… but the horse smell stays with her.
During my first semester of college, I did my best to keep my barn clothes and my school clothes separate. My barn boots stayed at the barn, and I tried to dress professionally for class. The giant barn jacket, even though it’s arguably the warmest and most cozy thing I own, was not allowed out of the barn. The only concession I made was that I would occasionally wear an old pair of paddock boots, long since retired from riding, around campus (they look like combat boots, right?). I’m not really sure what I was trying to prove by hiding my inner equestrian, but this semester I’ve abandoned the idea of trying to look like I haven’t spent all morning at the barn.
Even last semester, I found that it is entirely impossible to remove all traces of horse from oneself. I would push my hair away from my face during a writing assignment only to dislodge a piece of hay, dig in my pocket for some Chapstick and instead find peppermint wrappers and treat crumbs, and brush horse hair from a sweater that had never been to the barn. I’m sure I carried the barn smell on me too, unnoticeable to me but possibly strong to people nearby. It’s really not worth all the trouble of going back to my room to change clothes, rearrange helmet hair, and spray perfume that, if we’re being honest, just makes everything smell weird because then I smell like both horse and vanilla.
It’s fairly common to see people wearing shorts or sweatpants and sneakers after their sports practices, so why shouldn’t I wear my practice clothes around campus? When it’s cold and wet, I feel a little smug in my giant coat and boots—I may not smell like sunshine and flowers or be entirely dust- or horsehair-free, but I am surely the warmest and most waterproof person on campus. Barn clothes are wonderfully practical in that I could wade through an ankle-deep mud puddle or snowbank (or both—you never know in Alfred), go on a hike, shed some layers and be comfortable indoors, or go right back to the barn and ride again. Whatever the occasion calls for, I’m (more or less) dressed for it.
If I’m wearing boots, chances are I am also wearing spurs. Short-legged as I am, they keep my jeans from dragging on the ground when I walk and have the added benefit of eliciting amusing reactions from some non-horse people. Wearing practice clothes to class when it’s convenient has saved me lots of time—no worrying about whether this or that shirt matches that scarf and goes with those shoes; just brush the dust off of that sweatshirt and head to class! My laundry basket has also thanked me because it gets filled much more slowly when I don’t change my clothes three times every day.
There’s a saying that goes something like “You can take the girl out of the barn but you can’t take the barn out of the girl,” and I am thoroughly enjoying the pieces of “barn” that stay with me even when I can’t be there.
Haley is the author of Horse Nation’s “Academic Equestrian” series, following her collegiate experience as she balances her studies with participation on the varsity equestrian team and time with her own horse. Catch up on past columns by clicking the #ACADEMIC EQUESTRIAN tag at the top of the page!
Haley Ruffner is attending Alfred University, majoring in English and minoring in Business and Equestrian Studies. She has a green Quarter Horse, At Last an Invitation “Cricket,” and he is also “enrolled” at Alfred. She rides western and hunt seat and also loves to rein and trail ride.