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Fun events in h/j barns: community building?

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  • Fun events in h/j barns: community building?

    I'm on the hunt for fun events you trainers have held at the barn that aren't just horseshows or clinics: in or out of the ring, and include out-of-the-box thinking kinds of stuff that isn't necessarily hugely profitable at the moment, but adds to the good vibe in the barn. Creative, entertaining, encourages client bonding and maybe adds another side to the "training" part of your barn business family.

    This is for a round-up I'm writing and I think it's especially important during tougher economic times, yes?

    Thanks so much for input.
    Stephanie Stephens

  • #2
    A fire drill! The barn had their local fire department out along with insurance agent - complete w fog machine and alarms. They taught firemen how to put on a halter and lead a horse. Put blindfolds on the horses and had the guys in full gear. Barbecue afterwards with lesson/"pony" rides for the guys.

    Host a fitness bootcamp! Your barn will be the first place these folks think of when their kids hit the horsey stage, when neighbors ask for recommendations, or when they become empty nesters and need a new hobby/"kid"
    CLIPclop Bodyclipping by Morgan
    Serving North GA with high quality clips.
    --> Just Press Start // '99 Oldenburg
    --> Always The Optimist (reg. Simply Stylin) // '02 Thoroughbred


    • #3
      A few ideas that pop off the top of my head:

      (*) Pony Club / 4-H / Girl Scout meetings
      (*) Annual barn Christmas party (white elephant gift exchange!)
      (*) Large pizza orders for anyone in the barn at dinner time
      (*) "Adult Swim" (adults only lesson times)
      (*) "Pony Parties" - essentially like a birthday party for the kid who gets a new pony (or horse), complete with a cake, a decorated stall (streamers, balloons, group made poster), and a collective gift (usually a saddle pad with new pony's name embroidered, maybe matching polo wraps).

      I have seen the latter play out enormously well for purposes of "client bonding." If you get the kids together - supporting and encouraging each other, they begin to form friendships outside of the horse barn. This makes it harder for "barn hoppers" to up and leave, because now the kids have a social circle that's deeply connected to the barn.


      • #4
        My mom owned a boarding barn when I was growing up. Once a quarter we did something non-horsey together. The most fun thing was a pot luck dinner at the barn complete with softball game! During the winter we'd go to the movies or roller skating. Totally hilarious to see our trainer on skates...she was awful! Riding is primarily social for so many kids and adults, so it's good to incorporate those activities into the "program".


        • #5
          My mom and I had a boarding/training barn for many years and we would always have big BBQ's… we also try do things like go bowling or take the kids to the movies or whatever the BBQ;s were REALLY REALLY fun… we even swam some of the horses in the lakes… or big huge barn trail rides… you can do it from your famr or trailer to somewhere cool… Also, when we went to "away" shows we always go do something cool on the off days. When we were in Atlanta we would all get up and help at the barn in the morning and then go to Six Flags… stuff like that… a lot of times it's the non-horsey stuff that bonds you all even more……
          Friend of bar.ka


          • #6
            Our barn also does an annual "field trip". Usually we go to Medeival Times, but one year we splurged and went to Cavalia and got the backstage tour!

            A barn I boarded at in the past closed for one night each month. They had a very wide aisle (I think 4') and would host a lobster dinner and ballroom dancing in the aisleway. It was a ticketed event.

            Support other local 'farmers'! We had an open house meet n greet and invited other local businesses to come sample their foods. We had a jam company, a honey farm, an elk farm (elk summer sausage), and local cheeses. We also made chili using our own farm-grown beef. It was nice reason for neighbors to get together and get to know each others products & the public.
            CLIPclop Bodyclipping by Morgan
            Serving North GA with high quality clips.
            --> Just Press Start // '99 Oldenburg
            --> Always The Optimist (reg. Simply Stylin) // '02 Thoroughbred


            • #7
              My barn I rode at growing up used to have a tradition that whenever you fell off, you had to put $1 (maybe it was 50 cents??) in a jar at the barn. At the end of the month (or every 3 months or whatever the time period was...I can't exactly remember). The barn would have a pizza party for all the "fallers". Of course the rest of the barn was invited too


              • #8
                Everyone has great ideas. Here's my contribution for you. I'd love to see your final article.

                *something out of your discipline. I am at a strict H/J barn. One day I set up a trail class for them and we had a blast. Didn't cost a lot but it was great to see the horses try and navigate things that they weren't used to - walking on tarps, crossing a wooden bridge, going past an animated stuffed animal toy - think monkey clapping cymbals, closing a "gate," walking through an area draped with streamers (scary!), anything different is challenging and fun. Don't get this too structured or competitive. I allowed anyone the option of skipping obstacles or leading their horse instead of riding.

                *movie night - we always go when there is a new release of a horse film. Lots of fun to see everyone cleaned up and not stinking.

                *Halloween costume day - there are always some great paired outfits. We have had Santa and a reindeer, Tigger and Pooh, etc.

                *Pas de Deux or drill team practice. Good times with good music if you can arrange it.

                *Trail rides - great to get out of the arena so long as the horses can behave. We don't have trails but can ride along some country roads that have decent shoulders.

                *Paint the poles day - the kids love to get messy and actually do a nice job. Mom and dad picnic at the same time.

                *Easter egg hunt - THAT was a lot of fun! We used plastic eggs. I even hid a "golden egg" which contained a special prize - I think it was a certificate for a free lesson.

                *One summer we had summer day camp. Painted t-shirts, did horsie crafts and had horse trivia contests. Very fun with ice cream on the last day. When I had an older group of teens we "secretly" slept over at the barn in tents and in sleeping bags in the aisle. We did this while the barn manager was on vacation so that "secret" made it that much more fun. Sneaking around in the middle of the night in PJ pants is mandatory! Scaring each other is also mandatory!

                *make a barn scrapbook for the barn manager. Everyone does a page or two and then throw them all together. These are great to look at over the years.

                There are lots of other good ideas out there. I am glad to see this list!


                • #9
                  At a previous barn, we would have an annual July 4th trail ride followed by a potluck. It was loads of fun, I even stenciled red white and blue glitter stars into the gelding I was riding. One of the boarders had a family recipe for carrot cake that was divine, too. Definitely a great way to bond, right smack in the middle of show season too.

                  At the barn I'm at now, there is always an annual Christmas party. It's a big deal- everyone shows up, dresses up, and has a great time... Horse people sure do know how to party!


                  • #10
                    Had an animal communicator come and spend a day at the barn to "talk" to horses, dogs, and a barn cat.

                    Usual assortment of BBQs at the barn. The BO did a Halloween party with a pumpkin-carving contests and a wildly popular raffle consisting of a free month's board.

                    When the adult evening lesson gets rained out they will typically meet at a restaurant instead.

                    Field trips to watch medal finals and regionals. One year a group of us went to the Olympic dressage trials (it's a hunter barn so kind of out of discipline).
                    The Evil Chem Prof


                    • #11
                      we would do overnight barn slumber days(well more of a camp but got to sleepover) that included riding during the day,games in the arena(mounted and unmounted),barbeque,swap riding stories,just an over all good time,and then sleep either in the hay loft or tackroom.we did this more often in the spr/sum,but can be done anytime.

                      we have done some things similar like lizrd

                      painting pole days...then we would have each person draw out a course,set up and then ride each others courses..varying heights to include everyone(ground pole to 3+ great fun

                      drill/musical ride...each rider had there input of each movement..good idea for team building exercise,as it will not work properly if you don't.

                      find it games/hunts.

                      anyways don't really have anything new,except the slumber days.
                      a;; great suggestions on here for ideas


                      • #12
                        Our barn participates in the local annual " Pink Ribbon" ride , we raise a TON of money and spend an entire day trail riding in the local horse park!! And we all dress in pink , its a blast!


                        • Original Poster

                          OhMyGosh, you guys are GOOD. This is just too much fun! Thank you. Really.

                          I'll be in touch via PM to get your details.

                          Makes me want to go play at the barn!!!

                          Stephanie Stephens


                          • #14
                            Every Christmas our H/J barn would do an obstacle course, with specific obstacles for each level. It included everything from picking the santa hat off the gate, to jumping a low fence that had lit christmas lights wrapped around the pole!

                            Another was having a star chart for falls. Each time you fell off, you put a star by your name. At the end of the year, we'd have a 'fall off party', and play games on horseback. Including an obstacle course (see above!). Sometimes trading horses, or having everybody divided into teams.

                            It was loads of fun, and really good for the horses. My schoolmaster hunter, who had been to Madison Square Garden, and everyplace inbetween, and you couldn't build a jump he hadn't seen - about came undone at the chalk outline of the keyhole. LOL.
                            The truth is always in the middle.


                            • #15
                              I have very fond memories of jump painting parties in the summer. The barn owner/trainers would supply the paint, pizza, snacks, and water/soda/adult beverages) and we would paint away. There was no mandatory time or number of jumps you had to paint, but everyone loved it and hung out for hours on end.

                              I still have and older pair of paddock boots with blue, purple, and white paint on them from when I was a teen


                              • Original Poster

                                Love these, too. Thank you!
                                Stephanie Stephens


                                • #17
                                  We recently held a Ride-a-thon fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. It took a lot of planning, but we had ring rides, trail rides, door prizes, silent auction and raised a lot of money. We also had a goal (we made it) to keep at least one horse in the ring at all times for 12 hours. Long day, but fun.
                                  "Radar, the man's ex-cavalry: if he sees four flies having a meeting, he knows they're talking about a horse!" Cptn. BJ Hunnicutt, M*A*S*H Season 4, Episode "Dear Mildred"


                                  • #18
                                    Beer and cheap pizza worked for us, even with kids around.
                                    Visit my Spoonflower shop


                                    • #19
                                      We go to the track. Hire a couple of limos (so we can enjoy adult beverages), get all dolled up, get a couple of boxes, and have a great time. DH will even come to this sort of event. Not cheap, but it's sort of an annual thing so it's okay to splurge once in a while.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        To everyone who replied, I'd love to run photos of your events or outings. You can send to me via e-mail here, at last 300 dpi. All the ideas are super.
                                        Stephanie Stephens