show and vet appointments as well.
For added fun, you can fail to communicate your riding schedule. Keep your grooms and trainer guessing when you’ll show up at the barn for a hack. It’s a fun element of surprise for everyone!
The horse show serves you. You don’t serve the horse show.
Many people who work the office and in-gate at shows (especially local ones) are volunteers, so that means they don’t really care about the horse show to begin with. When office staff is buried in add/drop slips, judge’s cards, and handling crises on the radio, they obviously don’t have time for pleasantries. Bark your demands at them. Make sure to ask for special favors when it comes to getting your horse in the ring, and never check in at the in-gate before your class. Trot in around that other trainer who’s giving a last minute pep talk to her rider, and keep your eyes on the first fence instead of the frantically waving hands of the ring steward.
Oh, and don’t bother to say thank you.
Nothing is ever your fault, and everyone should know it.
If your horse lets you down by not executing a perfect round while you sit up there and do nothing, don’t be afraid to let everybody know. There are many ways to do this. You can jerk at the bit and spur him out of the ring while yelling to anyone who will listen, “THIS TERRIBLE THING IS FOR SALE!” Also, don’t forget to blame your trainer… or the judge. Really, there are limitless possibilities to why you didn’t win, but remember that none of them have to do with your riding.
It’s best to complain about all these things loudly and publicly, often while rolling your eyes, throwing your crop on the ground and throwing your horse to the groom without a pat or a treat. That way, everyone watching will realize how great a rider you are, and see those chips were not your fault.
Some people don’t deserve support (especially if they’re showing against you).
While lounging in the bleachers between classes, make sure to clap politely after every round, unless you don’t like the competitor’s horse/coat/trainer/arbitrary detail about them. In that case, gossip loudly to your barn friend (do you still have barn friends at this point?) about why you didn’t like that rider, and disregard that their mother is probably the person beaming behind her cell phone, videoing the round behind you. When watching your own class, make sure you visibly smile or cheer when your competitors drops a rail. After all, you want to win… right?
If someone from your barn walks out of the ring dejected after a bad trip, it’s probably a good time to remind them that they wouldn’t have had any issues if they remembered to keep their leg on like your trainer said. Better yet, tell them about how you went well because your horse is clearly more athletic. Ignore their crestfallen face as they walk back to the barn with slumped, disappointed shoulders. People really like to be told what is wrong with their riding when they’re feeling their least confident.
Keep your money for tack and clothes, not tipping or bills.
If your show bill is higher than you thought it’d be, make sure to bring that up with your trainer and at the show office. Don’t ask clarifying questions or request a line-item breakdown – that is involves math and math is hard. Instead, exclaim how you are being robbed or taken advantage of. When your trainer’s face grows red as they explain the bill, say loudly, “You work for me!” Then, threaten not to pay until it’s been lowered. This will prevent you from ever getting a high show bill again. That’s probably because you’ve been fired as a client or barred from the show, but at least you’ll be saving money!
Also remember never to tip your grooms, because they’re probably paid well enough by the trainer. Plus, they don’t really do that much for you besides keep your horse spotless, happy, healthy and ready for you at every moment of the horse show. What’s the value in that?
If you follow all these tips, you can absolutely become the barn favorite- the one who struggles to make friends, the one who doesn’t understand why their riding never improves, and the one who leaves a trail of barns behind like bread crumbs.
But if you don’t want to be that kind of barn favorite, maybe it’s better to be on time, to communicate your concerns clearly and pleasantly, and to know how to listen. Thank your horse, even if the round didn’t go as well as you hoped. Cheer for your barn mates when they have a great round, and hug them when they don’t. Tip your grooms. And above all, be open to learning and growing in a sport that can produce amazing individuals – if you let it.
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
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