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5 Tips to Survive in Today’s Equestrian World

two horse heads

Choose to Prosper and Thrive

As a keen observer and avid equestrian, I have noticed a shift in the equestrian world. I am seeing more people leave their passion of showing horses (in any discipline) and turn their equestrian counterparts into pasture pets or trail riding steeds.

After noticing this trend while photographing horse shows, I learned it was largely driven by the growing negativity and judgment in and around the show ring and arena.

On the flip side, there are also plenty of people pinching pennies so they can afford their first horse or a used saddle — or plucking up every ounce of courage they have to attend a saddle club meeting where they don’t know anyone.

Regardless of your personally situation, there are many challenges within the equestrian world. Whether you think of yourself as a total rookie or a seasoned veteran, these 5 tips can help you survive bumps in the road.

1) Keep Calm and Carry On

Some people are going to judge other riders or gossip — it’s an unfortunate reality. There are bullies in every hobby community, and we need to stop tearing people down and start building them up and supporting them. “You do you!” as they say.

I found a wonderful article with a pretty cool hashtag movement #notonmyyard. It’s a good read and provides an important perspective on this issue.

Chief Rookie Aside: Inclusion is critical in equestrian sports, which is why we launched Braided: A Herd Dynamic.

2) Lean on Your Circle

Whether your circle is comprised of you and your Mum, or a whole lot bigger, lean on your support system. Vent when you need to, but keep it brief. Focus on being productive and moving forward instead of dwelling on what’s wrong.

Your support system can help you keep on truckin’ when you don’t feel like it or celebrate victories by your side.

horse riding friends

Source: Pxfuel.com

3) Watch for Learning Opportunities

Learning opportunities come in all forms; books, videos, workshops, clinics etc. Researching how to clean up your barrel racing turns or boost your dressage score until 2 am? Good for you. The more you know, the more you’ll accomplish.

Here are a few things you might consider:

  • Find a trainer or mentor to provide lessons or informal feedback.
  • Follow inspiring equestrians on social media.
  • Watch quality equestrian vlogs.
  • Join a horse forum.
  • Research topics you care about online.

4) Attend a Workshop or Clinic

I think of this tip separately from other learning opportunities point above since workshops and clinics can cost money and may involve travel. If you find one that appeals to you — and it’s within your budget and geography — go for it!

Evaluate where you are with your horse and whether these types of events can help you get closer to your goals. Go with a friend or make a new friend there if you go alone. Either way, you’ll improve the bond between you and your horse.

dressage quadrille

Source: Pxfuel.com

5) Encourage Good Sportsmanship

This one is a biggie! I cannot tell you how many times I have seen new riders join a club and alienate themselves in a corner, ride, leave, and then complain that no one is helping them or being friendly.

Just as the current club members need to be welcoming to guests and new riders, new riders and guests should be approachable too.

If you are standing by the barrel racing alley and see a rider having issues getting into the arena, offer to help. Wish other riders good luck, and tell them great job when they are done. A kind word can go a long way.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an equestrian?

The definition of equestrian is “a person who rides horses.” In the equestrian world, it refers to someone who regularly rides or does work with horses.

Even if someone can’t ride (or chooses not to ride) horses, they may do other activities  like driving. They are still equestrians!

There can be some argument as to what makes an individual an “equestrian,” but both professional and recreational horse people count. If you rode a horse one time on vacation that doesn’t make you an equestrian, but if you own a horse and ride for pleasure you can call yourself an equestrian, even if you don’t show.

How do you make friends at a new barn?

Making friends at a new barn is the same as making friends anywhere else. Age can make a difference in how easy it is to create these friendships, the same as in any other setting.

To make friends you should be honest about yourself and what your interests are, talk to the other people, and be friendly. True friendship takes time, and it’s best if you avoid overthinking it. Once you meet someone you have something in common with, or click with, you can start coordinating fun activities at and away from the barn.

Many horse friends are at the barn at the same time and may make plans to ride together or participate in shows or clinics. Just because you are horse friends, remember you’re not limited to equine activities. Many people spend time with their riding buddies by going out for a night on the town, taking trips, or planning other fun activities.

Is being an equestrian a job?

Simply being an equestrian is not a “job,” but there are professional equestrians. They usually have careers like riding and driving other people’s horses or even competing with their own horses. Many professional equestrians teach lessons and/or clinics and many others own or manage facilities. Many people that strive for an equestrian job may take working internships at prominent farms where they have first-hand opportunities to learn from top equestrians.

There are also other jobs that don’t involve riding or driving and are considered “equine” jobs. An equestrian may have an equine job. Some of these include veterinarian, farrier, stable owner, barn manager, massage therapist, vet tech, groom, and more.

What is proper horse barn etiquette?

To be a good boarder is very simple. First and foremost, you should follow the barn rules. Even if your last barn had different rules it’s not your place to change them to suit yourself. Barns cannot run smoothly if people don’t work together, so by simply following the rules there is less chance of confusion or hurt feelings.

You should also keep your area clean and be a good tack room neighbor. Don’t leave spills, clumps of hair, dirt from hooves, or your supplies strewn about the aisle. Keep your tack in your designated space and clean up after yourself. If you are out and about with your horse pick up after them if they poop! Don’t leave work for other people to do.

If you are responsible for your horse’s care, make sure you’re responsible. Don’t run out of food or hay, make sure to track their vet and farrier visits, and clean their stalls and turnouts as required. A neglectful owner is stressful for everyone.

Importantly, don’t touch or use other people’s supplies or horses without permission. Moving someone else’s things around, moving their horse, or combining other people’s horses is a big no-no.

Leave gates as you find them – open gates should remain open and closed gates should remain closed.

Communicate effectively with those around you and don’t make baseless assumptions! Many “issues” that arise at horse barns are a direct result of poor communication and jumping to conclusions.

Finally, don’t mooch off of everyone else. Always pay your boarding fees, don’t constantly bum hay or supplies off the other boarders, and don’t constantly expect people to do your work for free.

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What is the World Equestrian Center?

The World Equestrian Center is a horse show facility that has two locations – one in Florida and one in Ohio. They are used for horse shows as well as dog shows, weddings, and many other events. The horse shows they host include all different disciplines, including dressage, eventing, polo, hunter/jumper, and more. They also have a Cadets Horsemanship Program to teach horsemanship skills to young riders.

The Florida venue is the largest equestrian complex in the United States and is slated to open in 2021. The Ohio venue was rebranded as the World Equestrian Center in 2016 and was previously known as the Roberts Arena.

Be a Change Agent

It takes less than 30 seconds to make or break someone with kind or cruel words. We all need to be kind, supportive, uplifting, and encouraging. Riding horses is a joy and a privilege. Why did you get into horses in the first place? What drew you in? Why are you an equestrian? Make sure you’re acting in a way that makes you proud to be an equestrian, and start today!

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

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About the author

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International Cowgirl

Catriona (Cat) was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland before moving to Florida, USA. She is a sponsor for West Volusia Saddle Club and enjoys connecting equestrian and rodeo communities on a global scale. She blogs about her adventures on her blog, International Cowgirl.

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