Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Non-Horse People Are Pretty Much Clueless

I don't mean my title in a bad way, it's just the truth.  As I would be "clueless" about what many sports entail, so are non-horse people clueless about what a horse person accomplishes.

I credit that ignorance to pony rides and paid trail rides where the horses/ponies are taught to repeat a task over and over until they're on auto-pilot.

A twenty year relationship with a horse does begin to create a similar dynamic, but we all know what it takes to get to that point.

There's so much that goes into horsemanship: feed, water, cleaning stalls, wound care, vitamins, medicine, bathing, training, riding, ...teaching manners...comforting, when they're frightened. Being a detective.

When I take new riders out, I always ask them to be detectives.  What did you notice about your horse while you were saddling up and grooming?  What do you notice now? They'll tell me about what their horses were doing and acting like, if they may have been favoring a leg, where their ears are, how they're walking out, who they're paying attention to, whether they want to follow or lead....and on and on.

So much of what we do is honing our skills of observation.

And we do that with the environment, too.  Is there a jogger coming up behind?  A biker ahead? A deer laying in the trees, ready to spring up and surprise us?  A down log?  A washed out trail?  We have to survey the world around us and prepare our horses for whatever may come.  And, if we both miss it, we have to be able to comfort and/or control our horse's fear response.

Being out on the trail is a culmination of everything we do in the training ring.  We walk, trot, lope--maybe even gallop. We keep our heads up and look where we're going, rather than on our horse's feet ("Look down, fall down," I say to the trainees), we listen to our partners and give them a little pat of understanding here and there, a little thanks and praise at other times, and we keep ourselves balanced so that our horses can balance themselves.

There's a lot that goes on as a new rider learns to understand, communicate with, and trust their horse, and I don't think kids get enough credit for it.

So, this is a shout-out to those who do this--kids and adults both.  Non-horse people may not understand what monumental feat you just accomplished,...

but we, horse people, do.

and BRAVO!

OH, and we also have to know how to haul a trailer...and fix a flat....like this.


  1. There is so much learning and observing that goes into riding and being safe whether you're on the trails or in an arena. Thanks for writing this, I don't think horse people get enough credit for all we do. It's certainly not as glamorous as some might think. Unless maybe you're rich and have servants do all the dirty jobs. Then again I wouldn't want to have that because you miss all the little interactions with your horses.

    I once was at a show with my daughter and I'm not kidding about this...A young girl pulled up in a limo in front of our stalls. Got out had the groom hand her the horse (which was already schooled for her and tacked up etc.) After her rides she got back in limo and took off. You can't tell me that girl had a real relationship with her horse right?

    1. Oh my! That's like glorified pony rides, and not fair to the competitors who put in the work. That makes me sad. I have also heard of very wealthy people spending begillions on super trained / bred horses for their kids and then their kids sweep the competitions, and I've also bristled about that. We have a local woman who raised and trained her own horse and is one of the top rated barrel racers in the country. It's a heart-warming story. Here's the link to an article about her. https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/nov/30/53-year-old-rodeo-rookie-took-her-time-getting-to-/

      I insist that kids who want to ride with me first show me they can do the work. All four of the young girls I took out this year insist on doing as much as they possibly can. It's a matter of pride for them. They have pride in what they're doing / accomplishing. All of them want to own horses of their own someday, and they want to know how to take care of them so that they can make the dream a reality. I love that.

  2. You are blessed to have children around you that really want to learn about horses and riding. I taught my nieces as much as I could but I will be surprised if any of them continue on with riding. It makes me sad because at least one of them would have made an excellent rider.

    1. Yes, I am. You never know what will happen down the road, but I sure hope they carry on--or at least carry the memories with them. I'm sure your nieces do.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.