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November 4, 2010

Barn Manners: Banish The Borrowers?

Question:  There’s a person in our barn who is constantly borrowing things from everyone else—polo wraps, boots, bits, spurs, stirrups, she even used someone else’s saddle for the entire show season. We all know it’s expensive to ride, and you can’t always afford to buy everything your horse needs. And I don’t mind lending things out once in a while. But this chronic lending seems to be a solution rather than a stop-gap measure. In my opinion, if you can’t afford to be in the sport, get out. Harsh, I know. Should I share my views or sit back and continue to watch this person benefit from everyone’s generosity?

Answer: Ouch! I see we’ve touched on a sensitive subject. Understandable. Most of us work darn hard to pay to (or, ahem, to pay for someone else to) participate in this sport. And it doesn’t come cheap. Board, supplements, lessons, equipment and vet bills are just a few of the regular required outlays. Horse shows add a whole new level of stomach-churning expense to the equation.

Your barn-mate may be suffering from “reality-deficit.” Her equestrian trousseau is obviously not complete. She’s been fortunate up to now to benefit from the generosity of others, but it sounds like it may be time for her to invest in some additional essentials.

What’s the reason for the disconnect? There could be many. She may not know what she needs or the best way to go about getting it. Or, as you suspect, she could be taking advantage of others. But I’m guessing that her intentions are not that intentional or nefarious.

Don’t share your own items if you don’t want to. If asked, say: “Sorry, I don’t lend out my equipment. Thanks for understanding.” That should leave no doubt about your opinion on lending.

If this boarder is a tween or teen with non-horsey parents, it’s likely that her mom and dad have no idea the extensive borrowing is taking place. Perhaps her trainer or someone else in the barn could sit down with the kid and parents and help them write a list of items they need, ranking them by priority. Share the barn’s favorite second-hand tack shops and favorite online bargain sites too. This approach can work with adults too.

There are a lot of junior riders headed to finals this weekend that are there not only because of the blessing of borrowed tack, but also borrowed horses driven in a borrowed trailer.

Yes, our sport is expensive, but it’s also a sport that brings out the spirit of generosity in many of us. 

Elizabeth Howell grew up riding on the hunter/jumper circuit in Massachusetts. Now she is a horse show mom. She holds a day job at The Emily Post Institute and slings horse manure on the weekends. Her website is www.sheridesIpay.com.

 

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