Nobody wants their child to be the barn brat. The kid who the trainer and other boarders dread having around due to a negative attitude, laziness, or disrespectful demeanor. With a barn full of youth riders of all disciplines, my husband, Melvin, and I don’t let bratty behavior persist. Our barn’s culture encourages positivity, support, and a strong work ethic. It makes for a positive experience for everyone, and we can all enjoy being together doing something we love—riding horses!
Here are the four main traits we’ve seen in youth riders that we don’t tolerate. As well as how you as a parent can help ensure that your young rider doesn’t get the barn brat label.
Trait 1: Laziness
Having horses involves work, even if you’re a child. Of course, the work involved depends on the child’s age, maturity, and experience with horses, but everyone in our barn has to put in the elbow grease. A child might not be experienced enough to wrap legs on their own. However, they can watch and learn instead of playing a game on their phone, for example. Just about any kid can grab a broom and sweep a barn aisle, carry a bucket to the water pump, or pick a stall. We expect everyone to pitch in and do what they can, and if they can’t help, they’re learning so they can help in the future.
Trait 2: Shirking Responsibility
We never allow a rider to blame their horse for a bad lesson or a poor run. There might be cases where the horse is at fault. But, we always talk with our riders about owning their responsibility. We ask, “What did you do for your horse to respond in that manner?” It’s good experience for a child to own up to their part in a mistake. It helps keep them humble.
Trait 3: Being a Sore Loser
Your child won’t be successful at every show. They might not progress at a skill as fast as other kids in the barn, or might not have as much overall success as their peers. It’s important to stamp out jealousy before it becomes a problem and makes the child have a bad attitude. We encourage our riders to cheer each other on, watch others’ performances, and practice together. It can be challenging at times to put jealousy aside, but it shows great character.
Trait 4: Meanness
If we see meanness, we put an end to it immediately. Our barn is a safe place for everyone. This requires that all of our riders stay positive, work together, and present a level of maturity appropriate for their age. We want our riders to feel they can come to us to talk about any problems or concerns they have. And an overarching feel of compassion and respect is required for that.
Your Parental Role
The best way to support a positive barn culture is to have similar values at home. Give your child responsibilities and make them accountable. It’s hard when the horse is boarded away from home. You don’t have that built-in care responsibility, but it can come in other ways, such as chores around the house and maintaining good grades. The important thing to remember is that these characteristics and lessons will help your child throughout their life. A responsible, kind, always-learning adult has great opportunities for success.