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Why Horses?

Introduction

Horses have long been the object of young girls’ and aspiring cowboys daydreams. As one of those young girls, I would collect horse figurines and stickers, my wall was covered in cutouts from different horse magazines and I read every one of The Black Stallion books. I was quite horse obsessed but without the means to actually own a horse. In the words of, well, somebody, where there’s a will, there’s a way.


Opportunity

Once I turned 16 and got my driver’s license I decided to find someone who gave riding lessons. Once a week I drove my beat up old Ford Escort 30 miles to an old barn to take lessons on a less than average trail horse. I thought that old red mare was the greatest horse there ever was.

I had to wait until I had the means, but I found the way. I had wanted it for so long that it didn’t matter that I had to spend my own money for lessons and gas or that I had the worst balance you’ve ever seen. All that mattered was I got to spend time with horses. I’m so grateful I stuck with it and persisted. Having horses and being a part of that community has opened so many doors for me.


Physical Benefits

As mentioned, I had absolutely no God given talent in the riding department. Just a lot of determination. I had not played sports of any kind, never taken Karate or dance. I was not in the band or choir at school. I was shy and withdrawn, but we’ll come back to that.

Having never been in any organized sports or activities, you can imagine my lack of physical abilities. I was not coordinated, lacked balance and had terrible posture. It was a rough start on green horses that I wasn’t actually ready for. I didn’t have the best instructor but I didn’t know that at the time. I just knew I wanted to ride. So I showed up every week. Even when I fell off and broke my tailbone, I kept showing up. I started to learn better posture and coordination.

I later started taking English lessons. I was put on a big horse at the end of a lunge line and taught the two-point. That’s where I started gaining balance. It became less and less of an uphill struggle. As I built up muscle and skill, riding started to feel “natural”.



Mental & Emotional Benefits

After a few months of riding I was allowed to start showing. I wasn’t ready. I was barely staying on. I was so incredibly scared at the first show but I wanted to go. So I tucked my fears away and entered classes I really didn’t understand. The other people there recognized that I was a beginner and offered encouragement and support. Enough that I gained a little confidence.

That was a turning point for me. I learned that I could face my fears and survive. Later, horses taught me about frustration and how to handle that too. I learned about emotional control and how to regulate my feelings. I knew that if I didn’t, then my horse would only spiral out of control with me.

Having horses has gotten me through some big milestones in my life including my first heartbreak at the ripe age of 18. That was quite the devastation. Fortunately I had purchased my first horse by then and so I had his shoulder to cry on. Being at the barn is where I found peace and it still is.


Communication

While horses do respond to voice commands, their main form of communication is body language. You have to learn to be aware of what your body is saying constantly because to horses you may be screaming it. What energy are you putting off? You’ll most likely receive the same in kind from your horse.

Reading horses is just as important. Paying attention to their body language might save you a broken tailbone.


Life Skills

Throughout my horsemanship journey, I’ve also learned how to speak to people. I learned to look the judge in the eye and smile. I learned to square my shoulders and ride with confidence (even if I didn’t have it) towards the next obstacle.

These lessons have helped me make impressions throughout all kinds of life experiences. One of major importance was job interviews. Being able to sit quietly and make eye contact with someone who holds your fate in their hands can be quite challenging. So is facing a judge when you know you’re in the same class as a world champion. Portraying confidence is usually key to both.

Presentation is a word I use a lot. It’s something I teach all of my students, whether showing or not. Horses should be kept groomed, tack kept clean and conditioned. Students learn how to present themselves and their horses for inspections. This comes down to the smallest details, including clean boots and tucked in shirts. They must know how and where to stand.


Conclusion

Make the time. Pay for the lessons, even if it requires extra budgeting. You or your kid, whatever the case may be, will probably be enamored by the idea of horses, of galloping across a green field full of wildflowers. The reality is, it’s hard, dirty work. There’s ups and downs, sore muscles and multi-colored bruises involved. Oh, the things that will be gained though……



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