Yes, I was raised in a barn...



... and I turned out just fine!


A barn full of horses is a great place to learn valuable (and funny) life lessons. Here's a list of my favorites - what are yours?


There are bogeymen under the stairs, but you can get over your fear of them. Since horses are naturally prey animals, they're always on the lookout for things that are unusual or potentially threatening. However, horses have a remarkable ability to learn and accept scary things when they're helped by a strong, confident leader. If a horse can learn to walk calmly past that flapping windsock that just might be a hungry mountain lion, then surely we can face up to our daily fears.


You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Out in the pasture, horses practice "reciprocal grooming", where two (or more) horses pair up and nuzzle each other's hard-to-reach itchies with lips and teeth. In fly season, they often stand head-to-butt and swat each other's faces with their tails. They create simple, mutually beneficial partnerships that make each day just a little nicer.


Trust your true friends to look out for you. One of the sweetest moments I've ever experienced involved two horses out in a small field together. One horse was fast asleep on his side, all legs splayed out, snoring away, while the other horse stood quietly a few feet away, not eating, just calmly watching me. It's rare to see horses truly sleeping, as they take most of their rests in little naps, which is a habit left over from centuries of being prey. The sleeping horse could relax because someone he trusted completely was watching over him.


Don't cover your mouth when you sneeze. It's much more fun to let the boogers fly out of your nose and spray all over the person next to you.


Body language is just as powerful as spoken language. Horses are creatures of movement, and exert dominance over each other by controlling who goes where in a given space. They do this with minimal noise, relying instead on the pinning of ears, the tightening of muscles, the swish of a tail... and they respond to our body language with the same subtlety. If you're saying one thing with your voice and another with your body, horses will always choose to obey what your body language says, even if you don't know what your body is saying!


Mud is good for you. Deep mud, sticky mud, watery mud, clay mud, half-dried mud, grassy mud, poop-filled mud, mud right after a bath - it doesn't matter. It's fun to roll around in. Try it sometime!


There are sounds in the silence. At the end of the day, when I'm tired, hungry, and dead on my feet, I always take a long, deep breath on my way out of the darkened barn. Layered into the quiet are a hundred little sounds: teeth chewing hay, legs shifting weight, a tail swishing, lips dunking into water, little birds stealing straw for their nests... The sounds in the silence calm me down, make me smile, and finish my day on a peaceful note.


Work can be fun if you're doing it right. Most horses' job descriptions require movement, and lots of it. I believe that horses willingly partner with us clumsy humans, no matter how much we jounce around, because they love to move, and because they know that someday, we'll figure out how to help their movement instead of hindering it. It's beautiful to see two athletes working as a seamless team, one horse, one human, sweating hard but loving the pure joy of movement.


The best things in life come wrapped in crinkly plastic. Horses are intelligent, sensitive creatures with excellent hearing. You can prove this by walking into a barn and rustling a plastic carrot bag or crinkling a peppermint wrapper. Neigh! Nicker! Stomp, stomp! They know want what they want, and they're not afraid to ask for it.


Be nice to people who give good massages. One of the best ways to bond with horses is simply to groom them, rubbing loose hairs from coats, brushing off dust, and combing manes and tails. You can tell when they like it, because they'll close their eyes, lean into your pressure, and lick their lips. If you please them enough, they'll even return the favor with their soft (but strong!) noses.


There are hundreds more lessons to share, but the horses can keep track of time better than me, and they're out there in the barn telling me that dinner is late.

Twu wuv!

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Comments 35 comments

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

annemaeve, please keep sharing the lessons.  You are a strong, confident leader.

I especially like the one "Don't cover your mouth when you sneeze." There may be a little payback there. I mean, they can be REALLY snotty.

Rhym O'Reison profile image

Rhym O'Reison 8 years ago from Crowley, Tx

This is a really wonderful hub. I loved reading about how these lessons are true for horses and then I went back and just read the life lessons themselves and saw how true they are for people too. Brilliant.

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 8 years ago

Anne, such wonderful insights! My favorite is 'trust your true friends to look out for you'. I'm sure you know who I mean, and why :)

Your mom of course, and may I say, she raised a beautiful, talented, caring human being. Love you!


annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Awwww all these warm fuzzies! Love to everyone! Yeay HP!

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut

I love this beautiful hub! Thank you for sharing :)

kerryg profile image

kerryg 8 years ago from USA

This is a wonderful hub, and so true!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

There are sounds in the silence...beautiful. I felt as though I were there with you.

I echo Rhym's comment: Brilliant.

donnaleemason profile image

donnaleemason 8 years ago from North Dakota, USA

Loved the sneeze comment. May try that sometime.


annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Thanks for the wonderful comments, everyone.

Donna, I highly recommend the sneezing. Especially on those days when you really don't feel like talking to anyone, and some annoying person is just going on and on and on... Just look them straight in the eye and let loose! :P

kenaigirl505 profile image

kenaigirl505 8 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

This is an amazingly creative way of teaching about horses and people and how it is the simplest similaritites that make us love them! Thanks so much for writing it! Great hub!

cjcs profile image

cjcs 8 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

I got both comfort and laughter with these comments. The sneeze one... way too familiar :-) I agree with a previous comment, keep these lessons coming.

LeslyeAnn profile image

LeslyeAnn 8 years ago from Yoncalla , Oregon

It's amazing how much we learn about life while spending time with our horses. they are so honest and as a result are very good teachers. Great hub!

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Kenaigirl, thank you for your comments! I liked writing this hub, it was a great exploration into that special relationship horse people are lucky enough to have with our four legged beasties.

cjcs, I'm so glad you enjoyed! I just got sneezed on big time today, right in the middle of teaching a class - they're so good at humbling us.

LeslyeAnn, thank you, and I couldn't agree more. Sometimes people tolerate getting lied to, but horses will never put up with it. They set a great example when they demand all of our attention and effort!

marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

MMMMMMMMmm I loved this! I love horses. I loved being around the barn at my uncle's farm as a kid and this took me back there. Only you had to be careful in the barnYARD. lol very nice....thanks!! Marisue

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Thanks for reading, marisue! You definitely need to watch where you step around where the beasties have been, but they're worth it!

DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 8 years ago from Central North Carolina

I think this is the best horse essay I've read in ages. And I bet you can come up with a book full. I truly enjoyed the read. So true. I was lucky enough to literally live in a barn once, in an attached apratment. And I could listen to the stomping, nickering, soft night noises until I fell alseep. it was heavenly.

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Donna, thank you so much for your compliments! I'm jealous that you got to live so close to the beasties.

I had a potential volunteer come by yesterday and she stopped in her tracks at the doorway. I watched her stand there with a giant grin on her face, for 30 seconds or so, just taking huge nosefuls of barn air. I knew before I even shook her hand that she was one of us. We're so easy to spot, and so easy to please!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

This is a fantastic hub.  Considering I'm one who grew up on a cattle ranch and viewed horses as another part of the not-so-romantic labor of my childhood , I was surprised to really enjoy this article.  Not surprised that it was is so well written, that's why I clicked it to begin, I was certain it would be, but surprised that I would like it so well as I have.  I guess when stripped away of all those early, sunless mornings wading through the cold, dew laden grass that soaked through my boots, wetting my still sleepy feet while I went out with the feed bucket to bring them all to the barn (yeah, the foremen always made the kid do that while the old guys drank coffee in the barn till I brought all the horses in /sigh) ... there is a beauty to these animals that its possible to forget. 

A calf got through a fence one time as I was walking towards the barn, and I watched three of those old ranch horses come running over and, working together as if cowboys were upon them, put that calf right back through the sagging wire.  Pretty impressive (if you've ever tried to get a dumb bovine to find a tiny opening in a long stretch of featureless fence, you'll understand just how much).

Anyway, great hub.  I'm glad I found it.

spryte profile image

spryte 8 years ago from Arizona, USA

Wonderfully moving and well-written piece. Made me just sigh with the peaceful feelings it gave me.

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Shadesbreath, aren't horses amazing? Your story about the horses with "cow sense" was just wonderful. It's always a special moment when a horse volunteers something because it loves to work.

I'm glad I found your hubs, too!

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Spryte, thank you so much! I'm going to go out there right now and concentrate on the peaceful feelings - not the dirty buckets or the brush on the floor or the dusty windows... just the nice, peaceful feelings... yes...

DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 8 years ago from Central North Carolina

I just re-read this hub. it made me laugh and cry. I miss my horses.

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Aww, Donna! I hope they were happy tears!!

Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 8 years ago from London

This is a lovely hub.  I don't know much about horses, but this taught me a lot and endears me towards them!

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Thanks for commenting, Moon Daisy! Horses are full of charm and personality. I'm glad you enjoyed learning a little about them... maybe you'll find some to make friends with soon (just bring some carrots and wear old, old shoes)!

dana825 profile image

dana825 8 years ago from Chicago

I love reading your stuff about horses. I unfortunately grew up in the suburbs and didn't live in a barn but I almost do now. One thing that is a tell-tale sign that you are a horse lover is that ALL of your clothes have horse hair on them, no matter how many times you wash them!

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Hi Dana, I love your stuff about horses, too! Yup, horse hair is a great accessory. It attracts all the right kind of people, and keeps the neat-freak weirdos at bay. :P

AEvans profile image

AEvans 8 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

Great Hub!!! And I used to believe in the boogey man, I love horses and maybe one day I can own them, however right now I am the proud owner of 2 Cocker Spaniels that are sooo smart.:)

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Thanks, AEvans!  I've found that dogs can sometimes be smarter than horses... it all depends on where the motivation lies.

glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 8 years ago from Northern California

Living in a barn always seemed almost romantic, especially after "Road House" :)

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 8 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Hey yeah, that's right! And living like that is great in the winter - you don't have to go outside to feed the horsies!

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Wonderful! As kids Mom asked "Were you raised in a barn?" whenever we would leave the door wide open. I like your take on it even better. The True Friends part - watching each other's back - my dogs do that for each other too. Very sweet, charming and well written hub. I got a great laugh about the boogers too!

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 6 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Thanks for the feedback, Peg! I love it when people say that... because if you HAD been raised in a barn you'd know to keep the door shut so no horses went prowling on the town! I just got boogered yesterday... it never gets old... :)

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JanetReikiHealing 5 years ago

Oh Anne, I LOVED this! Please keep writing. This should be a book with sweet pictures. I love the way you see life, especially through the eyes of a horse lover. Love you lots. Thanks for sharing!

annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 4 years ago from Philly Burbs Author

Love you!!!!!!!

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