I've found myself in an awkward position- two people I like at my barn (both instructors who are there a lot) seem to have developed a strong personal dislike for each other, primarily around their methods for handling and training horses. One of them talks to me a lot about everything the other person does wrong.
I really like both of these people as individuals, and learn a lot from both (I only ride with one of them, but chit chat with the other because we're both often the only ones at the barn early in the morning). But, I'm getting increasingly uncomfortable with the bad mouthing of Person #2 by Person #1. I don't ever participate by "gossiping" about Person #2, but realize that I've gotten myself into this position because at first, I was listening sympathetically and letting Person #1 say what she needed to say, not actively agreeing with the critiques but certainly actively listening. I'm not sure if Person #2 is aware that Person #1 is venting with me, but it is certainly clear that other people around the barn are talking about the tension too. And I believe they've had some direct public confrontations, though not in front of me.
I am not a person who has any decision making authority or leadership role at this barn- I ride my horse, take a few lessons, and help out with other lessons a few times a week. I don't want to play the mediator role or help them resolve their differences. I simply want to maintain a positive, upbeat relationship with both people. Am I asking to have my cake and eat it too? Am I going to have to be more direct with Person #1 and tell her I don't want to listen to her vent about Person #2's horsemanship anymore? I'm starting to realize that this probably isn't going to stop unless I do something more active.