Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Show Barn (Continued...)



My first and only experience with a Hunter "Show Barn" kicked off in June 2012.

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.


Matchy-matchy

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.




14 comments:

  1. sounds like a tough situation... and definitely not the kind of environment i thrive in (tho i spent plenty of time there too...)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I hate when barns are like that, it's just cruel. I'm glad that you're in a happy and safe situation now :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ugh that stinks. It definitely happens at a lot of places though!

    ReplyDelete
  4. So sad when barns are like that! It's not just show barns either. It really is a 'top down' kind of thing like you mentioned. One of the best barns I rode at had zero tolerance for gossip or unsupportive barn mates yet was still pretty competitive. I think it was 100% a reflection of the way the coach and owners presented themselves and the 'nasty' people stayed far away!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It happen in many type of barns. Must be human nature. I learned to do my thing and keep away from any drama as much as possible. I love having the horses at home. I can create my own drama.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I avoid barns with lots of teenagers. They have too much time and energy to make good barnmates. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sorry you had that experience, just takes some bad eggs to ruin the bunch eh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it was a pretty sucky experience all around. Really left a bad taste in my mouth for the show barn world. I'm sure they aren't all like that. But it may just not be the best fit for me.

      Delete
  8. Seriously agree with SB -- teenagers are the WORST! Our barn shows, and we're going to more and more every year (and to be honest, the teenagers do the most of the showing, few of them that there are), but the majority of the riders at our barn are adults. I hope we're not cliquey or ostracizing, and I try to be very welcoming to anyone new (sometimes I'm overly aggressive in my friendliness....), but I have to say that I do feel the most comfortable with my group of old, standard friends. Not that anybody can't join that group, it just takes some time to work your way in.

    Regardless -- that's not a reason to be rude or mean or talk behind peoples' back. And regarding the shit talking that happened after you left, I say fuck 'em. Individuality and having a good time is way more important than fitting in with a group of mindless drones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh and just something to consider -- you're riding still, in your 30s. The attrition rate of teenagers riding is sooooooooo high. I wonder how many of those perfect show girls will still be riding in their thirties?!

      Delete
    2. Yes, I have to say I'm not a fan of riding at a kid barn! What made me sad was how close-minded these kids were. There was a LOT of breed bias and looking down on other disciplines. It was all about what you had. I think they were missing out on so much of the larger horse world. I may be a mainly English rider, but I can still appreciate a nice reining horse or saddlebred. Heck, I even think Mules are super cool! I love ALL THE THINGS and good horsemanship can be appreciated in many different forms.

      Delete
  9. I jut found your blog through Jodi's recommendation, sorry to hear that things turned sour for you at that show barn.
    I'm looking forward to back tracking and catching up on your adventures thus far ☺

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh I have been there myself, and I didn't drink the koolaid either. Mostly because I couldn't afford to keep up with the trends.

    Horses are supposed to be a fun hobby and bring joy into our lives, it's so frustrating when barn drama takes away from that.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sometimes you fit in, and sometimes you don't. It sucks that gossiping was so pervasive there and I personally don't think that destruction of property is EVER okay.

    ReplyDelete