Anyone who has had to keep their horse(s) at someone else’s barn can attest to this fact. No matter where you board, how well you know the owner, or what connections you have, the same cast of characters will inevitably appear in every barn. This reality show has been around since long before the tv networks made them popular, and they’ll outlive every franchise we’re secretly (or not so) addicted to.
The owners generally are well-intentioned, but naïve. They often believe they can be the one(s) who really are able to make everyone play nicely together in the arena. In many cases they often have the boarding barn as a source of secondary income, at least, in theory. On paper, it’s supposed to help offset their own horse-keeping expenses, but in reality, it’s often a financial black hole, that eventually makes it difficult for them to truly enjoy what was once a passion.
Maybe your barn has a trainer, or multiple trainers. The number of trainers usually multiplies the amount of drama. Despite outward appearances of being friendly, they are after all, each other’s competition. Under each trainer is a clique of groupies. Within those groupies there’s often a leader, and the rest fall into the minion category. If you’re lucky, and you don’t happen to be in training with any of them, you can try to avoid conflict by being vaguely polite to everyone and minding your own business, but that in and of itself can be a slippery slope.
That brings us to the opposite end of the spectrum, the barn busy body. They may not have a dog in the fight, but they find a way to get involved in every issue, discussion, and situation. After overhearing a portion of one person’s side of a story, they’ll make a rash decision as to who’s side they’re on, and intervene at every opportunity. Maybe they thrive on chaos, maybe they need the attention, but no matter what, they’re always in the middle. Don’t even get me started on what they think they know about everyone, they’ll tell you, as though it was their very own news to share!
Not to be confused with, the know-it-all. Somewhere, someone too many has asked their opinion, and their head must now go through doors sideways to compensate for ALL the knowledge it’s full of. Similar to the busy body, they often have opinions on everything everyone does, and have no qualms about sharing their unsolicited advice, but at least it’s usually limited to horse care, as opposed to general goings on in the barn itself. Not to say they don’t know a lot, they may well be very knowledgeable, and they’ll make sure you know it too, every day, all day.
Feeding into the know-it-all’s personality is often the overreactor. You never know what will set them off, but you can guarantee it will be end of days regardless. A fly, a scratch on a saddle, their horse’s mane laying wrong. No matter how big or small the measure of the “crisis,” their reaction will go from zero to 115 mph in about 4 seconds, and will continue for as long as a captive audience exists.
Another friend of the know-it-all is the well-meaning-moron. That person who makes you wonder how they manage to tie their own shoes every day, somehow also manages to keep a horse alive, and themselves from getting killed by said horse. Now, on a good day, they might at least be cognizant of their lack of education. Admitting you have a problem is the first step! But more often than not, it’s like watching Mr. Magoo on television, and not being able to do a darn thing as he walks blindly into every bit of trouble imaginable. You may try to lend a hand, or offer a bit of kind advice when you can, but sometimes, stupid needs to hurt in order for them to learn.
Lastly there’s the stall flower. You’ll find yourself wondering how their horse’s stall is always clean, and the horse is always kept, when you rarely see them at the barn. That’s just how they like it. They’ve probably been there with you all along, and you didn’t even notice them, quietly going about their business, minding their own business. When drawn out they can actually be a lot of fun, but they’ve usually become so tired of the games and nonsense that goes on, that they’ve started keeping to themselves and are quite happy that way.
The people in the roles may change from time to time and barn to barn, but if you’re a boarder, you can count on them making regular appearances in every episode. My personal approach was to try to stay off the radar. Mind your own business, help when asked, and smile at everyone even if you don’t have time to stop and chat. Be polite enough that you’re considered friendly, but not a doormat, pay your rent on time every month, and remember that sometimes the crazy ones are worth being friendly with, maybe they’ll spare you if they go on a rampage!