Struggling to Fit In at the Barn?
Everyone left for a trail ride. They had an after show wine celebration after the show. Everyone gathers in the tack room after lessons to chat. Everyone meet at the barn to see the new horse’s first ride. No one invited you to any of it.
Why didn’t anyone tell you? Why does there seem to be an inner circle at the barn, and you are continually not invited? Why does being at the barn feel like high school all over again?
Many barns feel this way. Many groups feel this way. Heck, a lot of times life just feels this way. You wanted to be included, and no one thought to include you. It’s easy to assume it’s because they are all unfriendly jerks, and they dislike you for some reason. They might even be judging you, or think you aren’t a good enough rider to hang out with them. It can ruin the barn experience and feel like the barn is just not right for you.
I like to read horse forums, and over and over again, I see people complaining that they don’t fit in at their new barn. But I really feel they are looking at this all wrong.
Consider this hypothetical situation- let’s say you are at work or school, and someone walks by your desk without saying anything. You say nothing either. Since they didn’t say hi, you’re going to assume they’re in a hurry, or just not interested in exchanging pleasantries. Let’s say this person keeps walking by your desk, every day, multiple times a day. You still say nothing, and they say nothing. Best case, they become just part of the scenery, and you have no feelings towards them at all. Worst case, you become annoyed they have never said hello, and you begin to dislike them for being so unfriendly.
But, why should they have been the one to say hello? Couldn’t you have also said hello, and introduced yourself? Why is the pressure on them to make the introduction and be friendly? Maybe they are shy, and really wish you had been the one to break the ice.
Now switch that scenario to the barn. Why do they have to seek you out? Why are you putting the pressure on them to be included? It may not seem fair, but they just don’t know you. It would have been nice if they automatically included you, but they know nothing about you. Maybe you come to the barn for quiet time and don’t like to be bothered. Maybe you like to rush home after your rides. Maybe, if you haven’t introduced yourself at all – they think you might be mean or unfriendly?
Even if they have no feelings towards you at all, they just don’t know enough about you to invite you along. They have no idea you may be hurt from being excluded because they didn’t know you want to be included in the first place.
So what can you actually do about it?
First, as an “introvert”, let me be the first to say that it is scary and intimidating to make the first move. More and more I hear of people claiming social anixety as a reason to avoid social interaction. But really, learning to socialize and talk to people is a skill that can be developed as much as any other skill. Anyone can decide they are going to learn how to be outgoing, and then put that into action.
You can be the person to make the first move. Seek out other barn members individually, and talk to them. Ask them how their day is, what they do with their horse, or anything else that comes to mind. Get to know them, and they’ll get to know you. After you talk to one, talk to another. Rinse and repeat. Keep talking to them.
Most people are shy, not unfriendly. Most people are wishing that the other person would make the first move. You can be that person and just make the first move. Afterall, what’s the worst that could happen? You reach out, and they don’t respond, putting you in the exact same situation you’re already in?
If you spent time talking to them, and you’re still being left out, well, at that point, they are just jerks. You have my permission to be upset. At that point it may be better to find someplace that is a better fit.
Good reminder. It’s easy to just assume that catty horse people are catty haha, but honestly so many of the folks at my barn are just like me : wrapped up in and distracted by their own lives and drama and treating the barn like an escape. I definitely make it a point to try to break out of that bubble tho and say “hi!” and ask after my barn mates horses and whatnot. It doesn’t work for everyone haha but it makes me feel good and like the barn is a more pleasant place!
This was a good reminder to try. That said, I find that some peoples minds are so small in the barn its an uphill battle.. At one barn initially everyone was friendly . Then subtle favorites began to emerge and since I am a little different from most show riders ( natural horsemanship, use natural therapy instead of drugs on my horse) it was easy to see me as different. The bottom line for me is that I realized I don’t really belong in a high level training barn because well, I just don’t care that much about competition anymore. This last barn made me realize I want to find a barn with natural horsemanship, and focus on the relationship with a horse. So, while it took a while, that is really why I don’t fit into the barns even though I keep trying. My fundamental interest has changed and it probably shows.