I’ve been to about a little under 10 barns throughout my life, and I’ve had different experiences at each one. Sometimes you end up forming a tight bond with your fellow riders and boarders; other times, the barn is so small that you can go for days without seeing anyone but barn staff.
If you are at a farm where you’ve made close friends and become part of the “barn family,” it is definitely a lot harder – even if things have gone south at the barn. Most of the time when I’ve moved a barn, I’ve agonized over the decision. For the most part, my decision to move barns has been because the barn didn’t fit my needs anymore. For example, once my pony had gotten through his weight issues, the barn I was at was no longer a fit because it didn’t have a trainer, and I wanted to begin riding again. The owners of the barn had always been so kind to me, and they had helped me greatly with Tempo’s health issues, so it was hard for me to leave. Yet, they were understanding and were able to see my point of view as to why I was leaving.
I recently had to move barns for various reasons, but prior to those things happening, I had been very close with many people at the barn, including the barn managers. Deciding to leave that facility was an agonizing decision for me – one that I went back and forth on for many months (until things started happening that jeopardized the health of my horses). However, I felt a lot of emotions leading up to the time where I told my barn managers, and the others at the barn, that I was leaving. I felt scared, nervous, angry, sad. I had heard horror stories about what barn managers do when they have a bad fall out with a boarder. I know this may seem stupid, but given the situation I was in, my mind was running wild with all these different things that could happen.
I know a few people who are struggling right now with the decision to leave a facility because it just isn’t a fit for them anymore – for various reasons. It is perfectly normal to feel emotional about leaving a barn. Especially if you’ve made friends at the barn, if it feels like home, if you had or have a good relationship with the staff – whatever the reason.
However, you should never let these emotions get in the way of what you need to do for yourself, your riding career, and your horse – if you have one. There are things you can do to make moving easier and to deal with the emotions you may be feeling.
Try to make the move as drama-free as possible. The horse world is small, and it is very important to try not to burn any bridges in the horse world. It may come back to bite you in the end. Unless there is something serious going on, try to leave your barn on as good terms as possible with the staff and with the other people there. This can mean sitting down with them and explaining why you’re leaving. Perhaps you need to move to a facility that is more affordable or that is a less timely commute from your home. Explaining these reasons may make the sting less for the barn managers or owners. No matter what they say – it is a bit of a slap in the face when someone leaves a facility.
Write a letter expressing your emotions, but don’t deliver it. If you are feeling angry, upset, or some other emotion that is particularly destructive and not serving a purpose for you. I did this myself, and it was very helpful and cathartic. You don’t have to give the letter to anyone, and if you are particularly angry and express that in your letter, I would suggest you don’t. Sometimes, just the act of writing down those emotions helps.
Stay in touch with your close friends at the barn. Even though I left my barn on negative terms, I do stay in touch with a few people at my old facility that I was close with. They are people I can trust and people who were a support system for me when things started to become negative for me. One of the reasons leaving a barn is so hard may be because you’ve made close friends at the facility, and going to a brand new facility where you may not know anyone can be scary or intimidating. However, just because you’re no longer at a barn doesn’t mean you can’t still stay in touch with the people that were your friends.
Know that it’s okay to be sad/angry/whatever you’re feeling. Don’t try to bottle your emotions up! It’ll only make it worse once they come to the surface. Remember that it’s okay to be sad about moving barns! It’s also okay to be angry, if you are leaving a situation that was less than positive for you and your horse. We experience all sorts of emotions in this sport, and as long as you deal with them in a healthy, non-destructive way, it’s okay!