Friday, November 11, 2016

A Mischief of Barn Rats

I can't take credit for this wonderful phrase, but I can expand on why I think it's so important to foster my own 'mischief' of barn rats.

A client posted this article on my Facebook and I read it with my brow furrowed, deep in thought. "Be the barn rat," the article encourages.

I considered that of the 13 riders I regularly teach on Saturdays, I can count on six of them to hang around, groom horses, sweep the barn, help new students tack up, rearrange jumps, show me funny Instagram accounts, and generally be there for me.

It's sort of my M.O.  -- you hang out at my barn, you learn about the running of the lessons. Most of these kids have heard me take a student from the first time on a horse through cantering so many times they can recite the order of the exercises I teach.

If you sit around for too long on your phone, I call on you to run alongside a nappy lesson horse to help get the kid trotting.

If you listen carefully, ask good questions, and help out, you earn extra an impromptu rides. (Maybe not always the horse you'd hoped for!)

November 8, 2014 - four barn rats helping adjust stirrups
If you ride at my barn, eventually you graduate to the point where you can hang out. And I think that's pretty cool, and important, and I can't imagine my program without this element.

Tango also can't imagine life without these barn rats hanging around, but mostly because he's hoping they'll bring carrots.

What do you think? Does your barn or trainer foster barn rats?


  1. I think that in a lot of barns the traditional barn rat isn't as accepted. Or kids excpect something in return and are lazy so maybe trainers and barn owners aren't as interested in supporting them? I am at a barn with very few kids and no resident trainer but it doesn't seem to be the norm like it was when I was younger.

  2. My trainer who's just establishing her business has 4 in her 'mischief'. And she has it pretty much set up as you describe although one has graduated to more of a working student type of scenario.

    My favorite instance of barn rat shenanigans was a couple of weeks back when my husband was having a jump school for an upcoming event. Two of the rats and I set up a bunch of jumps in the outdoor to trainers specifications. Then trainer dictated a course to DH. Then she let barn rat #1 dictate a course, then #2 and finally me. The look of surprise on #1's face was priceless at first. Then we all got in to it and had an absolute blast, including DH. Much fun was had by all!

  3. Back in the olden days it was definitely fostered, I can't tell you how many days I spent at the barn all day cleaning lesson horse tack, or giving lesson horses baths, re-rolling polos, etc etc. My more knowledgeable barn BFF taught me a lot of stuff I didn't know too (because actually we were typically not supervised at the barn I guess we're lucky we were never kidnapped).

  4. I was a barn rat growing up. With or without a trainer there lol. I enjoyed it a lot even though I didn't really get a super amount of perks (no lesson horses). But it definitely fostered a lot of good qualities in me.

  5. I was a barn rat growing up and can't imagine not being one. I think it sucks how few kids can do this nowadays.

  6. Your program sounds wonderful! I have never really been a barn rat or been at a barn where that was offered/encouraged. Your kids are lucky!!

  7. I basically never grew out of my barn rat phase haha, esp as a non owner at my last barn who made ends meet by covering chores. And even at every barn I've worked at, I've always encouraged kids to hang around and help out and learn.

  8. We have a few barn rats that are wonderful and that I'm always grateful for having around. They learn tons and are better riders for it as well

  9. Ehh...there are like 2-3 kids that come around to hang out and help out, but typically the main people there are the employees and whoever is having a lesson. Trainer K definitely encourages the kids to help out, but I think there are pretty big time conflicts a lot of the time, especially during the school year, and there aren't many lessons on weekends.