Horsemanship Is a Journey

When it comes to horseback riding, there are many different paths and different goals, but we can keep learning.

America’s Horse

We each have different goals with our horses. We each have different skills, coordination, flexibility, knowledge and understanding of horses. We each have different situations – work, family, distance to our horses – and there are only so many hours in a day. Some folks only get to spend time with their horse once a week, once every two weeks or less. Some folks get to spend time with their horse every day.

I think the quality of the time we get to spend with our horse is a very important factor. Sure, it would be great to ride all day every day, but not many people get to do that. Set your priorities and the time that you can allot to your horse, and make it count, whether it’s just a few minutes of grooming or hanging out with him or whether it’s steady riding.

If we just want to have a nice, relaxed ride every great once in a while, that’s fine, too. Start with the right kind of horse. One that has been started well and that has some good experience would be the right kind of horse in this situation. You wouldn’t start out with a colt or a fractious horse for this type of riding. You’ll likely get hurt. Good old, dead-broke Dobbin, that’s where you’d like to start.

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The more lofty our goals, the more time we need to allot to our horses. If we want to have that type of connection where it feels like we’re one animal, that we read each other’s mind, that we can achieve great finesse in our riding, well, that’s going to take a lot of quality time. Not just talking … but doing!

For these goals, we must be very dedicated in our time spent with our horses, studying with good horsemen and studying good information. Be discriminating about who you study with.

To really excel as a horseman, we need to learn how to read horses. The horse is the best teacher, and handling lots of different horses will help us learn how to read horses accurately and learn how to learn from the horse.

We must learn to budget our time and make it count.

If I’m working for my horsemanship to improve, I need to become a student of the horse. I need to spend the time studying to become a better horseman. I’ll watch all the good horsemen I can find, I’ll learn how to watch videos and demos without getting sucked in by the showmanship and charisma, and learn how to see what the horse is really saying. I’ll learn what to do and also what not to do. And I’ll work on my horse-handling skills and my riding skills. I’ll ride the horse in my mind along with the horseman I’m watching.

Learn to see, learn to feel, work on timing and improve understanding.

A very wise man and excellent horseman once gave me a bit of real good advice: “The horse is the best teacher. But in order to become a really good horseman (or woman,) we need to spend time around some really good horsemen (or women).”

And it’s OK to change your goals.

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I figure our job as horsemen and horsewomen is to offer our horses the best we know, and then learn more. Then offer them the best we know, and then learn more. Then offer them the best we know … then learn more.

It’s OK to grow.

I look back on my horsemanship journey and notice the growth. The things I was doing 10-15 years ago, I don’t think much of these days. It was the best I knew at the time. And I was searching for more. In the last five years or so, there have been some wonderful doors that have opened up for me in the horsemanship world. I can’t wait to see what the next five to 10 years have in store for me.

I hope to keep learning and improving as a horseman until I take my last breath.

Brent Graef is a horseman from Canyon, Texas. Go to www.brentgraef.com to learn more.