MY BEAU” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

In a sport equated with beauty, ugliness often rears its head. In an ideal barn, owners must be “laid-back, happy and drama-free.” Horse people are sometimes a different breed of person however. Their horses on the other hand, are usually “laid-back, happy and drama-free”.

About 40% of the country’s 1.8 million horse owners keep their horses in group barns, where inappropriate behavior is common. “Barn Drama” is a catch–all phrase for all manner of unpleasantness. The sharing of facilities, both grooming areas and riding arenas, as well as the ‘borrowing” of other people’s stuff, can quickly escalate from petty back-biting to screaming matches. Riding, a solo activity, doesn’t attract team players as a rule.

At the barn where my daughter boards her horse, there are 128 horses managed by a competent and caring crew. It is situated in a lovely valley in Southern California and surrounded by mature pepper trees which rustle softly in the late afternoon breeze emitting a wonderful fragrance. It is a quiet and peaceful setting with an occasional whinny heard from a stall containing a horse telling someone he wants to get up and gallop.

The owner, a writer, keeps two horses there, but never rides them. She has taken over a small shack at the side of an arena, where she simply comes and watches her horses as they are turned out. She comes alone, sits on a small chair on the porch of the shack, and spends a peaceful afternoon reading, writing and watching her two horses.

Another young woman was given a horse by her father after begging for some time, and assuring him that it would be her pleasure to care for it. But after the “newness” wore off, she decided to forget the poor animal. She discovered that it is a labor of love to care for a horse. Her grandfather, a 91 year young non-rider, began coming to the barn daily where he made use of the arena for his daily walk. Riders became used to seeing an elderly gentleman in a checkered cap making his way around the track. One day he was seen taking the granddaughter’s mount out of his stall and taking him along on his walk. This continued for a month or two, and one day he approached the manager for a riding lesson. He had never been atop anything but a hobby-horse before. Now he is a familiar sight astride a happy and grateful horse sharing a lazy afternoon trot together. Horse lovers come in all sizes and in all ages.

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

15 thoughts on “BARN DRAMA”

  1. I am so grateful I never had to keep my horse in a barn. Little Cricket ran free, biting the Arabians next door whenever the whim suited her. One blue eye, one brown eye, a bit of a swayed back–she must have felt that Farahneka and Galix deserved to be put in their places. The pecking order of horses has nothing to do with size….

    Your painting is delightful. I take it that daughter must own that painting!


  2. A horse, a horse…a country for a horse. Lovely painting and story. When our kids were toddlers and while living on a small farm in Holland we had a Shetland pony. It had a foal in mid-winter, snow on its mane. The strongest horse ever for size. She loved escaping by trampling on fence wiring. I would get a call. “Gerard, your horse is in the village”. I would jump on the bike to try and get her back. Lovely independent nature.
    Thanks Patti.


  3. This is such an interesting tale, and a lovely painting. I’m not a horse person in practice, although I think they’re marvelous creatures. I was terrified of them as a child, but that’s eased over the years — especially after I made friends with one who would daintily eat his apple in four bites. He’d take a bite, I’d turn the apple. Repeat. It was so funny.

    One of these days, when I find a good place (that I can afford!) I might take riding lessons. I can’t think of anything more wonderful than being truly comfortable with horses — comfortable enough to move beyond a walk.

    I still remember a drive across Nevada on a non-primary road. I was so far out in the middle of wherever there were no fences, no power or telephone lines — only the road. Suddenly, up on a butte, I saw an Indian girl on her painted pony, right at the edge of the butte, watching the road, watching me. That moment is burned into my memory as vividly as anything in my life. I envied her at the time, and I still do.


    1. What a wonderful painting that vision would make. I can see that girl standing there, silently watching. Her long black hair is lifted slightly with a passing breeze, and her painted pony stands, ears twitching slightly, wondering when they can turn and gallop off into wherever. I’m envious of your memory Linda. I hope you do become a rider someday. It is a lovely feeling to simply fly, and feel the air rushing through your hair.


  4. Isn’t it amazing how a fleeting scene will stay with us forever? Memory is often there when I’m working on a large sculpture. Sometimes it seems I’m almost touching the reality of what I’m trying to build. When that doesn’t happen, it’s just as easy to mash it all up and start over.


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