10 Phrases You Should Never Say at the Barn

Photo © Heather N. Photography


“It’s Not My Fault”

It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. It’s probably just how the day is going. So many issues happen every single day with all the moving parts at the barn. Instead of wasting everyone else’s time having to put fingers at something (or someone) else, use that energy to work on what you can control. That’s the best way to add value to the situation, for you and your horse.

Anything Negative About Someone Who is Trying

If you are not actively employing this person or involved in the outcome (e.g. you own the horse), this is gossip—plain and simple. For you to be uninvolved, negative and defeatist to someone who is trying to improve their life makes you the bad guy here. Gossip is so tempting. Check in with yourself periodically to see if you are behaving in a manner that is truly consistent with your values. 

“I Don’t Have Time to Walk to Warmup”

If you don’t have time to walk your horse properly before you begin, you don’t have time to ride. Working walk, stretching, extension, and cardio and muscular warmup are an essential part of every ride for your horse. You can run a tight ship and still prioritize doing it right. 

X is a Bad Horse 

Calling a horse bad is never a good conversation piece. If it’s not your horse, it’s not really any of your business. If it is your horse, it’s not helpful. Work on developing the tools within yourself to encourage every horse to go as well as possible for you. Think about your part in this “bad” behavior. See what you can take responsibility for and improve. 

“It’s Not Fair”

No. It’s not. Horses are, unfortunately, very unfair. But dwelling on this at the barn is not time well spent for anyone. Do we need systemic change? Yes. Join an organization fighting for opportunity and fair play in our sport and work with them to develop their programs, scholarships, education, and leveling playing fields. We all have low moments, but if you find yourself repeating “it’s not fair” over and over… you likely need to change your attitude and work ethic. Control what you can and consider volunteering to make it better for people coming up behind you. 

Photo © Heather N. Photography

“That’s Not My Job”

Yes, this sport is expensive. You’re paying a lot to be a client/customer and feel like you should get a certain amount of service for that. However, I guarantee that everyone is getting more services than they actually pay for at their barn if they really penciled everything that comes with their experience. Be grateful for the infrastructure and financial risk someone is taking for you to pursue your dream. We’re all together at the barn. It’s all of our jobs to help take better care of our people, ourselves, and our horses. If you’re asked to do something, it is because it would be of value to one of your human teammates in this horse experience. Do it. 

“I’m Sorry”

I know this is a controversial opinion of mine, but when someone makes a mistake around me, I usually need to take my time to fix it. Someone expressing apologies and excessive apologies often just waste more of my time. Actions speak louder – show that you’re actually sorry by fixing the mistake if you can or working harder on something in your control to add value to the team or ensure that that mistake actually won’t happen again. 

“Did You See That Video Online?”

The people improving in this sport are discussing ideas, training, what is working for them, and what they need to improve. They analyze the grade of the ring, and their track to ride the course. They practice visualizing, counting strides, and feeling improvement. They are not spending their precious time discussing things they won’t remember in a year and won’t contribute to their future—especially when it’s about other people

Commentary on People’s Riding 

Unless you are developing a pro/con list of who should show your horse, commentary on other people’s riding, weight, appearance, tack choice, and other factors—especially behind their back—is a bad look. If they rode awesome today, tell them and spread the love. If they had a day that only people who love this sport could survive, have humility and grace and focus on yourself unless they ask you for help. 

They Only Won Because They’re Wealthy” (or any other excuse)

Wealth certainly helps create more opportunities. But going out and winning at any show, any time, is a difficult performance to pull out. Do not diminish the success of bringing to fruition a great horse and a great round with excuses. Everyone is beatable if you show up and leave it all in the footing enough times. 

Photo © Heather N. Photography

What You Should Do Instead

If you’re at the barn and standing around not sure what to do… instead of complaining or surfing social media, start feeling good about yourself and your contribution to your barn society with these 10 action items:  

  1. Make sure your own stuff is organized. Know where stuff is in your trunk and what you’ve left out. Polish your boots and store them for next time. Make sure your saddle and bridle are put away correctly according to barn protocol and are clean and neat. Clean out your car so that you’re ready for what is next. 
  2. Sweep. With very few exceptions, most barns could always use an extra sweep. If you’re looking around with idle hands and not sure how you can help, pick up a broom. 
  3. Roll wraps. If you look around, there are frequently wraps to roll and it is always a helpful task for idle hands. I have never been discouraged from picking up a wrap and rolling it in any barn around the world I have found my hands unengaged for a period of time. 
  4. Wipe off trunks. Most barns have aisles full of trunks that get dusty or dirty. Find a towel and a little elbow grease goes a long way. 
  5. Curry. Always ask first before you touch any horse, but most places will be happy to let you get a great cardiovascular and muscular workout while you add some extra love and shine to a horse in the aisle. 
  6. See what’s around. Are there bridles on the hook waiting for a clean? Ask if you can clean them. 
  7. Handwalk. Again, ask before you touch any horse, but especially barns with land restrictions or in population dense areas are usually happy for their horses to go on an extra handwalk or handgraze in their schedule. 
  8. Stretch and get fit. Think about some exercises you can do while at the barn and take your down time to stretch and help build and prepare your body for your next ride. 
  9. Help clean or tidy a human area. Some places like the barn fridge, microwave, or coffeemaker can typically use a wipe out, trash removal or general cleaning. Something like that is always appreciated. Same goes for dusty seating in the lounge, dusty picture frames in the tack room, etc. 
  10. Fold laundry. Most barns have laundry coming out of the dryer at a rate that there is always something to fold or roll or put away. If you know your way around this enough to be helpful, do it. If not, fold and organize what you can and put it in a pile.