The holidays are approaching, which means families everywhere will soon be looking for fun outings and things to do together! As an employee and past volunteer of a nonprofit horse sanctuary, we so frequently get visitors that I thought I’d put together a helpful little guide to steer individuals in the right direction when it comes to acceptable behavior, etiquette, and manners around horses. All of these tips were compiled based on wonderful visitors in the past who have really set the bar for visiting a horse ranch! Enjoy!
Walk in without an appointment. Rest assured, there are ALWAYS dozens of people scattered around the ranch at any time, and every single one of them will be glad to drop everything to show you around and answer your questions. None of the volunteers have assignments or chores to be completed, and because we have no timeframe for completing any tasks, you are the only thing that matters.
Go directly up to the horses and start petting them. Instead of finding the human in charge to speak with first, be sure to go right up to the horses you’ve never met and immediately begin petting their faces. All horses are great with strangers mauling them, and we don’t have any herd members with behavioral/aggressive issues. And your kids want to pet the pretty ponies? All at once? Go for it! The more, the merrier.
Let your kids run wild. Speaking of your kids, children should be encouraged to let loose at a horse ranch. After all, it’s outside! All horse ranches strongly encourage kids to run, scream, jump up and down, and make quick movements – particularly around the horses. After all, horses are completely placid around loud, energetic, fast-moving humans, so your kids will never be in any danger at all.
Interrupt horsemanship lessons. Is an instructor giving a brief lesson to a volunteer about the correct way to lead a horse? Is she showing a group how to clean hooves? Be sure to walk right up to them and begin talking as though they’re not even there by describing what you see wrong with the horse you met five seconds ago. The instructor and volunteers will appreciate the concern, and applaud you for your boldness in speaking your mind.
Feed the horses anything you see on the ground. Don’t worry – none of our horses are on vet-approved, restrictive diets and all hay is all the same. Go ahead and scrape up whatever scraps of hay you find on the ground and offer it to the horse directly in front of you. Furthermore, feel free to bring whatever kind of fruit you have at home – bananas, pears, apricots, etc. – and feed them to the horses without asking. Horses can eat apples so they should be able to have unlimited quantities of other fruits, right?
Give us lots of advice. The words, “You know what you should do?” are music to our ears! You’re wearing cowboy boots and rode a horse on a trail ride once so you therefore must know tons more about horses than we do. Be sure to describe to the humans in charge – in detail – everything we’re doing wrong. Don’t leave anything out about horses or our nonprofit structure itself because rest assured we have no idea what would make our nonprofit better ourselves, and after all, we have all the time, manpower, energy, and money in the world to make anything we want happen! We are just waiting for you to tell us what to do.
Discipline our horses. Do you see a horse doing something you don’t like? Did you watch a YouTube video once about managing horses? Walk right into that horse’s stall and start correcting their behavior! The ranch management will appreciate you keeping tabs on our herd. None of our horses have quirks, medical problems, behavioral issues rooted in years of abuse, dislikes, or fears of which you need to be aware, so go right ahead.
Wear heels and expensive clothes. Close-toed flats are so old-fashioned, and horse ranches are the perfect place to bust out your $2,000 vest that can’t be dry-cleaned or thrown in the wash! When you visit a horse ranch, take the time to dress up. The ground is very flat and clean around a horse ranch, and there is no chance at all you might ruin your shoes walking around.
Ask to ride. What else are horses good for, right? Whenever you stop by, be sure to ask the humans to saddle up the nearest horse to you so you can leisurely stroll around the property. Because all riding involves is just sitting on a horse, it’s the easiest thing in the world and all horses absolutely adore being ridden. Know what you’re doing in the saddle and don’t need an instructor? Don’t hesitate to ask us if you can stop by at your convenience and saddle up one of our horses on your own. Of course we’ll say yes!
Don’t offer a donation. Talk about insulting! Horse ranches are made of money, nonprofit horse ranches even more so! As you leave, don’t even think about giving a few bucks to the humans as a tax-deductible donation as a way of saying thank you for their time. After all, horses aren’t that expensive.