One girl bought herself the same breeches you planned on getting. Another kid gave his horse the same name you had been saving for your future pony. Perhaps a trainer left following a disagreement. Possibly somebody demanded more individual attention during a group lesson. How should you react to any of these events?
Conflict is a very real part of growing up. Learning to navigate this territory can be both confusing and frustrating, but ignoring it altogether can lead to repressed anger. When it happens at the barn, the very place that is supposed to bring you joy, the situation can worsen.
So what is a barn kid to do?
1. Stay calm.
If your conflict involves you and another person, don’t escalate matters. This person might make you angry, but blowing up will only make the situation worse. Believe it or not, mouthing off or raising your voice will not make you feel better. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Studies show that these reactions can actually make you feel even more stressed. Consider talking to the person face-to-face to clear the air and move on. Bring in a third person to mediate if necessary, perhaps an adult or someone who can honestly stay neutral.
2. Tell an adult if there is bullying.
If you believe that you are the target of malicious gossip, alienation, or any sort of physical intimidation, tell your parents or a trusted grownup. They can alert the trainers and other parents. Nobody should have to face any sort of bullying, and the adults should say that type of behavior is completely unacceptable.
For your own well-being, don’t dwell on revenge or self-pity. If you begin to believe that you deserved the bullying, your self-esteem takes a major hit. Talk to somebody about this—perhaps a school counselor—and know that you deserve respect as much as everyone else.
3. If it’s not about you, stay out of it.
If there is conflict between other kids, leave it alone. Some folks love lurking around other people’s drama. Those people don’t offer genuine solutions—they’re only there to stir the pot. Don’t be a nosy drama-tourist.
Instead, be the person who can sincerely listen to a friend who needs help solving a problem. Unless someone else’s conflict begins to affect you directly, let them work it out while you enjoy riding your horse.
4. You can be friends with everyone.
In times of conflict, friends might feel pressured to take sides. This is unfair. If a conflict doesn’t involve you, then there’s no reason you can’t say, “I like both of you and I refuse to choose between you.” This will happen more often than you may realize in your life. You don’t have to avoid certain people due to their feuds with somebody else.
5. Avoid pettiness.
Be honest with yourself: how many conflicts arise over really silly things? Somebody might have looked at you funny. Somebody else wore the same riding outfit as you. These are things you can laugh off. In a week’s time, you will have completely forgotten about them. Time at the barn is too precious to waste on something that doesn’t really matter.
6. Remember why you are at the barn in the first place.
You may have a great community at the barn, but remember that you’re there because you love horses. Whether you have your own pony or are riding lesson horses, you have a wonderful opportunity to bond with a beautiful animal who trusts you. You are learning horsemanship and responsibility as well. This is no place for riffs or tiffs!
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!