Each barn has its own personality, its very own unique feel. Some are friendlier than others. Some are fancy, while others are more down home. Some house very serious competitors, and there are those who just want to have fun. But across the board, the basics of barn behavior, barn etiquette if you will, is universal. When riding in an arena going the same direction as another horse, let the person ahead of you know if you are going to pass to the inside or the outside, say “inside” or “outside” and stick to it. Don’t change your mind at the last second. The horse and rider in front of you needs to rely on you to make the right choice. It’s hard to ride when you’re looking over your shoulder.
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.
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.
Thus said, this does not apply to giving treats to another person’s horse. Do not, I repeat, do not assume it is okay to pass out carrots, apples, sugar cubes, low-cal treats, or anything of the like. It is not your right. Let me say that again. It is not your right. It is wrong. If you have asked the owner’s permission and it has been granted, that’s a different thing. Aside from that, even if the horse is the best beggar in the world and does handstands and summersaults for carrots, please, please, please, walk on by. That horse could be on a special diet, he could have just been wormed, treated with medication. He could be allergic. You don’t know. His owner knows, and rightfully so. It’s not your horse.
In certain barns, it’s alright to give your horse extra hay. Not anyone else’s, just yours. The best thing to do if you are finding that your horse doesn’t have hay and you hate leaving him or her that way is to talk to the barn manager or owner. Ask them what time horses are hayed and how often, when is night check, when is water topped off? As a rule, horses are not always going to have hay in their stalls, particularly the easy keepers. They eat quickly and take a dream-filled nap in preparation for the next feeding.
If you do give your horse hay, be quiet about it. The other horses are bound to get stirred up when they see you blatantly serving up hay to your horse and not them. It is not acceptable in any barn that I know of to hay your horse and then go hay everyone else’s because you feel bad, now that you have them all riled up. It goes back to not knowing each horse’s needs. Again, check with the owner or barn manager. This applies even more so with grain.
Do not borrow another person’s tack, blankets, and turnout sheets, fly masks; fly spray, etc. without asking. Do not borrow grooming supplies such as hoof picks and scissors without asking. Do not borrow grooming brushes and combs, period. It’s not good practice. 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. Post your contact information on the front of your horse’s stall, including blacksmith and veterinarian’s phone number. 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. Flush the toilet when you use it. Don’t let things spoil in the refrigerator. Don’t get into barn gossip, nothing good will come of it. Turn out the lights. Close the gates and doors. Be careful. Sound like home? It is your home; it’s your second home. It’s where your horse lives and chances are you spend a lot of time there. Enjoy!
MaryAnn Myers is an equestrian, horse trainer, and environmentalist. She is the author of equine novels, “Maple Dale,” “Favored to Win,” “Maple Dale Revisited,” and newly released, “Ellie’s Crows.” She lives with her family on an organic farm in Northeast Ohio, that houses rescue dogs and retirement horses. For more information about MaryAnn, please visit: http://www.sunrisehorsefarm.com
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