On being a good example

I see a lot of kids and young adults on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes, I see them at the tack store where I work: youngsters just embarking on their equestrian journey, or teenagers looking for a new pair of riding tights. Most of the time, I see them while I’m at the barn. My neighbor has many students, and most of them are teenagers or younger.

Once upon a time, I was a youngster.

These kids spend every minute of their free time at the barn. They’re mucking stalls, turning horses out, feeding, blanketing and unblanketing, picking rocks out of the arena, all for the opportunity to ride whatever horse needs to be exercised that day. These kids are eager learners, snatching up every crumb of advice, every morsel of sage wisdom that their trainer (my neighbor) and other knowledgeable-sounding adults (like the farrier or vet) offer.

Even though I’m not their trainer, I try to be a good example for them. I sit taller in the saddle when a pair of young eyes is watching me school Gina through a dressage test. I work harder to make sure my leg is solid over fences when my teenage jump crew is setting fences for Moe. I groom my horses well. I wear my helmet. I try to limit the profanity. The barn rats make me better.

I had lots of good examples through Pony Club.

It’s important to me to try to teach them unmounted skills, too. I explain why I take big, exaggerated steps between jumps when setting and walking a course. I offer to show some of them how to wrap a leg. I try (and fail) to teach them to figure-8 bridles.

I also do my best to model good behavior completely unrelated to horses. My neighbor and I are on different ends of the political spectrum, but the barn rats have heard us calmly and respectfully discuss the election and political issues on which we disagree. I’m always positive when they come in the store where I work. I don’t want them to feel self-conscious about what size breeches they wear- I want them to feel and look good. I say “please” and “thank you” to them, to the cashier at the feed store, and to our waitress at the Mexican restaurant.

My parents were good examples, too.

I screw up a lot, too. They’ve seen me get after Gina when she won’t go over a jump. They’ve heard some choice obscenities when Moe is jigging around the hay meadow. They’ve seen me lose my temper when Candy won’t load. They’ve seen the grimy condition of my tack and how much of it is piled up in my still-unorganized tack room.

I don’t know if the barn rats look up to me; they probably roll their eyes and think, “Here comes Stephanie to tell me to clean my tack again!” when they see me coming. I don’t think any of them need a role model- they’re all good kids, from good homes, with good parents, and they’re working and riding at a good barn with a good trainer. Still, I figure it can’t hurt to strive to be the sort of person I looked up to as a young rider.

What about you? Do you interact with lots of young people at your barn? Do you feel like you have an obligation to set a good example for them?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

17 thoughts on “On being a good example”

  1. I always try to limit the profanity, but then C does something unaccountable and I curse a blue streak through a pony club lesson.


    At least we model good outfits and excellent turnout?

    1. I think modeling good and appropriate attire and turnout is important, too! Courage ALWAYS looks well cared-for and you always look tidy. You two give an excellent first impression.

  2. This, right here, is why I love you! I believe a million percent in setting an example as best we can for the youngun’s. I try to always be polite, smile, say please and thank you, treat everyone with respect, and lend a helping hand when it’s needed without expecting anything in return. (Sometimes I absolutely fail at this, but I try!!) I also make an effort to treat young people like equals and never talk down to them – the adults that made the most positive impact on me as a young kid and a teenager were the ones who treated me like my own person and not lesser being because I was a youngster. Creating an environment of respect, responsibility, and compassion goes a LONG way in helping everyone become better people – in the barn and everywhere else!

  3. Excellent post. I am surrounded by equestrians who are younger than me, but they are all college-aged. Funny thing about college students, they generally think they’re past needing a role model and resist any sort of authority figure directing them. So, yes, I try to be a role model, but in my situation it’s best to step back and only be hands-on if necessary. Otherwise, they just get pissy. #eyeroll If I was surrounded by younger kids, things would be much different.

    1. College-age kids might be worse than teenagers as far as thinking they’re the be-all, end-all of knowledge, haha! I am very glad I don’t have to deal with them very often. 😛

    1. Aw, thanks! I am far from perfect (which is probably important for them to see, too). But I CAN model healthy friendships, healthy relationships, show them why it’s important to volunteer, and keep trying to make them understand why you really need to clean your tack more than once a year. 😛

    1. I’ve gotten creative with profanity substitutes:
      “Moe, stop being such a banana!”
      “You’re a turd burgler, you know that?”
      “You’re the worst horse. Just the worst.”

      I also say “DANG” a lot.

  4. I spent years working at various lesson barns where part of my job was managing the barn side of lessons (grooming, tacking, mounting, adjusting stirrups and girths – and teaching students to be self sufficient and do these things for themselves too). Seeing kids who are hungry to learn and who just so enthusiastically love horses is so fun for me haha. I always want them to have a good time and feel empowered to do things themselves. Charlie actually lives at a high school so there are a ton of teenagers always around and it’s just a cool environment. My own personal example is to not take things too seriously and that its ok to make mistakes or have a tough ride or whatever. Bc uh…. Charlie and I don’t exactly set a high bar for impressive performance lol!!

  5. There aren’t many kids at the farm I’m at but I could definitely stand to use less bad language! I try to keep my BOs daughter in mind with my actions though. Good reminder!

  6. I ride at my house, so no one is looking up to me, but when I DID ride at a boarding barn, I always tried to do the same. I’ve had kids come back when they’re grown to tell me what a positive impact I had on them and their decision making as they grew up. I had no idea! You really never know who’s looking up to you, so I agree, it’s important to set a good example. It’s just as important for them to see you mess up. They know you’re a good person, who does the right thing most of the time. So it’s also good for them to see that even you make mistakes. And you own up to them and you move on. It just shows them that when they make mistakes, it’s ok too. And they too, can move on from an error.
    Nice work being a good human!

  7. Just catching up! The eventing barn I board at is home to lots of kids and teens and a pony club chapter as well. A couple of the teens are serious about becoming pros and I would say they have more to teach me than I them 🙂 If you had asked me a couple of years ago how I’d feel boarding and riding at a barn where adults are in the minority I would have probably said I’d rather not! Now, I can’t imagine not having all the kids around, their enthusiasm and joy is a huge asset to the barn. Yes, they’re messier than I would sometimes prefer. Yes, there is occasionally (minor) drama and decisions that could have perhaps been better thought out. Mostly though, they’re WAY easier to get along with than most of the adults I’ve boarded with. For what I’ve changed, I would say I am much more safety conscious now…I would hate for some unsuspecting kid to copy my bad habits and get hurt. As always, I also make a point of only ever saying positive and kind things about all the horses and people at the barn. I really like that they all do the same thing now.

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