After spending a bit of time in the horse industry, whether at the race track, on the trails, chasing cows, or in the show ring you will surely find there are 101 ways to do anything and everything. One method that works for one person may not make sense to another, and a method that worked with the last 100 horses might not work with the next.
Everyone knows someone who’s naturally good with horses, or has been around horses so long they’ve simply learned how to be good at what they do. That go-to person in the barn, ringside or in the backstretch you can go to with any questions you have, or when you’re struggling to figure something out. Regardless if it’s lameness, diet, conditioning, or getting that pesky left lead, they always have a suggestion or an idea, and more often than not – it works. Every barn has at least one. Some are even lucky enough to have two or three. While there are plenty of good horsemen out there – the horse people who just ‘get’ it – what makes a good horseman great?
Surprisingly, success in the show ring, or at the finish line does not solely define a great horseman. Instead, the great horsemen and women are defined by their love for the process. That is, the process of working in the barn, with their horses, day in and day out. What they consider success is the progress they can make with each and every horse day by day, and their ability to create continual positive changes in their barns and in the tack. Like pieces of a puzzle they recognize that it’s all about these little wins along the way in order to reach the big wins down the road.
They face that 24/7 kind of grind with excitement. They love it. They recognize the lows are just as important as the highs, and the losses just as important as the wins. They love to learn, and the more they can learn the better. Anything they can get their hands on to make their horse’s lives easier – they want it and will pursue that knowledge with everything they’ve got. They’re the kind of people that leave the barn 10 hours after they got there, get home, and still want to talk about their horses, how they’re doing, and the new ideas they want to try tomorrow.
But that’s not all. Great horsemen also have an innate self-awareness. Despite their successes and their skills, they are able to recognize their own faults and mistakes. Not only that, they work endlessly to alleviate them. Where many trainers/riders would simple blame the horse or shrug it off, great horsemen look to see how they can improve their skill set to make things clearer or simply easier for the horse. Like a top competitor adding a neck strap to aid with their releases, or a trainer taking a course to increase their base knowledge. They are not above admitting they aren’t always right and they know there’s always more to learn. Furthermore, they’ve accumulated enough education and experience to know when a horse requires a different approach or when it simply would be better suited for another job. Both of these calls can be difficult to make and often stump the most fanatic horse lovers.
Great horsemen aren’t happy with blindly following one method or theory regardless of its alleged success. They have a strong respect for other great horsemen, but they do not worship them. Great horsemen appreciate that knowing what doesn’t work is equally as important as knowing what does – being able to combine the two is an absolute game changer and necessary for achieving each of those little wins. Thus, they can be found seeking out knowledge from different disciplines and all over the horse industry.
The great horsemen above everything else despite their wins, losses and ups and downs, have a recognition that no matter what, the horses always come first. Their needs will always be met first whether they be financial or a time commitment. The great horsemen all often share a common experience of losing relationships over time spent in the barn, or living off of peanut butter and jam sandwiches while their horses ate like kings. Many of them would be hesitant to consider the time, the relationships, and the peanut butter and jam sandwiches a sacrifice, or something to even consider as a ‘loss’.
To the great horsemen there is no question about it. They’re all about their passion and it’s all they need to fuel themselves through life and its many obstacles. They wake up every day ready for the grind and are excited by new challenges. They live it, they breathe it, they love it. It’s their trump card. Great horsemen embrace and endure for their passion. That passion is horses.
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