Barn Manners: Unsolicited Advice

May 14, 2010 - 4:10 AM

Question: There’s a boarder at the barn who loves to offer unsolicited advice. Whether it’s about my horse—“Maybe you should try some calming supplements,” and “Is he always this crazy?” or my riding, “If I were you, I’d really starting working on getting him to bend more, try doing some 20-meter circles.”  She won’t stop! It’s driving me crazy. This person has no more experience than I do. What can I say to make her stop?

Answer: Oh, the urge to give you some snarky comments to throw her way are strong, but…I….will…suppress…them. Some people are just built this way, feeling it is their purpose to help those around them, whether we want that help or not.

You can try ignoring her, just saying “Yeah, uh huh, thanks….” But it sounds like you are past that point. But do keep in mind that she may view her comments as just giving you ideas or trying to build a friendship based on your common interest.

Think about any past conversations you’ve had with her. Did you vent or express frustration with your horse or riding? You may have made some off-hand remarks that made her think you were looking for this advice. She may feel obliged to “help” you. Are you thinking “guilty!”? If so, the next time she offers a gem of her equine experience, say, “Oh, I was just venting about Ziggy being crazy all the time, it’s not really an issue. Thanks for listening.”

Assuming that you don’t find yourself in any of the above scenarios, then I’d simply and politely ask her to stop. Say: “Janet, I don’t really need any advice. Can we talk about something else? Thanks.”

Believe it or not, it’s a lot easier to deliver this kind of message than you’d think.

Send me your barn manners question: or post your question below.

Elizabeth Howell grew up riding on the hunter/jumper circuit in Massachusetts. Now she is a horse show mom. She holds a day job at The Emily Post Institute and slings horse manure on the weekends. Her website is




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