You can take the barn rat out of the barn, but you can never take the barn out of the barn rat. It’s in your blood, and you’ve seen it all. From late night vet visits and emergencies to scrambling to get your horses up in the middle of a hurricane or blizzard, there’s not a lot of things that got by you in your time as a barn rat in residence. The knowledge, skills and habits you picked up will stay with you for life, so it’s no surprise you can spot a fellow barn rat from a mile away. Here’s a few things to look for:
1. They still jump over things.
When horseless horse shows were once such a large part of your life, there’s no way to completely get rid of the urge to canter everywhere. Kid jumping was everything back in the day, and convincing your parents to get you one of the really cool ones (flower box included) was a huge accomplishment. Sure, you might have a couple of busted joints from riding for so long, and perhaps you’ve already graduated from college, but it’s still worth trying to jump things for the sake of your pony kid reputation—and your pride.
2. They have a soft spot for glitter.
Trying to look neat and professional in clean white saddle pads and matching hunt coat might just be a façade. These are people who used to wear cheetah everything to match their pony’s cheetah print saddle pad and polo wraps. And don’t get me started on the Twinkle Toes. A true barn rat jumps at any excuse they have to paint their horse in glitter—even though it might never come off.
3. Bathing a horse is extremely important.
Former barn rats will spend hours bathing their horse and making him smell wonderful—just to have him go to his stall and immediately roll. Bathing isn’t something you do just to make your horse clean—it’s serious bonding time with your horse. Bubble baths for ponies were a sacred time in pony kid kingdom, and covering your pony with purple shampoo was always exhilarating because you never were quite sure if you actually turned them a different color.
4. They have no problem napping in their horse’s stall.
Some people might find shavings irritating and itchy, but these people think that if it’s good enough for their horse, it’s good enough for them. And coolers make excellent blankets. Having spent many hours at the barn building forts out of hay bales, barn rats are basically immune to the discomfort that comes from having hay stuck in your pants.
5. Sit-a-buck is no joke.
Any former barn rat knows when it comes to games on horseback, there is no backing down. You’ve won more sit-a-bucks than you can count, and have probably fallen off at some point trying to win a relay race. You might have even run over some pony kids in the heat of the moment while playing musical horses, but it’s this competitive fire that fuels you to this day. If only I had a dollar for every time I—oh wait…
6. They will ride anything.
Many barn rats had to do hours of manual labor just to sit on a horse, never mind be granted an actual riding lesson. They learned to appreciate any opportunity that was given to them and will still take up any and all offers to ride whenever they can. Since they had to figure out some difficult horses growing up, they’ll probably do a good job, too.
7. Riding clothes all day, every day.
From a young age, barn rats have had no problem wearing dirty boots into Subway to pick up some lunch, despite judgmental looks. Who cares when you know you’re having a better time than everyone else? Shavings in your hair? Barn rat don’t care.
8. Plans for the barn clubhouse are still lying around somewhere.
You know those dreams of having a little shed with blow up chairs and a fridge? Yeah, they’re still written down somewhere in a Lisa Frank pony head notebook because you couldn’t bear to throw them out (and also secretly hoping it’ll still happen). Having a place to talk about ponies and eat pizza during the day was the grand vision.
9. They love riding bareback.
And they’re good at it too. True barn rats would have bareback puissance contests just to see who could do it the best. Former barn rats can still be seen walking their horses in bareback from the paddock or trying to play pony tag and knock each other off their ponies (all while wearing a helmet of course!).
10. They work really hard.
Learning by experience is the best way to figure out you need to work hard in the horse business. Whether that means mucking stalls for hours to be able to participate in your favorite horse show or riding sans stirrups without being asked, barn rats know how to get things done, and do it with the least amount of complaining. They understand how important it is to have a good work ethic, and so far it’s paid off.