It seems that a lot of barn drama is going around right now, it seems like a plague at least locally. Maybe it has to do with the stress left over by Hurricane Harvey, maybe it was because Friday the 13th fell in October, maybe it’s because we recently had a harvest moon, or you know, because it’s Wednesday.
Drama comes in many flavors, between boarders, between a client and trainer, between the horse caretakers and trainers, between trainers and farm owners, between horse caretakers and farm owners. The list goes on and on and on. I have seen it all, in one form or another. If you are new to the equine world, maybe you have managed to miss the drama or have only seen one of these. Sometimes there is drama that a boarder will never know about, this is usually the drama involving trainers, horse caretakers, and/or farm owners. Those that have been around for years have seen it all.
“Why the heck is an engineer writing about drama? Engineers are boring, they don’t understand drama.” You are right Engineers are pretty boring folks, but as an engineer who has spent 40 days straight stuck on a 250′ long boat with 48 other people (only one other person was an engineer), I have learned to handle drama. “Holy Gilligan’s Island, that ain’t no 3 hour tour.” Nope, and let me tell you, when the seas are rough and you can’t work, drama ensues. Add a little sleep deprivation because you got stuck working Midnight to Noon, all kinds of shenanigans happen.
Some people love drama, some people cause it on purpose, some people thrive on it. To be honest, I like to hear about it but I HATE being involved. Generally, I tend to avoid drama. It’s pretty easy for me to stay out of barn drama since my horses are at my house, the biggest drama I have to deal with is that a possum got in the chicken coop and roughed up one of my hens or the horses kicked down a gate and are running around like idiots. I still haul in for lessons so when there is drama, I get to hear about it.
I have had my share though, I have been at a number of boarding barns in my years. Boarders having screaming fights over whatever reason. Caretakers not showing up for work after a night of partying. Farm owners having unreasonable expectations of trainers or boarders. Trainers playing favorites among clients, I see this a lot. Trainers charging unfair prices, there is a lawsuit going on right now involving a trainer and a fraudulent horse sale.
“All the Drama, what is a girl to do, add more drama?” No, do everyone a favor, don’t add to the drama. “Why doesn’t everyone just avoid the drama and get along? Sing some Kumbaya, hug, and go ride our ponies.” That would be nice, unfortunately, when you get a lot of people attempting to exist together, it just doesn’t work out. Kind of like that college roomie you couldn’t stand. Working offshore has given me tips for minimizing drama. When you work, eat, hang out and spend 24 hours a day in a small area with the same 50 people, you either learn to play nice or you get kicked out. Here are a few tips that I have picked up over the years:
- Less people mean less drama, one barn that I was at, the trainer was the farm owner and the caretaker. There was very little drama.
- Find a barn that fits your care standards, this will save a lot of drama between you and the farm owner. If you feel that only plastic fencing is safe for your Fluffy Pony, then find a barn that has that. “I can’t afford those barns…”. Then be realistic, either lower your expectations or reconsider horse ownership.
- More to the point above BE REALISTIC. If you are paying $200 a month, don’t expect the red carpet to be rolled out when you park your ’98 Honda Civic in the parking area. If you are paying some of the lowest board in the area, you may have to clean up debris in the pasture, or make a few improvements to your horses stall to make it safer. (always get permission first) The more you pay, the nicer the place should be and you can expect the farm to ensure the pastures are clean and inspected.
- Move-in condition is what you should expect- in other words, if you move into a place that has wire fencing, don’t expect the owner’s to replace all of it with wood because you said it was safer. Even if they say they are going to replace it, don’t trust it, things happen, money runs out, they get too busy. You may be able to negotiate a lower rate and tell them that you will pay more once the fence is replaced or whatever is fixed up, but this is no guarantee that it will happen. Be ready to pay if they hold up their end of the bargain…
- Avoid problem people. If you know someone is difficult to get along with, minimize your exposure to them.
- If you are having a problem with another boarder, talk to the farm owner or your trainer first, they may have a way with dealing with it that will prevent more drama.
- If you are having issues with a farm owner, remember they own the place, they are going to run it how they want to, because they own it. If you have concerns you should talk to them but most of the time, it’s not going to change. If they want your opinion, they will usually ask for it…
- If you are having issues with the trainer, you should talk to them, also read this post as it will help clear a few things up.
- If you are having issues with the caretaker, you need to talk to the person that hired the caretaker. If the farm owner hired them, that is who you should talk to. Same goes if the trainer hired them. Whomever hired them has trained them to do things a certain way, and for a reason. Discuss with the proper person so that things are handled correctly to avoid conflicts.
- “Borrowing” happens. I hate it as much as anyone else, if you keep your stuff locked up and don’t share the combo, then no one can borrow your stuff. That fly spray you leave hanging on the stall, it’s going to get used, just be ready for it. If it’s a major problem, talk to the barn owner or trainer about maybe doing a communal fly spray situation.
- Don’t go into areas you aren’t invited into, if there are 2 locker rooms, only go into the room that has your locker. You have no business being in the other room and you will look suspect. Same goes with owner/trainer tack rooms.
- Be courteous, clean up after your horse and yourself. If you pull your horse’s mane in the middle of the barn aisle, sweep up the hair. If your horse poops in the cross ties/wash rack, clean that up. The only way you get out of this is if you are at a super swanky barn where they have someone to do that for you but 90% of us are not at that barn so clean up.
- Follow the rules! The rule may be stupid, it may be annoying, it may be an inconvenience, but it’s still the rules and they have them for a reason. If you hate the rules where you are, move to a different barn, if you can’t afford a different barn, see above comment about being “realistic”.
- Just because you take lessons from a trainer does not mean you have a right to use their stuff. They may loan you something but after using it for a few weeks, maybe a month, you need to purchase your own and return the borrowed item, unless an arrangement has been made. Never take/borrow anything of theirs without prior permission, this includes things like fly spray.
- Do not judge anyone else’s riding/training. If you want to know more about what someone is doing, ask questions, NICELY, in a friendly tone. If there is something that you think is dangerous, if appropriate, ask them about it, if you aren’t sure, ask the trainer or the farm owner and let them deal with it. Try phrasing things like: “Hey, are you ok?” “Can I help?” “I’m worried this may not be safe for (Insert horse’s name).” “I am worried about your safety, I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”
- If you have a super spooky horse, instead of picking a fight with someone because they are spooking your horse, either ride at a time when there aren’t many other horses around, find a different area to ride, or use it as a “training tool”, work through it. If your horse spooks at an inanimate object in the barn, do not move or remove the item, get your horse used to it, if you don’t have the experience, then ask your trainer for help.
- Gossip happens, (it happens big time offshore) be ready for it. Don’t do things that are worth gossiping about. If someone sees a male and a female walk out of a closed tack room, it’s getting talked about, or speculated about. It could have just been a conversation between friends, but it’s going to go through the barn like wild fire. By tomorrow morning, the couple will have been having an affair for the last 3 months and the guy is going to leave his wife tomorrow. I would say don’t gossip or spread rumors, but let’s be honest, it happens, it’s part of being in a barn. However, don’t spread untrue stories, leave the fake news to Facebook.
- Just like they say in kindergarten, treat everyone how you would like to be treated.
You can’t always prevent or avoid barn drama, but you can minimize your exposure by being nice, communicating concerns, and sometimes you just have to let things go. Don’t allow the barn politics ruin your ride, you are there to relax and have fun, so get out there and have some fun. If the politics are constantly causing problems, maybe it’s time to find a new barn.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist, I didn’t even take psychology in college, I am just an observant person who has been stuck in High Drama situations.
Shout out to my fellow Houston Civil Engineer friend who sent me a message, good luck with your new “Fluffy Pony”!
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