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Equestrian Miss Manners Boarder Etiquette

Equestrian Miss Manners I: Boarder Etiquette

I’m not big on etiquette in everyday life; elbows on tables, speaking out of turn and worrying about hostess gifts are just not things that get my gears grinding. I do appreciate common courtesies though, such as saying “please” and “thank you” or washing your hands after you use the restroom [and before you shake my hand]. I subscribe to these same philosophies of using common courtesy at the barn.

Many of us are boarders, meaning we share our facilities with other people… the key word there being share. In my opinion, there are a few things that all boarders should do in order to respect the fellow equestrians who you board and ride with. Everyone has their own pet peeves, but basic boarder etiquette is important to keeping the barn safe and efficient. So here are my top five boarder etiquette tips! Follow these and you might even avoid some unnecessary barn drama!

Boarder Etiquette Tip #1: Clean up after yourself

If you groom and tack up in crossties or a designated area, please clean up after yourself. I’m not worried about scooping poop within 30 seconds, but don’t leave for the night without picking it up eventually. Same goes for the mud you picked out of your horse’s feet and all the hair you just brushed off him. Try to keep all of your “stuff” contained.. whether it’s in the aisle or stall because you just finished grooming, or whether it’s all of Hershey’s blankets in the tack room. Condense what you can so others have some room for their stuff too.

bridle rack

Boarder Etiquette Tip #2: Ask before you borrow [and return it clean]

Want to try a new bit for your pony before you buy it? Good idea! If Sally has one, just ask her before you gank it off her bridle. And after your ride, CLEAN IT and put it back onto her bridle. Most equestrians don’t mind lending stuff to fellow boarders, but if things are always mysteriously disappearing, being returned weeks later and filthy… the generosity isn’t likely to last.

Boarder Etiquette Tip #3: Know who has priority

If you’re riding and someone else is taking a lesson in the ring, be respectful and stay out of the way as much as you can. Did someone already set a grooming box out in your favorite area? Pick a different place to brush your horse. Always be mindful of those who are less experienced than you… other riders and trainers always appreciate a little extra room for green horse or beginner rider.
horseback riding lesson

Boarder Etiquette Tip #4: Be friendly

Know the saying “you catch more bees with honey than vinegar?” It applies to your fellow boarders too. A small “Hey how are you?” can go a long way toward friendship in the barn. Tell me my horse looks good, and I’m instantly in a better mood. You don’t have to be besties with every boarder at your barn, but being nice is always appreciated.

Boarder Etiquette Tip #5: Help out when you can

We’ve all been in a situation where just one more pair of hands would be so damn helpful. So when you see it happening to a fellow boarder, take 5 minutes to do just that and lend a hand. Whether it’s grabbing a forgotten whip from the tack room, holding a horse while a rider mounts up… or helping catch a loose horse your fellow equestrians will really, really appreciate it. And then when you need help, they’ll be there for you.

What is your number one etiquette tip for boarders?


Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

27 thoughts to “Equestrian Miss Manners I: Boarder Etiquette”

  1. My biggest pet peeve is part of your # 3. I absolutely hate it when I put out my grooming bag and tack at a grooming tie and by the time I go get my horse and come back it is taken by someone else. Ugh, annoys me every time!

  2. YES. You hit the nail on the head with every one! Especially the friendliness… it is NOT hard to say “Hi” and smile! It makes the barn a more pleasant place for everyone.

    1. I totally agree! The barn is my happy place. I know everyone has bad days, but please don’t ruin my day just because yours has sucked, LOL

  3. Cleaning up after yourself is very important but as a rider I don’t think I’ve ever been given a wideberth when I was on a green horse. I think I usually get run into, run up on and cut off more (or I notice it more) so typically I just practice my halting a lot and hope for the best.

    1. I think it’s tough for beginner riders and younger children to understand and actually be effective at staying out of the way. Although… I do really wish that more people would practice this type of courtesy.

  4. My biggest thing is respect. Yes, I’m a young rider who hasn’t been on the scene long, but I still deserve some amount of respect. We have someone at our barn that used to be a jumper/dressage rider and literally every time I do something, she cuts in and interrupts to either stop me, just get in my way, or tell me how to do it. If she was offering nice tips, trust me, I wouldn’t mind at ALL, but it’s more of the “Oh geeze, keep your heels down, his trot isn’t THAT bad.” and etc when she hasn’t even ridden my horse. 😉 For instance, our round pen is small so we all try to share in an easy way for the other riders, so each of us don’t take long in it. I was simply untacking him and cooling him off, taking a little bridleless ride that would’ve lasted 15 minutes top, and as soon as she got there, she grabbed a green horse, went in and started lunging him right into us without asking how long I’d be there or how Red would react. (Our. Round. Pen. Is. Tiny.) Anyways, rant over. 😉

    1. Ugh, I’m sorry you have to deal with that. It’s always annoying to have someone give you unsolicited advice ALL THE TIME.

  5. Good points. I hate people touching my things without asking. Borrowing without permission is otherwise known as stealing. If I don’t say you can use it don’t even think about touching it. Even if you “know” I’ll say yes.

    Luckily not an issue at my current barn. The biggest thing there is probably people that don’t clean up after themselves. We are all in a hurry. I definitely don’t want to be forced to clean up your mess bc I am the last one in the barn and know I’ll get talked to if I leave a mess behind. Even if it wasn’t mine!

  6. omg amen!! Thanks for writing this… I try to follow all of these. And when something does irk me, I might complain about it to myself for a minute, but I try very hard to take a breather, then approach whoever about the problem in a nice, friendly way. great post!

  7. Does it make anyone else absolutely NUTS when people leave their halters clipped to the crosstie, dangling on the floor? God. And if anyone uses my things without asking I completely lose my shit.

  8. Cleaning up after yourself is big for me. And maybe I’m just super neurotic but I can’t stand it when people don’t sweep/pick up poop until after they untack. I understand it can be a pain to do it twice (once after tacking/before you go into the ring and again when you’re done riding/putting your horse away) but I think in most barns there are more boarders than there are crossties. Therefore if I tack up and leave all my manure/hair/dirt, chances are someone else is going to need those crossties before I’m done riding and come back to clean it up. I know it’s a small thing, but I like to bring my horse into a nice clean cross tie area to get her ready as opposed to standing on top of someone else’s mess.

  9. This is great. Agreed on all points. The biggest thing for me is BE PLEASANT and DON’T TALK SHIT ABOUT PEOPLE BEHIND THEIR BACKS. I also have an easier time around people who are putting their horses first above all else, but that’s not boarder etiquette, that’s good horsemanship.

  10. Very good rules! I always learned to return things better than they were when I borrowed. Also common courtesies such as being polite and friendly are good as well.

  11. Personally, if a lesson is going on, I avoid the arena the lesson is in at all costs. I’ll even go for a hack before I’ll ride in the arena merely because I know how annoying it can be to have to work around someone else. I am perfectly capable of doing flat work while on a hack outside. Aside from that, when I worked as an assistant stable manager, #1 was a huge pet peeve of mine. People so rarely cleaned up after themselves, which meant I had to do it since it was my responsibility to keep the aisles clean. I don’t have that problem at the place I board at now – everyone is super clean/tidy!

    And friendliness can go a very long way. A very, very long way. I know 🙁

  12. To add to #1 – don’t leave your halter dangling from one of the crossties! This drives me batty – it’s a safety issue (horses can get a leg caught). Plus it goes along with containing your stuff so others can use the space while you’re off riding.

  13. Great topic! My barn skews almost the opposite of #1- everyone is expected to be SO clean that it’s almost a crime to drop your halter off to the side (NOT clipped into cross ties) rather than hang it on a hook and it’s not uncommon to be reminded by a trainer while untacking to sweep up! 99% of the time I love the organization (have you seen my trunk?) but that 1%. I’m a 30 year old woman. I am going to sweep- don’t worry.

    I guess by biggest pet peeve is when other boarders leave their stuff out. I usually am one of the last riders to leave for the day so I end up putting it in the lost & found bin.

  14. Oh man I have to pick just one?! Maybe it’s because I am prego (na cause I feel this way normally) but I swear people are oblivious or just inconsiderate hahaha!!

  15. You nailed them all Tracy!

    Let’s see – my pet peeve? Other people touching my horse. At an old barn we had one guy who was “training” all the horses to lift up a hoof at some signal he gave them and treating them with carrots. I don’t mind carrots – Dassah-mare LOVES her some carrots but you’re working with my horse? This meant he had to be reaching through the bars of the door stall to lift her hoof up. Um. No. And I only found this out because I was out one time while he was there and he walked over to show me what he had taught her.

    Also another pet peeve, I know my horse makes mare-faces at feeding time, she’s food possessive. I know. But honestly, telling me my horse is a bitch over and over and over – what am I supposed to do with that?! If you can’t say something nice or offer up some advice that worked for your super-opinionated red mare, then don’t say anything! #endrant

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