The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “Horseman” as:
1. a rider of driver of horses; especially one whose skill is exceptional
2. a person skilled in caring for or managing horses
3. a person who breeds or raises horses
While the dictionary definition is technically correct, to me, a Horseman is more than those things.
Horseman is not a title that is lightly given or easily achieved. To be called a Horseman, it must be earned, and is one of the greatest compliments that can be received.
A Horseman (or Horsewoman) is someone who has learned how horses think, and who has honed their skills to be able to communicate clearly with horses. A Horseman views the horse as a partner, not a tool.
A Horseman is someone who has dedicated a lot of their time to learn about horses and horsemanship, and continues to dedicate their time, because they realize that you never stop learning with these amazing creatures. A Horseman views themselves as a life-long student of the horse.
Through their experience and never ending thirst for knowledge, a Horseman is someone who has learned feel, timing, and balance. A Horseman knows when to push a horse, and when to back off. They understand the importance of getting a horse’s respect, but they can achieve it without causing the horse fear or worry.
A Horseman understands that horses must be allowed to move freely forward, that impulsion is a necessary ingredient for creating a performance horse. A Horseman has honed their riding skills, so that they can allow the horse to move freely and not interfere with the horse’s athleticism.
A Horseman has a positive attitude. They know that the way to go fast with a horse is to go slow. There is always tomorrow. They don’t let their emotions get in the way of how they work with a horse. This lesson might be the hardest one for a Horseman to learn.
A Horseman has learned how to properly care for their horse. A Horseman learns how to recognize the early signs of soreness in their horse, so that it can be treated before it becomes a problem.
All of these lessons are taught by the horse.
Rennie and Reva, the two mustangs that I trained for the Mustang Makeover, taught me about the importance of feel and timing. I quickly learned that I needed to apply cues, and release them! at the proper time to teach them and shape their behavior. They taught me balance, and the fine line between getting a horse's respect and causing a horse fear. They also taught me confidence. If I didn't believe we could do it, then they didn't believe it either. I had to believe in myself first, before they could believe in me.
From Babs I learned the importance of letting the horse move freely forward. When a horse feels trapped they are not able to think, and when they cannot think, they react, and usually when a horse-or a person-feels they are trapped, they do not react in a positive way. By learning how to set up the horse to make a choice, then setting clear expectations and consequences for those choices, you are much more likely to get a positive response.
Tankers taught me the most of any horse-he survived all of my teenage years! I learned how my emotions and actions can affect others. I learned that if I approached my riding in a bad mood, I probably wasn't going to have a good ride. He taught me to take a deep breath and get control of myself before I tried to achieve something with him. Old Tankers was the most forgiving horse in the world. Every day was a clean slate. Every day was an opportunity to start over, to do better than I did the day before.
Every lesson I learned from these horses taught me more than just how to understand them. Every horse I work with teaches me more about understanding myself. I believe that is the key to becoming a true Horseman. All of these character building traits that Horses teach to build a Horseman are the same traits that build a good person, and a true Horseman embraces all of these lessons to be the best they can be.
By learning feel for the horse, the Horseman learns to read another's body language and emotions, and understands that their actions affects other's.
By learning timing the Horseman learns that there is a right time, and a wrong time, to act.
By learning balance the Horseman learns more than physical balance, they also learn to balance their emotions. Just as you can't train a tired or overwhelmed horse, you can't be your personal best if your life is unbalanced.
By learning how to let a horse move freely forward, the Horseman learns to let others make their own choices, and that each horse-and each person-is responsible for their own choices. The Horseman learns not to blame themselves for the choices of others, or let the things that they cannot control negatively affect them.
By having a positive attitude and confidence in themselves, the Horseman is able to achieve the goals they set for themselves. They are able to be flexible and think creatively to overcome obstacles.
By learning how to care for the horse, the Horseman learns how to nurture another living creature. A Horseman learns how too much coddling and treats can spoil a horse, just as too much discipline can ruin a horse's willing attitude. Through respect and authentic caring, the Horseman learns how to see the best in everyone, and how to bring these traits out in others.
The process to becoming a Horseman does not happen overnight. It is a Journey, a life-long dedication. There are many different paths to becoming a Horseman, many different disciplines in which to enjoy these amazing animals. For those of us that are lucky enough to be able to travel this road, the reward is great-a partnership with our horse. For those that take these lessons to heart, the reward is also building a lifestyle that is fulfilling to yourself and others. By becoming a Horseman, you build self-confidence, responsibility, and integrity. You become a person that cares for others, that others can trust and feel safe to be around. You become more than a Horseman to the people in your life, you become a friend, a mentor, someone to look up to.
Everyday I strive to be a better person, to someday be worthy of the title Horseman. I work to live the lessons that my horses have taught me. I really enjoy this Journey, and each horse, and each person, that I am blessed to work with along the way teaches me more.
What do you think? How do you define a Horseman? What life lessons have horses taught you? Please feel leave a comment-I would love to hear from you!
P.S. If you too would like to learn more about the Life Lessons that Horses Teach us, and how you can bring these lessons to work in your life to reach your horsemanship dreams, click here to learn more about Horsemanship Life Coaching.