Frustrated at a perfect barn

After spending some very traumatic times at a barn where I also worked at (and the BO turned out to be a complete whackoo), I moved my two horses - an older gelding and a youngster to a very remote, private barn. There are not a lot of other boarders, two of them have been my closest friends for years and the BO is also extremely nice. The pastures are huge, the care is perfect - I’ve literally nothing to complain about.

Until I started working with/backing my youngster who is turning four. He’s an emotional one and didn’t have the best upbringing before I bought him - learned to tear away from the handler at stressful situations. The companions who share this barn with me have:

  • A calm 19yo gelding
  • An extremely placid 4yo mare with a very slow reaction span to anything
  • And the BO quit backing her “youngster” at 7yo because he bucked her off once.

Now there’s me with this explosive, young WB and, although there are fireworks, I am managing perfectly fine to deal with him and to train him. I also never bother others, as I work him in the arena alone, and he’s perfect to handle in the barn (feeding, turnout etc.). Not new to backing youngsters either (11 years of experience - not a lifetime, but still). My friends, however, feel it’s their place to railbird my training sessions, to give unsolicited advice (like, when we’re on a simple walk-in-hand, you could suddenly hear a command-like suggestion: Now stop him and make him back up, he’s being disrespectful! - out of blue air!) or literally trying to run up to me while he’s having a temper tantrum on the lunge line to try and take away the line and “show how it’s done”.

I truly love these people but lately I’ve been feeling very frustrated and almost like moving barns, because it seems just like because my youngster is a bit more spirited than the rest of the herd, that means I’m doing something wrong. Guess what, not all horses have the same dispositions and an emotional horse does not mean a horse out of control?! However, I’d be very sad to disappoint or offend them, so I’ve been very wary to snap back.
English is not my first language and I hope I’m able to carry my thoughts across…

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Since they are good friends, calmly say please let me handle this the way I think best; I know you are trying to help but I would appreciate doing this my way. Then end it by saying something like I know you have my best interest and safety in mind, but I want to work thru this with my young horse myself. If they are truly good friends they’ll respect your decision, if not they’ll likely get miffed, either way let them know.

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If it were me and I was near people who’s feelings I cared about like you say about your fellow boarders, I’d try to frame it as recognizing their good intentions (whether they have any or not). Something like “I really appreciate that you care about my safety, but as you can see I need to concentrate on the horse, thanks!” For MOST people a denial of the help is shocking enough they’ll back off. If not - and you know them better than I do obviously - you might need to frame it in the same way but directly say you’d like to be left alone during your training sessions. Even if it ruffles a couple feathers, it’s far from an unreasonable request!

As far as unsolicited advice, in my experience it’s whether it’s a level you can tolerate and if you have other good boarding options. If this is somewhere you’d otherwise love to be which it sounds like, I’ve sort of patented a very glossy sort of stare when people give me advice I didn’t ask for. I have other riders I love swapping ideas with, but generally we have an understanding. For all others I just say “oh yeah, thanks” while looking as if there’s nothing going on behind my eyes, as I plan to in no way take their advice in the future.

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If I were you I would take a moment to speak to these people individually about what’s happening when everything is calm. Tell them it’s very distracting for you to have them interfering when you’re trying to handle your horse and you also worry for their safety when they’re doing things like running up to you while your horse is having a temper tantrum on the lunge line (!!!). You can be as diplomatic as you feel you need to be during the first conversation, even tell them you will gladly ask for their advice when you need it, even if you never have any intention of doing so, but make it clear you need to work with your horse distraction-free.

If they continue to tell you to do things like back your horse because he’s “being disrespectful” then I would not even acknowledge them whatsoever and make it clear their advice is falling on deaf ears. If something like the lunge line thing happens again, when you feel safe to do so, I’d express your complete disbelief that they would put themselves and you in such a dangerous position. A little shame is a good thing when people are doing something unacceptable! Don’t worry about offending your friends anymore because they clearly are not worried about offending you.

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I agree with @hybriseris . Approach it from the standpoint of safety. If I was working a young horse in a small, isolated barn facility, I would appreciate someone being aware and watching out ( on hand) for potential emergency situation. This is only logical and you would likely do the same thing. However the unsolicited help in not welcome. You need to tell them your boundary. This is not a bad thing, simply tell them that their input is creating tension and that , for now, you would like to work your horse with your program.

You appreciate their awareness and watchfulness for your safety, but you are doing fine with the training aspect and would like to focus your attention on your horse, not their input.

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Since they are good friends, they are likely just trying to help – as well as fulfill their “social quota” for the day, hanging out and chatting with you while you work your horse. A quiet conversation over coffee or wine/snacks after chores are done, should do the trick.

I find this type of unsolicited advice is very common in private, self-care type barns – where for one reason or another, personalities at play may not jive with the care/management/protocols of boarding barns, and there are often Been-There-Done-That veterans mixed with Has-Beens and Wannabe-Trainer types - it can get tricky navigating this landscape of mixed skills and personalities.

Have you considered having an outside trainer come in and work with you with this horse – in the presence of your friends? They may see your working with the horse alone as a ‘lack of guidance’. The trainer can give you tips for dealing with this emotional, explosive horse – and it is also a very obvious signal to your friends you are working with a professional.

There is also, however unpleasant, the possibility your friends might be seeing something you or us can’t see. As the saying goes "if it’s one, honey it’s them – if it’s two, honey it’s you!". It might be worth some introspection with regards to you and your horse’s behavior – you did say words like “fireworks”, “emotional”, “temper tantrum”, “disrespectful”, “tearing away from handler” – these are things that to a reader with zero context like me, signal a difficult and dangerous horse. Your friends may be worried for your safety. None of these things are behavior that are acceptable to any of my four year olds.

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I was nodding along with the advice from those saying “let them know it’s NTYVM”.
Then I reached @beowulf post & thought that made a lot of sense.
So, if you do tell friends you don’t want/need their advice, you might also ask why they feel it’s needed.
Exception for the Runner Into Your Longeline. Hard NO there.

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I appreciate everyones’ advice! Thank you, all. :slight_smile: Got a little bit emotional myself there, but sitting back and trying to see the situation from the eyes of others really helps.

My young lad isn’t dangerous or uneducated per se - just had a moment or two (or three :smiley: ), but I believe we’re over the majority of it and I can now safely ride him at a walk and introducing trotting under saddle, as well as he’s established on the lunge and in ground driving. There’s the odd squeal or buck if he gets excited on the lunge, but hey, it’s a young gelding off a spirited line, so I’m okay with it. Yet, the barn is very remote and quiet, so I suspect that everyone else might just be a bit thirsty for action, if I may. :smiley:

I’ll try just to breathe and politely set my boundaries, especially if I see somebody trying to physically intervene during lunging, like that one friend before - and they are all truly friends who just mean well, not interferring busybodies I’d have no problem to send to high heavens and beyond in a similar situation.

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Theres another thread discussing this exact issue of know it alls at the barn lol check it out.

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Among the things to tell them.

When you are working you are focusing and do not have bandwidth to process conversation. Please don’t try to chitchat with me or give me advice. It takes my focus off the horse and could be dangerous.

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Yeah, as everyone has said, you must speak up. If you talk to them away from the ring, though, there is a good chance they show up and do what they were doing before, just out of habit. They think it’s what they should do. If that happens, you’ll have to be ready to reinforce at the training session.

If they have not picked up on hints and allusions as to what you want from them, they probably won’t. If that hasn’t worked yet it’s best to be more direct.

You can stop the training session to address the railbirds and come to an understanding with them. As often as you need to do so. Maybe think of that part as people-training? You shouldn’t have to do it forever, their habits will change with prodding.

I think people who are being bothered by friends worry about speaking up to them because they are worried their tone and words will be taken in the wrong way, will damage friendships.

Think carefully about what you will say and just as important, how you will say it. Calm but firm. You have to leave no doubt that you are definite about this. You are not suggesting, you are not requesting, you are not hinting. You are kindly, politely, telling. You can say you appreciate their friendship, but this isn’t working for you.

You can cushion the message by saying something along the lines of “I know I have great friends who really want to help. I can be like that myself, I know! I can help too much, too. But I do have a method that I am going to stick to and I really need quiet from the onlookers. If I’d like some advice, I will be sure and ask!” In a calm but firm-ish voice. Be definite. Emphasize that ‘I’ll be sure and ask if I need some help or advice’.

You can also use humor, if you feel comfortable with it, and see where it would be appropriate. “Oh my, what a lot of noise is coming from that fence! I feel like a circus ringmaster!” with a laugh. Or “Thanks everyone but I’m just going to stay on track with my own plan! Watch and learn!” with a laugh. Something like that.

It is not fair to them to be vague, or hint, or not speak at all. You are not giving them a chance to know that they are not helping, but hurting, not just your concentration, but your friendship. I am sure they don’t intend that.

At one barn I was at I had a mother-daughter pair who just could not stop themselves from coming up behind my horse getting in the trailer and clucking to him. He loaded fine as long as no one encouraged him from behind! That alarmed and concerned the horse, he would freeze, back up, and his head would be whipped around looking for the source of the noise. I explained to them that I didn’t urge from behind, that the horse didn’t like it. Didn’t matter. When I was loading the horse they would immediately walk over from from wherever they were to “help”, unasked. I’m guessing it was a habit from prior horse groups, and no doubt intended as a kindness.

One day I tied the horse to the side of the trailer and went to them to say “can you help from back here?” I led them back quite a ways and pointed out a car bumper and said “if you can stay behind this point, he’ll load well”. I didn’t say anything about their clucking, as the horse was unlikely to react to it at that distance. They stood there silently for a minute or two while I went back to the horse. Then they walked away and never “helped” again. We never spoke of it and everything was ok from then on. Not saying that will work in every situation, but it did then. :slight_smile:

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Also … is there anyone at the barn that you feel would see this behavior as you do, who would take your side, back you up? Ask that person for advice on communicating with the interfering railbirds.

Anything you can communicate in one-on-one conversations about your feelings is likely to get around the barn. That could help your cause, as perhaps the group will start to regulate themselves and each other.

It’s likely that the individuals in the group have lost their perspective on their behavior. If they could see a video of themselves in action, likely they would realize how inappropriate it is, and how much it is interfering with your work with this horse. Helping them see this might be the way to approach them.

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I try to not make a big deal of saying something that could offend someone, but I do say and do what I have to do in order to get the job done.

In your spot, I think I’d say “I’m good.” Or “I got it, thanks.” Or “Yeah, it’s not my first rodeo” (if you know that American expression), “I have started horses before.” Or “It’s cool. I have a plan. We’ll get there.” I’d say any of these short phrases in a bright and cheery way… but as often as needed… until people realized I wasn’t going to engage them and the whole “mvp and her young horse” show got boring for them.

I tend not to have a serious sit-down with people as that action in and of itself tends to make them feel chastised. And people who have offered advice are poised to feel offended when we don’t take it.

Keep the delivery of hard news light and non-shaming for your barn mates and you’ll find a way to establish the boundary you need without hurting their feelings. If they do decide to get offended, just keep coming back with friendliness until even being offended loses its appeal. Just how long that takes is not your business.

Good luck!

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That’s what would bother me about this, their intervention suggests that they think you aren’t capable.

I might even say that to them, “when you _____ (do, say fill in blank) it suggests you think I’m not capable of handling this myself. Is that your intention?”
Maybe it makes them think, or opens up a dialogue.

A trainer I worked with suggested I had limited experience because I had only owned one horse at the time. :roll_eyes:.
Tip: you don’t have to own any, ever to gain experience.

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And yet they are offending and disappointing you. That is a shame.
I would not worry about disappointing them.
I wish I could suggest a way for you to tell them to go away and leave you alone when you’re working with your horse, but I am not good with people.

You have expressed yourself very clearly in your post. I would not have known that English was not your first language.
(Would it help to mutter under your breath in your first language when they start to interrupt your work? Not so they can hear you, just to vent a bit? If it wouldn’t upset your horse?)

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I like the approach of clarifying when you are working with your horse, you need un-interrupted concentration to focus. The one barn I train out of has this policy that if someone is working with a horse that is where their focus is and they won’t respond if being talked to.

Since these are friends, I would approach it with something like “I appreciate that you want to help, but when I am working with my horse, that is where my focus needs to be 100% and I just can’t break that to listen and respond. I value your opinion and after I am done with my session, if I need any help, I will ask.”

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I agree with the point of simply saying that you need to concentrate when working with your horse. I would not elaborate much beyond that as it invites debate. I like Fjordboycharlie’s approach, but I would leave out “if I need any help I will ask” as that can be taken badly. They have shown that they dont have good boundaries so you need to be very clear.

So something like “Hey, I need to concentrate when I work with my horse. I have a plan and know what I am doing. It really disrupts me and my focus on my horse when others make suggestions. Thanks for understanding.”

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I think I would make the communication private to each person involved rather than a public one at the moment. Public could be seen as humiliation

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deleted.

I don’t know about anyone else, but it would tick me off to no end if someone came out and tried to take the lunge line out of my hand.

My friend who rides a different discipline than I tries to give me advice on a regular basis; most of it is BS and I ignore it like this latest gem. The other day my horse was totally amped on a trail ride but to his credit, he hadn’t been out in the big wide world since last summer so not surprising. Some bucking (not serious), spooking, just not focused on the job at hand. She suggests a stronger bit like that would cure the naughty behavior. :roll_eyes:

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In my head I had that coming off as an attempt to let the friends know that OP values their advice, but just not the unsolicited kind; I can see how that could come off wrong though. Keeping it straightforward in that you need to concentrate and focus should hopefully make sense to them and not ruffle any feathers too badly.