4 Ways to Strengthen Horse-related Friendships
by Allison Trimble
Many of the greatest friendships in my life began with a shared love of horses. As a trainer, I have always enjoyed seeing relationships develop not only between my clients and their horses, but between each other.
Common ground is fertile soil for friendships at every age. For children and teenagers, healthy activities naturally develop with friends that also value being active and responsible as well as having fun. Adults find respite by taking time out of busy schedules to enjoy the company of friends in the wholesome equine community. Even those in retirement often find companionship that makes the most of their equine experiences. This column is dedicated to such friendships, no matter what season of life they occur in. Let’s start with some activities to share with like-minded friends. They also serve as good places to make new acquaintances.
Lessons with a Trainer: Most trainers have a regular group of people taking lessons that either haul in or leave their horses in training. Making a connection with a trainer often helps introduce riders to a new peer group that also has an interest in horsemanship. If the goal is showing, this can provide a support group at horse shows and can make competition less of an overwhelming experience. It can also be helpful to have a trainer/teacher overseeing a group. At least at my barn, I believe it helps to keep attitudes and behavior consistent and positive.
Clinics and Expos: Events such as these invite a large cross section of horse people into an area. It can be a great opportunity to meet new people with a common interest that can stay connected after the event. I have met a ton of people in both scenarios that have become fast friends.
Social Media: I think that social media has both a bright, and a very dark, side. However, if approached with caution outlets such as equestrian specific groups and pages can be a great place to meet new people. It is also a way to stay current on upcoming events and news. Picking a reputable organization, such as the NWHS fan page and website, is a safe way to approach this option.
Local Activities: Open ride nights, ranch sorting, trail riding and fun shows are all things in our local area that are available and popular for interested horse lovers.
While the above are all great ways to meet like-minded people for rewarding friendships, it is also important to to know how to strengthen and maintain these relationships. Here are six tips specific to maintaining healthy, lasting horsey friends.
Be supportive. Remember that this is a passion for all horse people; it is the thing that unites us. Each person loves their horse, regardless of how naughty they are being. It is kind of like family: I can point out my husband’s flaws, but no one else can.
Do not borrow anything. And do not loan out anything that is irreplaceable. This may include trailer, tack, equipment or horse.
Unless specifically asked, don’t give training advice. Suggestions are often meant with the best intentions, but in my experience unasked for advice is almost never helpful and often causes more issues. If there is a safety concern voice it, but advice on anything else should be kept to yourself. Often, a person will ask for a second set of eyes and that is a valuable advantage to riding with friends. That said, the advice I typically see from non-trainers is not accurate. It is being offered, unsolicited, when there is a visible problem. The trouble is that true fixes to a problem are often complex. While I am a trainer, I do not offer any advice unless I am specifically asked or am being paid for my expertise.
See the big picture. Having like-minded companions that share the horse passion makes the experience better so don’t burn a beautiful bridge over something trivial. Horses are big, dangerous and can be destructive and frustrating. For all the wonderful things they bring to our lives, they also bring many challenges. Rather than focusing on what others “shoulda/coulda/woulda,” keep your eyes on personal improvement.