Barn Etiquette 101

As I lay here at the barn i’m thinking a lot about how much my current sunburn hurts and how there is no comfortable position to sit or lay to write this blog post today. 

I want to talk about things that are very important in a barn. Those are the simple things that we often times forget. It’s the small little common courtesy is of the barn that can make or break any good barn. When I talk about making or breaking a barn I don’t mean that as in the barn burning down. I mean that in a way of making the barn a better place for all those who board horses, take lessons, have horses in training, or work at the facility. It’s a way of making the barn a happy place, instead of a place of lots of working and looking run down.

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Take responsibility. Clean up after your horse in the grooming area and crossties. Until that bridle is on, there is no reason to not do it right then and there. If your horse is completely tacked, it’s a given you’re not going to unbridle him and put him back in a halter so you can clean up. Nor do you want to hook crossties to his bridle. Clean it up when you finish riding. Chances are if it is a busy barn, someone will go ahead and clean it up for you before grooming and tacking their horse. Thank them and remember to return the favor. A boarding stable with horse owners that look out for one another is the best barn to be in. It can be a simple check to make sure all the gates on the property are closed. Or it could be picking out of the arena after riding. It can be putting the polls away and jumps or barrels.Don’t leave your horse’s halter hooked to the crosstie. Before you leave for the day, snap your horse’s halter and lead shank together and hang it in the designated area by his or her stall. In case of emergency or fire, this step-saving measure could possibly save your horse’s life.

Be proactive. One of the best things you can do besides all of the things listed above would be to double check all of the water troughs or buckets and horses stalls. If you water your horse, rewind the hose. If you pick out your horse’s stall, empty the muck basket and put the pitchfork away.

Be tidy.  Pick up trash from the ground, rails, and tack trunks.   So what if it is not yours — that is how kids think — be an adult and be responsible and always leave the area cleaner than when you arrived.  Small pieces of plastic or metal are hazardous to horses’ sensitive hooves.  Wrappers, soda cans, and food items attract flies, yellow jackets, rodents, and can be ingested by curious horses.  Bags and paper that fly around in the wind can spook horses.

Manners count.  We expect our horses to learn and practice good ground manners.  People should, too.  Say please, thank you, and show respect to staff, workers, trainers, and other clients.

Obey the rules.  If you barn has a policy about not eating or drinking in certain areas, don’t break the rule and sneak food in main areas.  No matter how silly a rule may seem to you, riding stables and barn owners are responsible for the safety and welfare of all their riders and horses and there is probably a good reason for certain procedures and rules.

Be considerate. When a horse is approaching you from the opposite direction, it’s just like driving a car. That horse should most always be on your left. Changing directions and reversing should be announced also. You don’t have to shout, just simply state the fact. Most often the other riders will oblige. Let them know if you are going to school over jumps. There is nothing more annoying, not to mention potentially dangerous, than having a horse and rider start taking jumps without advance warning. When entering and leaving the arena, say “Door” to let others know you are entering and leaving; approach crossties with regard to the horse and rider. Horses can spook for seemingly no reason at all, don’t give them excuses.  Don’t blast music and disturb the peace of those around you.  Wearing headphones is not a good idea because you may not be able to hear another horse or rider call out to you.  Never borrow tack, shampoo, grooming tools, etc. without asking.

Report problems immediately.  Do not assume someone else has noticed and already reported a broken door, fence that needs repair, or a horse that appears to be sick or injured.  If you see something wrong or that concerns you, tell someone in charge.

Be friendly.  When you establish yourself as being friendly, courteous, and responsible, people are more likely to pay attention to your horse when you are not there.Don’t get into barn gossip, nothing good will come of it.

Don’t feed other horses.  Unless you specifically have permission from a horse owner, resist the urge to give other horses carrots, apples, hay, feed, or treats.  Many horses have health issues and must be on a specific diet.  Older horses may have pre-diabetes and even giving them carrots can make them sick.  Horses recovering from colic, abscesses, or leg problems often need special diets, or strict scheduled feeding.  Also, hand feeding treats can teach some horses bad habits like nipping, pawing, or begging for treats.  Whenever giving treats (with permission) to someone elses’ horse, put treats into a bucket — and do not offer them from your hand unless the owner says it is okay.

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