Horse & Rider

Don’t Raise a Barn Brat

Help your young rider have a positive barn experience by encouragin­g a positive attitude and respectful demeanor.


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 and 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, but 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, 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.

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, because you don’t have that built-in care responsibi­lity, but it can come

 ?? ?? Make riding a positive experience for everyone in the barn by encouragin­g your child to have a positive attitude and respectful demeanor.
Make riding a positive experience for everyone in the barn by encouragin­g your child to have a positive attitude and respectful demeanor.

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