The New Horse’s Handbook

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You must be the new horse! Welcome to the barn! I know, it’s scary coming to a new place, but don’t worry, I’ll show you around. You’ll feel right at home in no time. First, here’s the only map you’ll ever need:

Diagram of the Barn

1. Horse cliques. First you have your cool Warmbloods—they’re cool. Nothing bothers them. Then your dorky, awkward babies—they’re loud. Don’t give them attention. Once I sniffed the white-gray one for a second, and now he thinks I’m his best friend. I can’t even leave the barn without a hysterical whinny. Then you have your sass queens—mares and ponies with attitude, typically found dragging a small child back into their stalls for another bite of hay. Across from them, your neurotic weenies—perpetually worried looks, alternating between cribbing up a storm and spooking when a branch scratches against the wall. And finally, horses that act like horses. Miraculously, this includes a Saddlebred. We don’t get it either.

2. Hose of Death. The hose in front of the barn? I know, it’s horrify—what? You’re not afraid of hoses? Well… you should be. Especially that hose. I don’t know what kinds of hoses you’re used to, but our hose eats horses. Yes, that’s the reaction I was looking for. So you’ll act scared of it when it’s in a weird position like the rest of us, right? Good.

3. Bay Warmblood lesson horse’s stall. When you’re standing outside this horse’s stall, you should be aware that he’s going to try to lunge at you. I recommend taunting him. The best course of action is to sniff him through the bars until he almost breaks his door down.

4. Bottomless drowning pool. When it rains really hard, a small yet terrifying puddle will appear in the yard. Don’t be deceived. It may only be a couple feet wide, but it will swallow you whole. Best practices dictate lots of snorting and maintaining approximately a 20-foot distance. That’s what we always do, and so far, we’ve all survived.

5. Keep your grays straight. Steel gray baby wants to be your friend. You can tell, because she’s craning her neck toward you now, ears forward, nostrils flared. She’s desperate. Just give her a little nose whuffle. I saw her lesson. It was hard. She had to move like a horse today. Gray mare, on the other hand, doesn’t want to be friends. She hates other horses. Yes—yes, you do, gray mare. Don’t even pretend to be nice. Look at your ears! They’re back now!

6. Bathroom Rules. Pooping should happen, if possible, in the barn aisle. Ideally, try to reclaim your back hoof while your human is cleaning it out, and then unceremoniously poop on her. You tried to warn her. The wash rack is also an acceptable location. Under no circumstances should you wait until you return to your stall. We don’t do that here.

Stall Neighbors

Do we look like we’d lead you astray?

7. The dogs. There are lots of dogs around, all the time. They don’t seem to like our fellow equines’ advances, but we’re working on it. Please work with us to help convince them they want to be harassed by large herd animals. Alternatively, you are invited to act surprised every time one of them comes within 10 feet of you. Or when you see them race across the other side of the property.

8. Things that are not scary. We’ve talked a lot about things you should be afraid of, but there are some things that just aren’t scary at all: lightning, thunder, a truck backfiring, a sprinkler deploying directly into your face—NBD, shake it off. But God help us all if another dragonfly gets stuck in one of the ring lights.

9. Treats. Remember that girl who came by and rode your neighbor? Consider her a treat dispenser. Practice your “I’m lonely” face. She can always be convinced to give you a mint. And please keep in mind you have a horsely duty to go completely insane if anyone comes by and begins dispensing treats without sharing with all horses.


10. Unacceptable Treats. On certain days, you should decide you don’t want the same treats you usually love. When your human offers it, just sniff it and blow on it kind of hard, and then walk away. It drives them nuts. We love it.

11. Crazy day. Once a winter, we must all pick a day and go totally bananas, every horse, all at the same time. We’ll advise you of the day in advance so you can rest and limber up beforehand.

12. On Fridays, we all spook in the corner where all the extra jump standards are piled. Solidarity. Plus, it’s fun.

There you go. You’re ready. Welcome home.


Emily Bogenschutz lives in Texas and is a freelance writer,
recent hunter-turned-jumper, and professional sneaker of saddle pads
into the washing machine. Follow her on Twitter: @EJBog.

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