Barn Manners: Borrowing Tack

Jan 14, 2010 - 12:21 PM

Since my day job is with The Emily Post Institute, horse people often approach me with etiquette questions. When I hear horse people talking about manners, I can’t keep my mouth shut, I have to butt in.

So I was very interested in this thread that appeared in the COTH hunter/jumper forum this week called Respect Borrowed Tack. Penned by OnIslandTime, the post is a perfect summary of guidelines for polite borrowing. Horse people tend be the generous sort, and unfortunately, as evidenced by the responses to OnIslandTime’s post, many people aren’t familiar with the basic common courtesies of borrowing.  

Other readers quickly chimed in with their own lending experiences—both positive and negative. It’s a great read, be sure to check it out.

Here’s my summary, which incorporates many of OnIslandTime’s excellent points.

1. Ask before you borrow.
If you don’t, it’s the same as stealing. If the person isn’t there to ask, call. It’s a good idea to explain this to kids at the barn. It’s very common for children to assume that it’s OK to borrow a hoof pick or martingale without asking permission. Remind them that it’s essential to ask first. Ask them to think about how they would feel if someone helped themselves to the things in their tack trunk without first asking for permission.

2. Return items in the condition you found them.
Namely, clean and readjusted. OnIslandTime put it this way: “That means return stirrups and bridles to their proper adjustments, replace saddle covers, return tack to where you found it, and if it gets disgusting, clean it!” Well said!

3. Treat the borrowed items with care and fess up if you damage something.
Keep tack and other items off the ground. Remove any dirt or smudges you may have made. Fold things and put them away neatly, exactly where you found them. If you do damage an item, you are responsible for fixing or replacing it.

4. If you borrow, also offer to lend.
Horse folks can be infallibly generous. If you’ve been the recipient of this kind of borrowing, keep the good karma flowing by helping out someone else.

5. Say “thank you.”
Don’t take generosity for granted. Etiquette is based on three principles—honesty, respect and consideration. All the “rules” really do boil down to this straightforward premise.

6. It’s OK to say “no.”
Some people just aren’t comfortable loaning out items that cost a small fortune. That’s OK. If someone asks to borrow something just say, “I’m sorry. I don’t loan out my tack.” You don’t need to offer any further explanation. If you’ve asked to borrow something and you’ve been turned down, it’s polite to respond with, “I understand.”

Let me know if you have a “barn manners” question. Post it here or send me an email,

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 web site is




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