STAFFORDSHIRE EQUESTRIAN CENTER INC.
Over the years . . .
Over the years . . .
the barn has acted as my school, my church, my sanctuary, and most of all, my home. As my junior years wrap up and I head off to college with the amateur life looming near, I find myself reflecting on all the invaluable things the barn has taught me, both in and out of the saddle. I will be the first to say that I did not learn all of these things the easy way, but by now they are instilled in me and this is the best advice I can give as my time as a barn kid comes to a close.
1. Cherish every moment at the barn. When you’re young and have few responsibilities, it’s so easy to take your time at the barn for granted. Try your best not to, because once you’re a senior, you’ll realize that your “years” have turned into months, and soon you’ll begin a new chapter of your life called adulthood.
2. Pass left hand to left hand!!!
3. Be a horseman, not just a rider. The horses don’t sign up for this. Take pride in taking the absolute best care of your horse that you can. Constantly look out for what is in the horse’s best interest- they don’t have a voice to tell you that they’re tired, thirsty, or hurting. It’s your responsibility to be their voice and advocate.
4. Remember who helped you along the way in your riding career. Thank them. Especially your parents and trainer.
5. Soak up knowledge. Even if you don’t want to do this for a living, try to learn as much as you can about everything- riding theory, stable management, veterinary practice. The more you know, the better care you can take of your horse. Take the time to learn how to wrap legs. Watch the vet do lameness evaluations. Talk to the farrier about why he’s doing what he’s doing. Ask questions, most people will appreciate that you are interested in learning.
6. Remember that the reason all of us started riding in the first place is because it’s fun, and we love the animals. So if you need to take a day or two to ride in a halter or go on a meandering trail ride, that’s perfectly OK. The horses need mental days sometimes, too.
7. Never, ever, get caught up in any sort of petty drama with other kids at the barn. Take that negative energy and channel it into improving your riding.
8. Ride without stirrups without being told to.
9. There is no excuse for going to a horse show poorly turned out. When you step into the show ring, you are representing your trainer and the barn as a whole. When it comes to turnout, your motto should be “look perfect.” It does not matter if it’s a Podunk backyard show, or Marshall and Sterling Finals. You are presenting yourself in front of a judge. Have dignity and respect. It should matter to you.
10. Stay humble- although horses have a funny way of making sure you do, anyway.
11. Be disciplined. In the saddle, work on your weaknesses without being told to even though it isn’t necessarily fun. Don’t aimlessly hack around when you aren’t in a lesson- have a plan to improve. In the barn, keep your belongings clean and organized. Take good care of your horse even though it will take longer than just hosing off and throwing him/her in the stall.
12. Don’t burn bridges. Sometimes they will catch fire themselves. But don’t start the blaze.
13. Invest in a good video camera and get someone to video your riding. It can help enormously to see your riding for yourself.
14. Take responsibility for your mistakes. According to psychologists, defensive attribution causes us to attribute our failures to external factors, or things out of our control. So it’s human nature to say “I lost that class because the judge hates my horse,” but in reality, you probably lost the class because you chipped the first jump. Or maybe the judge does hate your horse- but if the barn hasn’t taught you that life isn’t fair yet, you haven’t stuck around long enough. Once you own your mistakes and learn to think critically about your riding, you will improve much faster.
15. If you see a mess anywhere- the trailer, the barn aisle, the ring- pick it up. Even if it’s not yours.
16. Always keep things in perspective. It’s extremely frustrating when your hard work doesn’t pay off or something unexpected happens. As a very competitive person, I’ve had to remind myself that I am incredibly lucky and privileged just to be able to throw my leg over a horse’s back. Other people struggle to put dinner on the table… I think this is where we need to realize that our tribulations of having to make a horse braver or create a stronger hind end are what is called “first world problems.”
17. Don't feel entitled to anything you didn't sweat and work for. Nothing worth having ever came easy, anyway.
18. This one will sound really cliché, but never give up, and never give in, even when the going gets tough. Perseverance has quite literally gotten me to where I am today. And sometimes the tough horses are the ones that have the most to give you.
19. Remember this quote: “Two things define you: your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.”
The barn has given me all the gifts I need to be an honorable and hardworking individual. For that, I am eternally grateful. Behind all the blood, sweat and tears, there was a little girl who fell in love with the sport and never looked back. How lucky am I to have had such an incredible place to grow up. I know the barn can do the same for all of you.
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