In Praise of Barn Ratz

(“I am a big fan of fist-shaking old coots.”)

I think we are all familiar with published rants which bemoan the decline in social mores and the increase in ignorant or slothful behaviors none of which would have ever happened back in our day. The punch line is always the revelation that the rant was first published in 1911 or 1824 or maybe even in the Old Testament.

I am a big fan of fist-shaking old coots like Jimmy Wofford, Denny Emerson, Bill Steinkraus, and George Morris who rail against the decline of horsemanship in the current equestrian culture. That includes things as simple as not knowing how to pick out a hoof, or how to put it on a leg wrap, or even what your horse’s diet is. It includes people who don’t know the right way to change their stirrup length while mounted, how to open a gate from horseback, or how to jump up or down a bank.

Though clean, pressed, and workmanlike ought to be our minimum expectation, I would note that some of the spit and polish which was customary in the old days was actually applied by an underpaid groom or demanded by a pedantic ex-army colonel father.

I’m OK that a professional who earns her living schooling horses has them handed to her in succession and not have to do all the tacking up and cooling out. Obviously she knows how to do all that stuff. It’s just not a cost effective use of her time. However, if you are a kid or an amateur, unless you’re rushing to a dental appointment afterwards, you really should be doing those things yourself! Likewise, as much as I approve of familial bonding, parents are not supposed to be slaves to their children. The pony club rally custom of parents being exiled from the stable area may be extreme, but it encourages a more complete relationship between kids and their horses—a pretty good one—to carry through your whole riding life.