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.