Monday, January 12, 2009

Barn Culture

We don't have the fortune to live close by the horses. We aren't too far, but it's a twenty-five minute drive out. I grew up out in the area where our horses are boarded, but I married a surfer, and all I can say is that once you marry a man who is totally devoted to the Sea God, you might as well forget getting him out to the country. I figure I get the best of both worlds--live near the beach, be out at the horses daily (I do have to admit though that the drive can be brutal at times, like around 5 in the afternoon).

Anyway, my little one and I make the commute everyday after school, except for Tuesday and Thursdays. I let her take those days off to just have play time with school friends or relax at home. I try and make Thursday a kind of day off for me. I teach in the morning and then I go to the horses for the rest of the day and play on my own. I ride my horse and then pop the pony over a few jumps (he's a large pony--Gypsy Vanner). Thursday tends to be my favorite day of the week. I love going out with my daughter, but on Thursdays I don't have to keep a tab on her, so it's a bit more relaxing.

One thing I've noticed about being at a barn is like any place--be it work, home, school, etc--it has its own culture. There are a variety of people out where we ride and they make up this culture. Being a writer, I've kind of studied it and entrenched myself a bit into it. It's almost like there's three or four separate families out there--like a neighborhood. The barn has a mish mash of people and horses. We aren't a hunter jumper barn, or a dressage barn, or a western barn--we are all of it and more. We even have a few people who drive.

There are the pony clubbers (like my kid) who tend to be out there daily after school. The kids range from 8-18 and they are obviously all passionate about the horses. Moms are all involved because we have to be, and within the moms there are only a few of us who are "horsey" people, so even there is a bit of a sub-culture that goes on. I think I'm the only pony club mom at this point that actually rides reguarly.

There are the hunter jumper people (i'm kinda in that group, too). They are a cross-over from older pony clubbers into women of all ages. This group tends to be the more serious group (as far as quiet, reserved). We're all for the most part in the main barn, we all blanket nightly, we all give supplements and we all make sure our horses at least get out for a stretch of the legs daily. The dressage group is like this, too. However, the one thing I notice about those ladies is that some of them never ride their horses. They saddle them up and hand them over to a trainer and that sort of strikes me as odd. I guess they just like to groom and watch. You got me.

Then we have the cowboys and cowgirls. Now I have to admit that this is the fun group. Not to be stereotypical here, but this group tends to swear a little more than the others, have a beer or two (sometimes before noon), and hang out when not on a horse, shooting the breeze. They cut cows, they rein (spins and sliding stops--all that) and they just seem to ahve a goold old time. Plus they have some great stories.

There isn't one group I prefer to hang out with over the other. It is interesting to see how all of these people interact and get along, and they do. Everyone gets along with one another. That's the thing about horse people--no matter what "sub-culture" they're in, the bottom line is that they all have a passion and love for the horse. I believe it's that commonality that keeps peace around the barn. It's knowing that we're all better than those outsiders who don't know anything about how wonderful the animal is. LOL.

Anyway, I'd love to hear about your barn stories or if you have an interesting culture at your barn and how it all works together. Write a comment and let us know how things work where you ride.

Happy trails!



Anonymous said...

I love the barn I go for training! I keep my horses at home and this barn is 2 miles away so it's like a second home for me and my horses.

The culture is funny... it's my trainer's house, mostly her horses in the 8 stall barn and the 10 acre pasture/run-in area. There are usually 1-2, sometimes 3 horses in for training.

All of her students come faithfully each weekend. Some of us clean stalls to earn "free" lessons. We are from all different walks of life, all ages, all experience levels.

Many week nights you find some of us in the alleyway talking - watching rides - helping out with something - having a beer. More in summer than winter...

It's primarily a dressage barn but there is not an l-t-f-d (la-ti-f'ing-da) attitude.

Children come to show off their Halloween costumes, ride their bikes down the alleyway (when all horses are happily in their stalls) and they bring their remote control helicopters to fly in the indoor arena (when all horses are happily back in their stalls).

Tho' when we go to a show, we all do well and have fun. There are usually many coolers with beer and food when we are done riding.

Some eventers come to brush up on ground work. Some are western riders. Some children come to begin thier lives with horses. Sometimes there is a jumping lesson.

It's a hodgepodge. But we all have fun. We learn together. We support each other when things go wrong - either with ourselves or our horses. We are all in this together is heard a lot.

We drink beer, the cheaper the better and we love wine....

We all seem to share a bit of sick humor and sarcasm.

IE: There is a sign posted with the warning, if you are injured there is no suing the owner etc....and someone taped a note saying, "if you are dying, please do it quietly so as not to disturb the horses"

A.K. Alexander said...

I love your story, especially your barn's sign. Too funny!

mugwump said...

Yes, cowboys are fun. It's our hats.

Anonymous said...

Michele--I loved your post. Naturally I (as a past reiner, cutter and worst of all, team roper) always hung with your fun crowd, and, believe me, have had my fair share of beers before noon. Ditto for the cussing and stories. I have to admit that in my old age, now that I keep my horses at my own place, I've sort of lost the urge to hang out with the crowd and am more or less a horse hermit, riding mostly solo or with my kid on the trails near our home. We still go up to the roping arena once in awhile and hang out with the ropers, though, and most everybody has a beer with lunch, and many stories are told. I wouldn't want my son to miss out on western culture(!)

Stelladoro said...

My barn isn't nearly as nice between our sub-cultures. We have a few different trainers, and they all train different breeds and diciplines, and they also have a HUGE lesson program out there, that runs through about 30-40 kids a night between 4 instructors. So the boarders are driven nuts by the lesson kids, because the barn owner gives them arena priority, and then the boarders have nowhere to ride unless then want to dodge grouchy lesson horses and kids with no arena manners. And then we have the western pleasure/rail riders that get irritated with the dressage people because they can't pick a direction, and they're impossible to be in the arena with because they're constantly circling, leg yielding, etc. On top of that we have our jumper crowd, who no one really minds because they tend to try and jump when few other people are there (like mornings before the rest of the boarders are done with school and work), but they NEVER take their fences down, and they leave them on the walls where other people can't get past them, so people who don't jump end up taking them down and are irked by that. Of course, then the jumpers come back in and are mad that they have to reset their course.

The people who are diehards put up with it though, and make friends with the other groups. Despite the drama, we do have a very fun enviorment most of the time, especially since there are over a 100 horses out there, you get to meet all kinds of people!

The best part is when we start 'trading' horses, and then we all get a good laugh watch other people try out new diciplines and strange horses. Those are the fun nights to have on video!

Jami Davenport said...

Oh, I've boarded at many types of barns in the past. The barn I'm at now is strictly dressage. I have to say I miss boarding with the Quarter Horse crowd and going to the AQHA shows to support my friends.

While it's wonderful to be with people the ride what you ride, I really do enjoy the different disciples and people you meet when you have a mix at the barn.

M.K. Scott said...

Stelladorro--How do you handle that? I don't know how people would get along with all that going on. Wow!

We actually have it set up where there is a pony club arena, a cutting arena, a very large arena for anyone, and a jump course on the back forty--so there is a lot of room. We all use all of the arenas, but if I'm in one and it gets chaotic then I just go to another one. I don't know if I could handle what's going on at your barn, but the trading of horses could be interesting.


ezra_pandora said...

Stelladorro: you said "And then we have the western pleasure/rail riders that get irritated with the dressage people because they can't pick a direction" I wonder about this constantly because there is a little WP girl (or one who wish she is) who is constantly asking us to all go in the same direction because we just ride around however, frequently changing directions. Is that some WP law that says you all have to go the same way?? Her mom is ALWAYS yelling at her to go the same way as us, which is impossible. None of the horses get freaked out by it or anything. What is up with that?

Stelladoro said...

ezra-pandora- We like going the same direction when we're doing rail work because it's honestly just much easier to concentrate on yourself when you don't have to worry about horses coming at you. Also - it seems like the majority of the riders out there were never taught basic ring rules, so hardly anyone knows who has the right of way, and everyone is constantly yelling to call their spot, and if they don't yell to call their spot, you end up playing a demented version of chicken. Plus, it's how we show both in western pleasure and in hunter under saddle, so we like to ride how we show.

Michele - Honestly, it gets crazy at times. There's two indoor arenas, but one is too small to do much in, so people normally just longe up there and they do VERY beginner lessons. Then we have a HUGE outdoor, which is lighted, so in the summer we have 3 arenas to work with. In the winter however, nearly everyone is crammed in the lower indoor, and it's impossible for about 4 hours every evening when they're doing lessons. I normally come out early afternoon and ride when the trainers are riding, which is also when everyone who's trying to really accomplish anything with their horse rides - we just avoid the beginners ride time and it's normally ok. Especially since every once in a while we get a beginning rider or parent of a rider that's offended by something we're doing (like wearing spurs, carrying a whip/crop, or using a 'harsh bit', such as ANY type of curb apparently).

So it's a crazy enviorment, but it's worth it. I learn so much just by watching the trainers, and I get to take information and techniques I see in all different breeds and diciplines and put what I like towards my horse and myself. I think it's made me into a much better rider overall, and I'm certainly more well rounded then I would be at a barn that concentrated on one dicipline.