Perhaps one of the more peaceful settings in the world is that of a quiet barn. Usually this is easily found in the early morning or the evening, when the horses are tucked in and resting. This peace and quiet, however, isn’t always common at every barn – and it’s a lot more important than some may realize.
Max Corcoran, a freelance groom who has worked with the likes of Karen and David O’Connor as well as many top event and show jump riders, observes that one common habit of the top jumper grooms is to know when to walk away from the barn.
“The horses are all getting the top care – they’re all iced, they’ve all got their feet packed – but the grooms are really good about walking away,” she explained. “The horses need that time to rest and switch off, just like humans.”
Think of it this way: horses are inherently flight animals. Therefore, an increased level of noise and activity around them at all times can be mentally tiresome as they filter through the noise, identifying risks. Particularly at a show, it’s important that they be left alone to rest, both mentally as well as physically.
“The horses really learn when they can switch off and relax,” Max observed. “Even traveling internationally, they all just knew when it was time to lay down. I think that peace and quiet is really valuable and needs to be a bigger part of their routine.”
It’s a cultural difference, Max allows, particularly between the jumpers and the eventers. While the jumpers’ family members or owners may stop by the barns before the show before posting up in the stands for the day, the eventer’s family may instead set up camp right next to the barn. With this in mind, Max says it’s just all in management.
“When I was working for Karen and David (O’Connor), we’d have it so that the lessons weren’t near the barn or that unnecessary foot traffic wasn’t coming through at all times. You have the riders who are very hands-on, but know when to step away as well. Having a quiet barn is a big part of any success.”