Lately, I’ve heard a lot of talk about how young riders have changed since when I grew up. What happened to the good ol’ days where barn rats ran amok for hours on end? Surely they’re still out there and it’s the greatest life you could wish for your teenager, but why are barn rats so hard to find?
When we were kids, it seemed like barn rats were a dime a dozen. Any barn on any given day was guaranteed to have at least a couple scurrying around. For those of you perhaps unfamiliar with the term “barn rat,” I am not referring to the scary rodent variety, but rather the child/teenager who would rather spend all day every day at the barn rather than with other people. They are tough as nails, not afraid to get dirty, fearless, and, now it seems, a dwindling breed. Dare I say, on the verge of extinction.
We were asked to clean stalls, prep feed, or set jumps, bathe horses, or wrap legs. There was no end to the chores that needed doing, and we were free labor with the only renumeration received being the knowledge we gained.
Kids today seem so much “busier” than we were at the same age. They barely have time to show up at the barn, ride, and leave — never mind find extra hours to hang around. Those that do have the time seem to want something in return for their efforts (something more than the learning). While I would love to blame this generation of kids for being spoiled, lazy, or entitled, I’m not sure they are entirely to blame.