As a continuation of last week’s blog post I thought it would be great to talk about how our barn environment affects our ability to work with our horses in a useful way and what we need in a barn. If you didn’t see last week’s post you can read it here.
The most important aspect of a barn for us horseman is that we are comfortable at the barn. If you are nervous or anxious at the barn that anxiety will transfer into your horsemanship. Your horse picks up on any emotion you have when you are working with him. Sometimes this is a good thing because he picks up on your happiness and contentedness. However, horses are just as likely if not more likely to pick up on the negative emotions. Stress from work, anger over bad drivers, and worry over impending weather can all put the horse into danger mode.
When your horse is in danger mode he is more alert, worried, and ready to make a move. This is exactly the opposite of the state you want to work with your horse in. To get your horse back to a relaxed, calm state you first have to calm yourself. If the barn causes some of this anxiety you are fighting a losing battle.
If you are just a little bit stressed from an event prior to coming to the barn the horse might try to calm you down and show you everything is okay. This might work out well enough for a light ride or short session that leaves you feeling better. However, day after day of this will take its toll on your horse. He’ll start to wonder what danger he’s missing and you won’t be able to help his anxiety because you are too wrapped up in your own. This is a doomed situation.
Having a group of like-minded individuals you can talk to and enjoy spending time with makes a huge difference at a barn. Knowing other people not only helps prevent the anxiety many horsemen face when they feel they are being watched, it also serves as a support group for the unavoidable situations that shake your confidence. This peer group can cheer you on when you are discouraged and offer advice when you are struggling. This doesn’t have to be a group of experts, just a few people you can talk with and bounce ideas off of.
The more like-minded people at your barn the better. That isn’t to say that differences of opinion are a bad thing, but when you are really committed to putting your horse first it can be difficult to be surrounded by lots of people who don’t think that way. If those people are the type to offer unwelcome advice it can be very distracting and confusing, especially if you are just beginning your equine journey. This will affect some people more than others, so determine how much it matters to you.
Besides being comfortable and free of anxiety at your barn, it is also important that you have the amenities you need in order to work with and enjoy your horse. Some facilities have indoor arenas and round pens, hot walkers, and turnouts. Others have small outdoor arenas and year-round trails. You don’t necessarily need a barn that has everything, but make sure that the bulk of what you do with your horse can easily be done with the existing facilities.
Location is another important aspect of choosing a barn. Although you might decide driving a distance doesn’t bother you, make sure to account for the traffic you may hit and the effect that will have on you. If you are the type that gets stressed in traffic that might not be the best situation for you. Any stress you get from the drive will still be there when you get to the barn, ready to impact your training session.
Your barn should be a stress free, anxiety free, worry free zone that allows you to relax and focus on your horse. Anything that gets in the way of that is a problem. Of course I know we all have to make sacrifices and finding a barn that works for your horse is equally important. It is well worth the effort to find a barn that meets you and your horse’s needs the best so that you can be more productive and enjoy your time with your horse. After all, this is a hobby, isn’t it?