In Which I Consider Being Part of a Barn

Writing: Essay


When you are part of a barn, you represent. I am conscious of this every time I put on a Stepping Stone Farm shirt. What if I stop by the bank/grocery store/WalMart and have a sense of humor failure? Will that reflect on the barn? This is not me being paranoid. One day, I stopped at the feed store on the way home from a lesson. I bought two? three? bags of feed. Some small number. I was presented with a HUGE bill. Without prompting from me, the checkout clerk had seen the SSF logo on my shirt, added my feed to the barn account, and present me with the total. The barn wasn’t past-due. This was the monthly amount. It costs a lot more to feed 20+ horses than it does to feed 2.

When you are part of a barn, they represent you. At one of the ASB shows, we got in the way of another trainer. Out of an excess of caution, I had closed the schooling arena gates while we hitched Milton. They wanted in. We asked for a moment while we hitched. They were not pleased. Milton behaved & we didn’t take long. After a minute or so, I opened the gates and invited them back in. Too late. We had already ruined their life. Later, they came over to explain the many, many ways we had erred. What interested me was that they did not approach us until Coach Courtney had left. I felt like a feudal vassal, under the protection of my liege lord.

When you are part of a barn, you inherit their friends. I’ve already mentioned that any publicity I get is from being associated with Coach Courtney [More 15 Minutes]. When I started showing, people were friendly to me because I was with SSF. If we had randomly shown up at an ASB show to school Milton, no one would have talked to us. Not to be mean. People would have been occupied getting on with their lives and their businesses. No one has time to befriend every stray who appears at a horse show.

When you are part of a barn, you inherit their enemies. I came out of the ring after a class. I had just won. I was feeling boisterous. We all needed to turn around and head back in for the second class. In the melee, I ended up at the back of the pack. I made enthusiastic noises to inspire the troops onwards. Another trainer (not the one above) told me to wait my turn and not get ugly. Lady, I couldn’t do ugly if I tried. Perky? Yes. Annoying? I’ll grant you. Ugly? I wouldn’t know how. Later, it occurred to me that this person was not a member of the Coach Courtney fan club. Perhaps I was tarred with the same brush merely by an SSF student.

When you are part of a barn, it can be emotionally supportive. You have an immediate group of folks to cheer for and who will cheer for you. You have a reason to spend five days in Lexington, as if I needed the excuse. To this day, I have friends I made in at a barn 40 years ago (waves Hi!).

When you are part of a barn, it can get emotionally messy. Everyone in the horse world has stories of rider-trainer relationships gone sour. Nor it is limited to the horse world. The same misunderstandings happen from ballroom dancing to pastoral care, “I can’t help but think I would have saved myself a lot of pain if I had maintained a strictly professional view of the relationship.” The Girl with the Tree Tattoo: There’s Being Friendly, and Then There’s Being Friends. It’s not all bad. “Just because your teacher isn’t categorized as your friend doesn’t mean you won’t form a close bond with them.” Ibid. I remind myself of this on a regular basis. Coach Courtney has contracted to teach me to ride. She has not contracted to be my best friend. I am not her life. I am not her family.

I am part of her barn family … which is awesome.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

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