Before that, I had been blithely riding in a backyard barn, grossly unaware of the culture surrounding the Hunter/Jumper show world. I naively assumed that people were judged on their horsemanship and ability to ride. I had not yet made the acquaintance of a hairnet.
|No hairnet and a green jacket. Quelle Horror!|
By moving to the new barn, I had made a great choice for my personal safety. But, it wasn't long before I realized "Uh-oh Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore."
There were some good things about SB Trainer's program. SBT was an exceptional rider and an excellent instructor. She emphazised safety and riding and showing a horse that was appropriate to your level of skill and ability. There was absolutely no drugging of any horses. The horses behaved, or they were quickly moved on to another home or program.
After that is where the wheels fell off the bus.
Show barn quickly devolved into an episode of Mean Girls.
There was a clique of teen and pre-teen girls that made up the show team, complete with its own Regina George. These girls were not comfortable anywhere but in the confines of a ring. They looked down their noses at any discipline other than hunters. It was important to have the "right" things - a $500 helmet, TS Breeches, a custom CWD saddle - and show at the "right" venues. There was quite a bit of backstabbing and even malicious destruction of property.
Unfortunately, some of these values came from the top down. SBT had a program, and you had better be on board. There were certain requirements to meet, such as the right polos, the right monogrammed stable blanket and the right scrim sheet in stable colors, monogrammed, of course. Woe betide anyone who bought their horse a zebra-print halter or fun colored saddlepad.
I even overheard her say that she liked her students to wear their matching barn jackets at shows because it would 'intimidate the other competitors.' Umm, no.
I tried my best to be a good team member. I was never late for lessons and paid my bills on time. I tried to be supportive and positive to fellow riders. Despite my efforts, it was clear that I was not part of the 'in crowd'. Although it was ridiculous feeling ostracized in my 30's, I defintiely got the impression I was being talked about, mean girls style.
I left show barn in August 2013 after selling my TB mare. About a month after I left, I was contacted by a former fellow adult boarder, who asked why I hadn't stayed on after selling my mare. I was honest with her about my feelings. Although she wouldn't tell me what was said, she did confirm my suspicions that I had been talked about behind my back.
The reason why was that I hadn't fully bought in - I didn't drink the kool-aide.
I'm not sure if all "show barns" are similar to what I experienced, but if that is the pervading culture, then it is not for me.