It’s a conundrum. Everyone hates barn drama. And everyone has experienced it — dare I say, participated in it. So if we all hate it so much, why is it so prevalent? Why do we let it go on? And what can we do about it?
Some of us have already found the solution and keep our horses at home. But what about those of us who can’t?
It’s always tempting for women to try to solve things by talking. Or by shutting down completely and pointedly not talking. The resulting silence is most often accompanied by fantasies of what would be said if women were, in fact, talking. I think it’s those fantasy conversations more than anything that leads to the problem in the first place. ”I know she’s thinking this,” or “She said this, but she means that,” or “I could tell when she was looking for her martingale, that she really just didn’t want to talk to me.”
This is for those of you who participate in turning the pitchfork and heating up the muck.
Yegads, women! It’s time to stop. It’s time to think — and act — more like men. Before you start talking to me about why that wouldn’t work and how shut down men are, just remember, the feminine way isn’t working too well by the looks of things in the barn.
I know you think you know how men handle things and you feel that it’s wrong and if I weren’t writing this out of earshot, you’d be happy to talk to me about it, probably for hours on end.
But you’re reading this instead (lucky me!), so here’s my suggestion: Speak your mind and don’t emote. Try to put your feelings aside, for just as long as it takes to speak a sentence or two. Be direct, without the empathy that you value so highly which so often melds with codependence and that gets you into all that trouble you don’t know how to deal with and can’t get your way out of.
It’s really more simple than you make it out to be. Just do the next right thing. Take an action. Speak your mind. Or don’t speak your mind, if you don’t have anything that needs saying. But don’t dwell on what you’re saying and don’t stuff what you want to say but think you can’t. Do one or the other but — and here’s the important part: Let it go.
Those all-important and all-encompassing feelings will work themselves out and diminish, if you let them. A simple analogy should suffice. Early in the morning, the dew is on the grass. Then it goes away. Maybe it comes back the next day. Maybe it doesn’t. Don’t throw yourself into a panic when you see some dew. Don’t decide that fog is next and eventually you won’t be able to see anything. If you’re really convinced you’ll never be able to see anything again and you really need to talk about it, then do it. And then let it go. Not just with others, but inside yourself.
Contrary to popular feminine belief, feelings are not always the most important things. That was the idea behind etiquette, a somewhat antiquated solution to social awkwardness that I, for one, think is ripe for a rerun. It’s amazing how saying the right thing or doing the right thing can solve the insurmountable problems that women think they have the minute they feel something or imagine that others are feeling something.
Think about it in terms of your horse. He or she has feelings. They are mostly related to eating and socializing, with you or other horses. Even horses that are said to “love work” do so, I think, because it’s another form of socializing.
Your relationship with your horse is a great role model. You understand that your horse has feelings and those feelings are important. But unless you’re a complete wackadoodle, you probably don’t dwell on them. You do what you need to do. Groom. Feed. Muck. Ride. Train. Some of you even take your horses to shows, and expect them to perform without drama. Can we say, “Do as I say not as I do?”
You love your relationship with your horse. Admittedly, it’s easier to eliminate interpersonal drama with someone that doesn’t talk back (with the exception of the occasional neigh or whinny). But why not just pretend that your “friends” at the barn are horses? If you’re an experienced horseman, you’ve already learned not to take it personally if your horse does something you don’t like. What do you do? Correct it. Move on. Reward the try.
The fact is that what you feel really doesn’t matter in terms of getting along. Do you ever wonder how men can have an argument and then, a minute later, talk about The Game? It’s not that men don’t have feelings. They do. It’s simply that men know that feelings don’t help when you disagree or things get awkward. Making your point, and then finding a point of compatibility, does. Smoothing things out works a lot better than fondling your own feelings and fantasizing about other people’s feelings.
I’m sorry to say it, ladies, but it’s an estrogen problem. And I have an idea for solving it. More men! In the barn! When I was growing up, even the barns that were owned by women had an Irish trainer around (when I rode in Europe, men vastly outnumbered women). Things may have been less cozy, but they were certainly more clear. If we can’t airlift an Irishman (you know my bias) into the center aisle of every boarding barn in America, I’ll take a man of any nationality. The horses aren’t enough of a role model, and we women need all the help we can get.