Unless you’re lucky enough to have your own land (in which case, can we swap lives please?) then owning a horse invariably means mingling with the general public. That’s right, you get to experience life on a livery yard.
Yards come in all shapes and sizes – and more importantly, costs – ranging from the super-posh competition yards where your horse has its tail washed in Aveda shampoo, is only ever schooled by BD dressage judges and costs more per month than your mortgage, to the common-or-garden DIY yards where the stables are held up by cobwebs and hope and you spend most of your life poo-picking.
OK, so that may be a slight exaggeration, but whether you’ve got your horse on full livery or are doing it all yourself, there are certain types of people that you’re bound to encounter on a livery yard…
The Yard Owner
It has to be said that yard owners tend to be, well, terrifying. Think a cross between Miss Trunchball from Matilda and those scary blonde women who used to teach at riding schools in the 1980s, usually with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth. There’s a tendency to view liveries as a necessary evil, rather than customers who are, y’know, paying their bills. Of course, not all yard owners are like that. Some are absolutely delightful and helpful and have long flowing manes and a horn in the middle of their forehead….No, sorry, that’s unicorns. They’re slightly less rare than the friendly yard owner. On the upside, most yard owners are incredibly knowledgeable and if your horse limps in from the field with a hoof hanging off, know exactly what to do. Albeit grumpily.
The Rider Who Doesn’t Ride
Every yard has at least one of these. As the name suggests, they’re a horse owner who never actually rides their horse. There’s always a reason why they can’t ride, ranging from the horse having some mysterious ailment, to being on a tight schedule and not having time (but, curiously, still having time for tea and gossip in the tack room.) Still, who cares, it’s their horse and they can do what they want with it. Or not, in their case!
The Overly Helpful Person
It’s wonderful when people are helpful – so long as you’ve actually asked for their help. Or, if it’s needed. It’s great if someone brings in your horse because his fieldmate has gone out for a ride and he’s going nuts on his own, for example. It’s less great if you get to the yard to find someone has brought your horse in just because ‘he looked sad.’ The overly helpful person just can’t help themselves (ironically enough). They are full of advice on how your horse could lose weight or how you should change your riding technique to get better results. Unfortunately, though, their burning desire to share their wisdom doesn’t mean they actually know what they’re talking about. Keep smiling and try not to punch them.
The Natural Horseperson
The first thing this yardmate will say to you is, ‘Do you do Parelli?’ They love nothing more than long-reining their horse for miles, feeding them Bach Flower Remedies to moderate their moods, and going to Kelly Marks demos. Their tack is all bitless bridles, treeless saddles and, of course, boots for the barefoot horse. They also make their own sugar-free treats for their horse – and they’ll share them with yours. For this alone, they’re worth befriending!
This yardmate lives, sleeps and breathes competing. You can barely see through the windscreen in their lorry for all the rosettes hanging up there, and they spend more nights at Hickstead/Tweseldown/Chilham than their own home. They occasionally look like they live in a lorry (because they do, pretty much) and by the end of the season, their bottom may have expanded a bit due to an almost-exclusive diet of cheesy chips and burger van cheeseburgers, but their horse has a gleaming coat and rippling muscles, and you’re in awe of their riding skills and sheer determination.
Blog 5 - Buyer's Remorse
At first, everything’s great. You’re so in love with your new horse that he can do no wrong in your eyes. So what if you can’t get him to go nicely in an outline, or if he keeps getting away from you when you lead him in and out of the field and prances off to visit his new horsemates? At least he’s demonstrating a rather lovely, flowing working trot!