Sunday, February 25, 2007

Life Lessons from the Barn

I’ve been invited to submit a post to the Horse Lover’s Blog Carnival, this week being hosted by Patricia at Experiments in Training Equines. The description says: Equines have a way of teaching us what we need to know. This carnival is dedicated to the times when equines have taught US a thing or two.

As a novice rider and horse owner I’m afraid I have no innovations to impart, maybe someday…but I can share the things that I have learned not only from the horses but from the act of taking on the role of equestrienne. For anyone who rides none of these will be news, but perhaps it’s good to reiterate them anyway. Looking back at the list it looks like lessons we should have learned in kindergarten. We are always in school.

Leave your troubles at the gate. If you’re anxious or sad or (especially) angry, then maybe put off riding until you can get your emotions in check. When I first started I was treating the horse like the elliptical at the gym, a place where I could let my mind wander – boy was that a wrong idea!

Be prepared. There’s a lot of stuff to haul around and take care of with riding. Not just your tack, but all the little things that you need to have at hand when you need them. More than once I’ve put a horse in the cross ties only to realize I didn’t have the right brush or a towel, so I had to leave the horse to retrieve the item.

A little goes a long way. This goes for almost everything from shampoo to your aids. You can always add more, but you can’t take back.

Be careful. If you’re lucky like I am you are around horses that are well-trained and love people, but they are large animals and it’s up to us to keep ourselves out of harm’s way – I’ve been stepped on a few times and it puts a real damper on your day.

If you fall, get up. Get up, but take your time. Take a minute to pull yourself together and make sure you aren’t injured, but if it’s at all possible, get back on your horse (assuming they are also OK).

Be respectful. At my barn there isn’t a lot of security and trust plays a huge part in our community. Never borrow someone else’s stuff without asking, even if you’ve done it in the past with their blessing. Keep your tack and other equipment clean and clean up after yourself and your horse. Get to know what's appropriate for each horse that's around you with regard to contact. Some owners don't like others just coming up and putting their hands on their horse, and its always a good idea to get to know a horse a little bit before you make contact.

Be aware of changes in your horse’s body and demeanor. I’m still getting to know my horse, and I rely on my trainer to let me know if something happened while I wasn’t there, but you should be the main caretaker for your horse, body and mind.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. As I’ve said before, sometimes it feels like the learning curve I’m on is so steep I’m bound to lose my balance. Nobody ever learns everything there is to know, that’s impossible. There’s no such thing as a dumb question.

Get to know your neighbors. Both my human and equine neighbors at the barn are an integral part of my experience and I make a point to introduce myself and keep the communication alive. My horse is around these other horses every day and I should be comfortable with them if I expect her to be, ditto for their people.

Every day I learn something from other bloggers and from my general reading and my time at the barn. I hope some of these points have been at least a good reminder and perhaps a nice memory of when you were just starting out, how wonderful yet terrifying it can be.


  1. I loved this post! Thanks for the reminders of life lessons. I think they are applicable to everyday life as well as at the horse stables.

  2. Those are wonderful reminders. Thanks for showing us the basics that are truly the foundation of barn etiquette.

  3. I agree with Kitty. I haven't ridden a horse since 89, but I needed every one of your pointers...


  4. Excellent advice - for riding or for life!

  5. Great post! So Donna, you want another horse? :) (Sort of but not really kidding...) An aquaintance of mine has to give up her Canadian. He's 9. Not a 'push button horse' but a good boy. Very friendly. He needs a new home. I'm wondering if you or your horsey people might be able to help place him. He's going for $200.00 and would go for nothing to the right home. He's been loved by this one person who has put him out to lease as she hasnt time for him anymore now that she has a child. He comes with a bridle but no saddle. Spread the word. Any one interested let me know at my site and I'll put you in touch. In a strange twist of fate the day I heard about this I had not one but 6 horsey referances come up... I think the Universe is telling me something. I need to get back to horseworld. I just cant afford it right now. In time..... Glad things are going so well with Miss. :)

  6. Great post! Welcome to the horse blogging world. Looks like you know your way around the computer pretty well too, your site looks great.

    As for the blog carnival, don't get bogged down by the theme. There's always room for submissions in the "general" category if that's where you feel comfortable.

  7. Excellant post Donna - thanks for sharing!

  8. Hi Donna,

    That's a wonderful post, filled with lots of good reminders and lessons.

    Yesterday, my saddle slipped all the way around the belly of my Percheron. His back is just as flat as a board and he has no withers to speak of. ;-) Luckily, I wasn't on him. I'd just loosened his girth and was leading him back to the barn. He did some dancing and eye rolling with that brand new saddle hanging beneath him, but got him calmed down. Am amazed at the trust he has in me. That's kind of humbling. Yes, always be prepared and you have to stay awake around these big guys!

    Really enjoying reading about your horse experiences!

    Pax. Kimberly

  9. #1 is my favorite... and I think that's what so wonderful about having a passion... it gets you out of yourself, out of your head and into something else. I find that amazingly therapeutic.

    Such a pretty girl she is...!

  10. My grandmother always said to never crochet when you're angry. It'll be too tight and you'll have to rip it all out again. Guess my hobby overlaps with yours, huh? heh

    Great post, as always.

  11. Excellent post! It is indeed amazing how much barn life can teach us about *real* life!

  12. That was lovely. It's so wonderful to have that in your life. Thanks for the reminders :-)

  13. Apparently the woman behind the Fishcreek House blogs could relate to this piece so much she decided it was hers...

    Riding Lessons

    You're in good company...

    Fishcreek House Watch