Show Your Barn Family Some Love
One of the most wonderful aspects of the horse world is the having the opportunity to build a network of fellow horse enthusiasts by taking lessons, showing, or just riding for fun with friends.
Because February is the month of love, we are giving you some tips for how to show your barn family love using Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages” model.
Words of Affirmation
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to show someone you care is by genuinely encouraging and uplifting one another. And what better way to encourage someone than by actively listening to them? Listen to your barn mates and what their goals, worries, and dreams are.
Remember what they are striving toward and celebrate their little victories or mourn their defeats with them. Our words are powerful, and many riders often express how deeply moved they are by kind words from someone they look up to. We all have the power to make someone’s day with a simple statement.
Examples: Leave personalized notes in your barn family’s tack trunks (or a place they will find them) that offer encouragement or celebrate a recent achievement. Send text messages after lessons complimenting them on a breakthrough or cheering them on after a tough day. Mean what you say – people can tell when you are not real, so mean it when you offer praise. And, perhaps most importantly, say thank you when people help you or do something nice for you.
Giving gifts to friends is a more obvious and more expensive way to show you care. However, even more important than the price tag, is the thought that went into the gift. Again, it is easier to come up with meaningful gift ideas when you spend time listening to your barn mates.
Maybe they mention they need a new hoof pick or fly mask? Or perhaps they have a favorite author or musician? If you take an interest in your barn family’s interests, you will be in a much better position to offer meaningful gifts.
Examples: Surprise your horse friends by taking photos/videos of them riding during their lesson. So many people forget to ask for them or get too busy. You could also take candid shots of them with their horse – cell phone cameras are great for capturing these moments.
These little gifts are free and mean a lot to our friends. For those wanting to spend a bit more money on their barn friends, there are a wide variety of personalized horse-themed items with a wide price range (bridle tags, halter plates, and even custom horse paintings on brushes).
It has been said that the most precious thing you can give someone is your time. This is particularly true in a situation where the other person looks up to you. Horses are a time-consuming hobby, and often we end up taking care of our horse and our growth, and then we take off when we are done.
However, this presents an excellent opportunity to remind yourself to spend the extra five minutes to talk to a barn mate about their horse or go with them to a tough vet appointment when they need the support of someone who knows what they’re going through.
Examples: Offer to take a barn mate out to lunch after a lesson to catch up. Host a barn party that you would otherwise be “too busy” for. Invite barn friends to special events in your own life. The best way to make friends and build bonds is simply by spending quality time together.
Acts of Service
This might be one of the most practical ways to show you care in the horse world. It does take a village to learn to ride and show horses, particularly at the industry’s top levels. Do not be one of those people who expect help but don’t offer help to others. This is another “gift” that does not have to cost anything but time and effort. So, make the extra attempt to help out friends in need – even when they do not ask you for it.
Examples: Offer to help someone struggling to put a saddle on. Teach a friend how to band a mane or braid a tail. Help clean up after another person’s horse. Help with “finishing touches” for a friend before entering the show ring by wiping noses, adding hoof polish, or touching up makeup.
Okay, this one might initially seem like the “weirdest” applicable love language to the horse world, especially in light of new Covid-19 protocols. While we do not recommend this show of thought for strangers or people who express they are not a fan of it, there is undoubtedly a time and place where a physical touch can be one of the most meaningful ways to support our barn family.
Indeed, sometimes there are no words for particular joys and pains we experience as horse people. When words fail, a hug or a pat on the back can mean more than any flowery language.
Examples: Celebrate the big win of a team member, even if they beat you to get it, with a high five or a hug, which can mean more than any other form of encouragement. Be there for someone to hug or be a shoulder to cry when it is time to say goodbye to a beloved horse. This show of love might not be as frequently used, but when it is used, it means so much more.
The horse show world is one big extended family. If we all do more to make a point to encourage and support one another, we can make horse showing even more fun to be a part of. If your vibe attracts your tribe, make sure your vibe is one of a grateful, supportive, and thoughtful competitor. We are all here because we love the animals and the sport, but we stay in it because we love the “family” we make along the way.