Barn Culture Shifts

The dynamic at my barn has changed drastically in the past two years. Everything I used to complain about or question (it was a pretty short list) I now look back on with nostalgia like “those were the good old days!”

There are not very many commercial barns in my area and I KNOW I am at the single best boarding facility nearby. So, I’m going to preface some upcoming mild whining by saying that I am extremely happy boarding here even with the changes.




I used to spend long weekend days and weekday evenings out there with my friend and we would often wonder if anyone else ever actually rode their horses. It was always so quiet and it wasn’t uncommon to have the place to myself to take in the sunset with Harley. Even when he was at his spookiest, I could count on the boarders and staff to keep random, scary behavior to a minimum.

The local pros have their lesson days where the arena is “occupied” but anyone is allowed to ride as long as the person taking a lesson gets the right of way. Our arena cannot be reserved unless for a clinic but otherwise anyone is free to ride during working hours and haul-ins are welcome. We have an indoor arena, outdoor arena, a couple of round pens, and trails available for riding. The outdoor riding areas are uncovered and do not have lights so during winter months or when it’s raining we are all confined to the indoor. I’m sure by now you can see where this is going…

A local trainer left her job managing one of the other barns in the area and when that happened, several of those young riders jumped ship and moved out to my barn all around the same time. They are all pretty nice young teens but their previous barn was obviously managed in a completely different way. It’s clear that their old barn functioned much more as a free-for-all babysitting service where parents happily dropped their pre-teens off in the morning with a bag lunch and came and picked them up at night. You can imagine my delight at my barn suddenly converting into a year round summer camp.




But, EquiNovice, wouldn’t you have loved this kind of thing when you were a kid?! Why, yes, yes I would have, but that’s beside the point. It would be fine for me if these young teens humbly came in eager to meet the other boarders and learn the ropes at their new barn but, sadly, that’s not what happened. It would likewise be fine if these year-round “campers” came in ready to do all the grunt work around the barn just to be close to horses but that’s not what happened, either. THESE are the things I would have done if I were these kids.

Instead, the end result is that there is hardly any available time to work, ride, or develop a relationship with a new baby horse without being run over by a tween leg-yielding for a snapchat video. We now have Starbucks cups littering our tack rooms, crossties left hanging down in the mud, ignored arena etiquette, and distracted instructors forced to play air traffic control during paid lessons. I know I have become a crotchety old grandma at the ripe old age of in my thirties but, kids these days, AM I RIGHT??!?!!? ughhh.

It’s not entirely these kids’ fault, just the increase in traffic at the barn is generating some tension. People used to try and avoid posted lesson times but now that riding time is so scarce, I know I’m not the only one who has converted what used to be “oh, you’re riding, I’ll wait and lunge later” into “sorry, I got in here first, so feel free to ride around me while I lunge”. It’s not awful but it is more tense than it used to be.




Last night I had to wait for a boarder to move their horse out of the drive way and stop taking a video of their horse on their phone just so I could enter the property…

Has the culture at your barn successfully weathered a dramatic shift? What’s your standard operating procedure when you move to a new barn? What is the average age range of clientele at your barn? Does age make a difference in how boarders behave?





12 thoughts on “Barn Culture Shifts

  1. In the last few years the barn I board at has gotten busier, with more people riding. During the winter, it’s definitely harder to find time to ride or lunge without at least a few people also working their horses. Luckily, it’s mostly adults at our barn, who are all generally respectful. Hopefully it will settle down soon and things will even out ❤

    • I think it will settle down a little bit especially when all of the riding areas will be back in play. It’s been tough this spring here with so much rain. There’s still no grass in the pastures and the outdoor footing has been too wet.

  2. My neighbor (whose arenas I use and whose barn I boarded at before moving next door) always has a ton of kids around. They’re pleasant enough and she’s really good about making them pick up trash, help with the grunt work, and generally be respectful. But man, I don’t like to share the tiny indoor with kids who are just learning how to steer!

    • I wish my barn owner found confrontation less painful- several boarders have lodged complaints and I feel like most of these issues could have been resolved with a kind, but firm upfront discussion of expectations with kid and parents. Sigh… I hear ya about arena sharing with those that aren’t great at steering. I’ve kinda got the opposite situation but same problem- these cocky teens do whatever they want whenever they want with zero regard for anyone else in the arena so it’s still always me yielding or having to watch out.

  3. With land being expensive in California it will just be a forgone conclusion that all public boarding facilities will just get busier and busier. I personally always do my best to be courteous but I also don’t follow certain rules if no one else does.

  4. Yikes. I have definitely been at barns dominated by unpleasant “youths” but I have never had to watch a quiet barn transform into a messy, noisy place. Maybe the barn owners will step in eventually?

    • I hope so! But at least this summer when the kids aren’t in school I hope they will be there more during the day and open up some riding time in the evenings for those of us who work. That doesn’t do much for the mess- but maybe for the noise!

  5. I loved the barn I boarded at before moving because it had NO drama. It as the first barn I’d ever been at without any drama. It was a quiet place with only a few people and the arena was never crowded. I hope things calm down at your barn.

    • A quiet, no drama barn is heaven! Now I’m stuck just looking for silver linings like- the kids will be gone a lot for shows this summer- so that will be nice lol

  6. There are a couple of people at my barn who I try to avoid riding in the arena with – mostly because I don’t want to have to be a witness when their stupidity inevitably gets them in trouble. Otherwise, there is only one night that I try to avoid riding due to jump lessons, but since it’s my day off it’s not much of a problem.
    My biggest complaint has been from some of the teens in the past who park their horses in a spot that’s convenient for them but for no one else, but they are generally good kids, who are now approaching the end of their teenage years. Now that they have jobs I seldom see them. We don’t really have any kids that ride outside of their weekly lesson, and they tack up in a different barn so we don’t interact very much with them.

    • That whole “parking their horse in a spot that’s convenient for them but for no one else” phenomenon is exhaustingly annoying. It’s the worst because it’s not a rule or policy being broken but just a social more not being followed and just bad manners. So far these kinds of things haven’t been enough to count on my barn manager to step in 😦

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