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HELP - Leasing a school horse -> bully teen as a bonus package

Hi all!
I am in for about a month on leasing a school pony on which I was riding regular lessons for a year and a half prior to lease.

My instructor and stables gave me a thumbs up on leasing her 3 times a week since she was a dominant mare and wasn’t very tolerant to small or not confident kids/teens.

Since she wasn’t a good match for pony camps they started to look for a lightweight adult to ride her instead and that is how I ended up riding her in lessons in a first place.

We get along well with the pony but recently I discovered that along with a horse I have also “leased” a hater. Turns out there were 2-3 kids who were up for riding her before the lease (just in a group lesson so no extra money for a fixed horse or anything else). Most of them turned around nice and wish us well but there is one individual who seems to resent me for leasing the pony on this one day when she had a lesson on her.

It all started small with her looking daggers at me every time we cross path or feeding the horse treats while completely ignoring my existense a few steps away.

Last week she started to mess around with the gear. Things like tangling a bridle into a large messy knot and hanging it back on the bridle hook or turning stirrup leathers the other way around and twisting them in knots. All the gear still belongs to riding school so I have no way to hide it into a locker or bring with me.

I am in the process of buying a better saddle to replace the school one but the thought of her extending her spite towards the freshly bought gear doesn’t sit nice with me.

I know teens and pre-teens might fall into a narcissistic trap and think it is fine to bully someone into their bidding (i.e. me stopping the lease on the day she was riding her in the group lesson).

Things to consider:

  • I am 30+ old. Have dealt with bullies in school but receiving it from someone so young leaves me in a confusion.
  • Pranks she is pulling so far are mostly annoying but I don’t know how much I can trust her to not go any further (I.e. cutrying breaks on my bike or ruining my backpack :o).
  • Horse I am leasing gets a lot of care and attention (at least 2 hours of planned training (warming up, cooling down, riding and ground work, quality time, grooming, massage and what not).
  • For now I am considering taking pictures of “accidents” and will hold on to them until a certain count (6-7?) before presenting them to riding school stuff.

If someone has any advise to share please do :slight_smile:

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Do you know that it is this person specifically who is messing with the tack?

I think messed up tack is worth mentioning to the trainer who is in charge of that stuff. “Hey Trainer, I am not sure why but I keep finding Dobbin’s tack put away really strangely < show photo or actual tack > I just thought you might like to know about it. It sure has provided me with the bonus learning experience of now knowing how to put a bridle together.”

I do not think it is a problem that some kid wants to feed Dobbin treats (as long as Dobbin is allowed to have treats), even on the days you are riding Dobbin.


Yes, I saw her doing it 1-2 times she was just stopping and walking out as if nothing had happened.

I don’t mind her feeding the horse either but would appreciate a bit nicer treatment for myself :smiley:

Appreciate “look what happened to school gear” strategy. Will try this out.


Yeah, I’d mention it like @trubandloki suggested. I wouldn’t name the kid yet, only if it continues after showing the trainer.

If it continues, I’d probably ask if I could put a small sign “please put away tack correctly and neatly” on the bridle and saddle to give the kid a heads up it’s been noticed and she ought to stop.

Barn bullies are the worst.


This is 100% for the barn owner/instructor to sort out. Ask for a private meeting and tell them everything, immediately. Someone needs to have a talk with the kid. You are correct that it could escalate.

Where I’ve ridden, the instructor is All Powerful as far as who gets to ride what horse. Kids are expected to behave themselves.

The kid is disappointed I’m sure. And maybe there are extenuating circumstances in the kid’s home life. But part of riding and horsemanship is dealing with this sort of thing. Your favorite horse gets sold or you lose the ride. Your horse is lame right before a big show and you can’t compete. The list is endless.


Why would you “hold on to” the evidence?

If the tack is tangled or otherwise messed with, tell whoever is in charge of your lease immediately. Absolutely take pics, but go straight to the person who is responsible for providing you with tack as part if your lease.

Your goal is to have safe, undamaged tack available when you come to ride. It’s the leasor’s responsibility to make sure the tack is in good shape.

You don’t need to prove who is doing it or why, you just need to have the person leasing the pony to you solve the problem.

No need to be drawn into the drama with any third parties. Whatever the cause, this is the lessors problem to fix.

(Please forgive the typos. I’m on my phone and it won’t let me make corrections.)


I agree with others… don’t outright accuse the kid. Just bring the mangled tack to the instructors attention. It’s not your job to investigate or compile evidence or police the barn.


Exactly. Go straight to the trainer.

Those of us who experienced bullying in school may revert to our 13 year old selves and think that no one will believe us or be ashamed or think no one likes us.

A troubled teen sabotaging an adults equipment at a barn is completely different from a frenemy mean girl in middle school. You need to not evrn think of it as bullying but rather as vandalism harassment and acting out.

Child is allowed to glare at you because you are an adult and it doesn’t matter what child thinks of you. Many teens go through a spell of despising all adults anyhow.

Child is not allowed to vandalize gear belonging to the riding school. Report the issue yesterday. Guaranteed she is a known problem.

Teen is testing to see if you are emotionally a teenager and will be ashamed and intimidated to think someone hates you, or if you are an adult competebt to enlist authority and be an authority.

Be an adult.


You’re an adult. Deal with it like an adult. Either directly say something when you see her messing with your tack -“ hey, can you tell me why you did that?” or talk to your trainer/barn owner. Don’t engage in petty silliness like “holding on” to evidence until you’ve collected enough.


Also I’ll add that she is probably looking for a justification for her hatred of you so don’t give her one. I would not post passive aggressive signs or confront her.


Absolutely tell the instructor/barn manager that you’ve seen this kid messing with both the bridle and saddle.
That is an unacceptable safety risk that They need to be aware of.


When you are another kid it’s true adults often won’t believe you. Or tell you to fight your own battles.

When you are an adult other adults will believe you. No need to gather evidence. Just go now and tell the trainer.


Show the pictures to your trainer, and bring up your concerns. You mention riding a bike to the barn. If you have a car, take that instead. Lock it. Keep your backpack (or at least as much of your stuff as you can possibly do without) locked in the car. When you purchase your tack, bring it back and forth to the barn (probably a good idea if it’s a lesson barn without a secured tack room in general). Until then, if it happens again, speak to your instructor about a more secure place for it.

I understand about the treats not being a big deal, but when I rode a pony in my adult lessons during summer camp, sometimes kids would feed ponies treats while I was picking hooves, grooming, or bent over in the stall, (causing the horse to move forward) so keep an eye out in case that becomes a problem, too.


“Put away tack neatly” is not passive aggressive. It’s a directive. Her failure to do so will be a direct violation of the barn policy, stated on the sign. I also stated to ask the trainer before putting any such sign up in the tack room.

Passive aggressive is a sign that says “Who left this bridle like this?”


First of all, “bully” implies a power imbalance in her favor. And that’s not accurate; you are a mature adult and she is a young girl who lacks experience dealing with complicated emotions in a constructive way. You hold all the cards here.

While it’s not your job (or place) to directly parent or police her, a little soft guidance and gentle correction might help. (While I may bring down the Parenting Hammer of Doom on my own kids, other people’s children deserve a much lighter touch.) Note that at no part of the discussion do you directly accuse her, or get off track arguing evidence or minutiae — that route is for suckers.

“Sophia, I keep noticing that Dobbin’s bridle, and only Dobbin’s bridle, keeps getting tangled up in the tack room. Yesterday I found it on the floor. Do you have any idea what’s going on?”

[Pause for smirk/wide-eyed innocence/disinterested grunt]

“The problem is, part of good horsemanship is taking care of your tack. And part of being a contributing member of a barn is helping to keep things tidy and in order. Dirty and abused leather is a management issue and a safety hazard. Would you please help keep an eye out and let Head Trainer know if you see anything weird? I told her I’d do the same.”

[Pause for eyeroll and/or continued protests of innocence/ignorance]

“Hey, on a totally different note, I know you’re a little disappointed about not having the ride on Dobbin anymore. I’m sure Head Trainer is trying to figure out some new options to share with you and your parents. Keep showing good habits in the barn as well as in the saddle — when I was a junior, that was the fastest way to get more responsibility on more horses.”

Exit, with flags flying.


Don’t know why but this visual made me laugh.


Before you throw in the towel, you might try another strategy. Clearly the “Bully Teen” resents you having “her” horse. Ok. That isn’t going to change on her part, unless she has a reason to change her attitude. And if you are crafty, you might be able to do that.

  1. Start by knowing and using her name. A simple, “Hi, BT.” will do.
  2. Then either where she will over hear u or to someone whom you know will tell her what you said, say something nice. “Geesh, BT sure can ride well. She’s amazing.” Make sure you tell more than one person something good about BT that will get back to her.
  3. Ask BT for advice. “Hey, BT, you always have a great shine on your boots --how do you do that?” She might respond with icy stare, but it’s tough to dislike someone who admires us
  4. Ask BT for help. “BT, you never seem to have any problem picking up Dobbin’s feet --can you help me with Gingers?” Maybe even say that in front of her friends. . … .
  5. If/when BT does help you or give you advice, leave a bag of Gummy Bears or similar on her tack hook with a Thank You written really big.

Honestly, if that doesn’t make her your new best friend, I am out of ideas. As a teacher of 40+ years that was my go-to strategy when “someone didn’t like me” if it was parent, fellow teacher, or student.

Again, it is really hard to dislike someone who clearly admires us. . . .


That’s absolutely passive aggressive. For one, OP has no right to be posting “directives” to others at the barn because A- it’s not her barn and B- its not her stuff. If trainer wants to post such signs, she can do it herself. IME, little “signs” and postits like these never work… the just piss people off. If somebody has an issue with something I’m doing they can walk up and talk to me like an adult. If you don’t have enough respect for me to that then I most likely won’t have respect for your stupid sign.

That might make OP feel better but that’s just a poor way to solve this problem. If this kid is really doing this stuff it’s not because she’s “forgetting”, she’s doing it as an eff you. Signs and posters are good reminders for a rule that people tend to genuinely forget like “please keep gate closed” “please pick up manure” etc. The kid is not just “forgetting” something she’s actively and purposely mangling the tack (according to OP at least). She doesn’t need a helpful reminder she needs a trainer to talk to her like an adult and tell her to put the tack away correctly.

If you want teens to respect you, don’t disrespect them by posting passive aggressive BS. Just talk to them. (Trainer not OP)