Anna Conley is a 17-year-old eventer who is trying to make it to NAJYRC next summer. Her parents run a boarding facility in Lexington, Kentucky, and these are her not so secret confessions of life as a young eventer.
In some ways I’m living every horse crazy little girl’s dream. I wake up in a bedroom full of horseshow ribbons, I tuck my shirt into my breeches, I wear my Dubarrys and I go to the barn. (Yes, I brush my hair and teeth too, what do you think I am, an animal?).
I probably have too many ponies and too many tack boxes, and it looks like there was a blue and green sharpie tornado throughout our house and barn, but dedication to your cross country colors is key, right? It’s honestly everything I could ever hope for. However, it’s not all fun and games. Here are nine things I’ve learned about being the barn owner’s daughter:
1. You don’t have to like everyone.
At the end of the day, money is money, no matter who’s bank account it comes from. This is my mom’s job, it’s how we pay our bills, it’s how my mom provides for us and supports our dreams. When you get one of those crazy, common sense lacking horse people that somehow work every nerve you have, you just have to deal with it. Smile when you see them and rant when you get in the car to go home.
2. Every day is a long day.
I’m in a completely different situation than a boarder; they can come at any time during the day, do their business, leave and still have time to do normal people things. When I have all my responsibilities squared away by 5 o’clock and I want to go spend time away from the barn, I still have to stay there. My mom has lessons, and the full care horses need to be taken care of for the night.
3. I am the help.
It never really hit me that I was considered the help until one of the 8-year-olds that had a pony on full care thought it was acceptable to walk up to me and lecture me for not having their stall cleaned yet. As much as I wanted to hand that kid a pitchfork and tell them they are perfectly capable of cleaning it themselves, I had to comply because it’s my job. Because I’M the owners daughter and that kid’s mommy or daddy is paying for my horse’s new shoes.
4. Don’t get too close to the new girl.
It happens every time. My mom gets a new boarder that just happens to be close to my age. She rides. She wants to compete. She’s nice, seems to be dedicated. We meet and normally we hit it off, we start competing together, then hanging out outside of the barn. We quickly become really good friends and the barn is a happy, fun place to be.
Then, one day, it all changes. Their parents get mad or something else happens, so they move out. I’ve learned that everybody leaves, whether this all happens over a couple months or you’ve had the best four years of being best friends. They can walk away like it’s nothing, and I’m stuck looking at the spot where their tack box sat, heartbroken because apparently we weren’t as good of friends as I thought. This is the hardest part of being the barn owner’s daughter.
5. Barn moms give great advice and hugs.
If I’m having a hard time and need guidance, a barn mom is usually my go-to person. They treat me like their own and tell the best stories, which hold important lessons that I can learn from. If you have a good barn mom, you know what I’m talking about.
6. Jealousy is inevitable and surprisingly common.
Jealousy goes around our barn all of the time. People think my mom gives me and my sister extra special attention that she doesn’t give to her students. In actuality, she has to separate being their trainer and being our mom. I’ve noticed parents get jealous for their kids too.
Over the years we’ve had so many people get upset because my sister and I have done better than their kid at a show, or I have a nicer horse than them or nicer tack. What those parents don’t realize is it’s not even a fair comparison. My sister, Alex, and I are at the barn every day, we work, we ride and we earn what we have. A kid that rides once or twice a week isn’t going to ride as well as someone who rides multiple horses every day. That’s just the way it is.
7. I have to set the example.
One of my favorite things to hear is “I want to ride like Anna one day!”.I love that we have so many little children that look up to me as a rider and just as a person. One of my sponsors tells me all the time, “I hope my daughter grows up to be like you.” That is such a huge compliment. I really strive to be mature, hard working, dedicated, humble, polite and responsible. I have kids that look to me for guidance and inspiration; I have to be the person those kids see me as.
8. There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing a sale horse in a happy, new home.
One of my favorite things I’ve learned from being the barn owner’s daughter is that every horse is for sale, and there’s nothing more gratifying than when you see those said horses thriving in their new home with their new families. It hurts like hell when you really fall in love with one, but if I kept all the horses I fell in love with, I would need my own farm!
9. There’s no place like home.
The most important lesson of all is the barn is where I belong. It’s my safe haven. The barn has seen more of my blood, sweat and tears than anywhere else, and when I’m at the barn, I know I’m home.
Being the barn owner’s daughter has its perks, but it also has its downsides. Sometimes I look at other people my age and all I see is what I’m missing out on: proms, football games, bonfires. Then I look at Reba, and I see what all those kids are missing out on; that’s when I know I got the better end of the deal.