Equestrian Mental HealthLisa Weiss

5 Tips for Effectively Dealing with Conflict at the Barn

A horseback rider stands in a barn with her horse.

Visiting the barn and your horse should be a sanctuary. A place to escape the rest of the world and spend time with your four-legged therapist. It’s even better if you can spend time and ride with other amicable horse people. Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for equestrians to encounter people at our barns with personalities that clash with our own. This can cause barn conflict create an emotionally stressful environment for you.

How do you know that the environment may be toxic for you?  Your stomach or chest may be tight.  You may have a general uneasy or anxious feeling in your body.  Perhaps, you start to ruminate on who will be there and what situations you may have to deal with.  It may just be that you’re uncomfortable and anxious when you arrive, instead of being relaxed and excited to see your horse. There are effective ways to handle these clashing personalities and difficult situations, so you can get back to enjoying time with your horse.

Don’t React Right Away

If another person at your barn has upset you, try to remain calm. Flying off the hinges or reacting reflexively in those situations will not be useful in reaching an actual solution. If you’ve been angered or upset by this person, see if you can step away or take a few breaths before responding. When your body and brain sense a threat, you may go into fight or flight mode. When you’re in fight mode, your “thinking brain,” or the part of your brain that is responsible for making good choices and foreseeing consequences, is fogged by chemicals. These chemicals are released by your amygdala, a brain structure responsible for processing danger. By stepping back and taking a few breaths you tell the amygdala that you are not in mortal danger. You’ll give yourself a chance to more accurately assess the situation and make the best long-term decision. 

Choose Your Battles

Just like in all relationships, be sure to choose your battles wisely. It can be tiring to fight off and address each and every little issue that arises. Before addressing an issue, it’s important to consider what the potential goals may be. For example, if you hear that another boarder was criticizing your equitation, you might be able to disregard this. However, if you learn that someone was handling your horse that wasn’t supposed to be, this would be something to address. 

Plan Ahead

A horse and it's rider stand outside a barn at sunset. We offer equestrian related trauma therapy in Scotch Plains, NJ. Contact a therapist to learn more about anxiety counseling and other services to support you!

Before addressing an individual or the barn conflict, plan out your conversation. What are key points you’d like to cover when speaking with this person? Be clear and straightforward in your perspective on the situation. Remind yourself to speak in a neutral tone. Raising your voice may unintentionally escalate the argument. If the conversation is straying from your original intention, stay focused on your goal.  Don’t get distracted. Keep in mind that you can leave the discussion and revisit it another time. 

Don’t Pull Other People In 

When you’re in a tough situation with another person, you might seek help, advice, or a place to vent with others. It’s one thing to vent to someone you trust; after all, we all seek validation when we’re stuck in conflict. However, seeking help or support from someone, especially someone who knows the individual you’re in conflict with, can complicate the situation even more. Perhaps this has happened to you, and you were frustrated when an outsider was pulled into an argument you were having with another person. In therapy, we call this triangulation. Triangulation decreases the chances of the conflict getting resolved in a healthy way. Instead, seek to vent with family, friends, or your therapist, preferably someone outside of the barn; but either way, stay mindful about who is involved in the situation.

Remember Why You’re There

Truly, you’re not at the barn to make friends. Finding genuine people is just an added bonus at the barn, but not an expectation or requirement. Instead, focus on making sure your horse is well taken care of in that space. Remember: you’re at the barn to care for and ride your horse. If you’re finding that you’re clashing with others and the care isn’t safe and effective, maybe it’s time to hunt for another barn. If your horse is doing well and you have the amenities to ride, then do so and enjoy your time!

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Begin Counseling for Equestrians in Scotch Plains, NJ and Branchburg, NJ

A therapist with a clipboard talks as a client listens. This could represent anxiety counseling in Scotch Plains, NJ. Contact a therapist for support with anxiety and rage. We offer equestrian related trauma therapy and other services.

If you’re finding it difficult to deal with a conflict in your barn environment, speaking with a therapist who specializes in issues equestrians face can help. You don’t have to face the anxiety alone. Our Scotch Plains, NJ-based practice has caring therapists that would be honored to support you in learning to effectively manage barn conflict. To start anxiety counseling, follow these simple steps: 

  1.  Connect with us at Brave Minds Psychological Services.
  2. Meet with a member of our team of caring therapists.
  3. Start effectively dealing with conflict!

Other Services Offered at Brave Minds Psychological Services

Anxiety treatment isn’t the only service we offer from our Scotch Plains and Branchburg, NJ-based therapy practice. Other services offered include online therapy, trauma therapyanxiety treatment for childrenchild sexual abuse therapytherapy for teensanxiety treatment for teensteen social phobia therapyadult anxiety counselingcouples counselingcounseling for parentspostpartum counselingbirth trauma therapysexual assault counseling for adults, and food allergy therapy.


Image of Lisa Weiss, LSW, Equestrian Anxiety Therapist at Brave Minds Psychological Services. She is a trauma therapist in Scotch Plains, NJ and does equestrian therapy in New Jersey. 07076