Horsemanship 101

Growing up as John Lyons’s daughter I have seen, heard, and experienced owning horses in a different light then most.  Obviously, I am so grateful to have grown up with such an inspiration and a true hero to our horses. I started teaching on my own eighteen years ago, however  there’s something about the last few years that has given me perspective of things I wish I would haveknown and been able to teach… here’s the advice I wish I would have had…

1) Never stop learning. Never stop trying. NEVER EVER take that horse for granted. When you bought your horse, you promised him or her that you would take care of them and love him or her and to fiercely protect them. This is a sacred treasure you have been entrusted with. NEVER GET LAZY in your love. I have seen so many give up or blame the horse or themselves before giving education a try.  They won’t take the time, energy, patience, and money that it takes to become great at horsemanship. Work at Learning!! Do not work at blaming your horse or yourself…just keep learning!   

2) PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR HORSE.  Just as you committed to being the protector of your horse, you must guard yourself with the same vigilance. I have seen so many worry about their safety but never worry about the horses safety.  I have also seen on the flip side owners worry about their horses and give their horses excuses for all sorts of dangerous behavior, and then they get hurt.  You need to protect yourself and your horse, best way to do this is through learning how to effectively communicate with your horse so that you can help each other thru any situation.    

3) DO NOT HOLD YOUR HORSE BACK. You will constantly change. You’re not the same person you were when bought this horse, and in five years you will not be the same person you are today. Your knowledge changes and so does your interest in the horse world.  One day you might be a trail rider, then the next you want to try cow sorting.  Your horse can learn new and fun things to do as well.  They might not be built perfect but every horse can start you in every sport and even if you have to buy a horse that might fit your next sport better to be more competitive in the sport,  remember that your horse can always learn.  Change will come, and in that you have to take the time and teach your horse what you are now wanting to learn.

4) ALWAYS SEE THE BEST in him or her. Focus only on what you love. What you focus on will decide whether or not you will have a good relationship or your will fight. If you focus on what bugs you, all you will see is reasons to be bugged. If you focus on all the scary stuff in the world your horse will learn to be scared.  If you focus on moving body parts in the direction you want and ask for the horse to just do the simple things, then you will have full control.  If you focus on what you love, you can’t help but be consumed by love.  Focus to the point where you and your horse are just dancing…dancing around an arena, or dancing down the trail…just dance.  The game of horsemanship is who can focus longer.

5) IT IS YOUR JOB TO TEACH HIM OR HER TO BECOME WHAT YOU WANT …your job is to teach… teach the horse what you expect. If you don’t they will decide what is important and you may or may not agree.  They are just like kids and if they don’t have direction or any expectations, then it gets a little scary!  Through education, you can learn what you should or should not expect from your horse.  

6) TAKE FULL ACCOUNTABILITY FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP: Horses are one of the most adaptable and loving creatures,  They are only looking for peace in their life. If they are scared, if they are mean, if they are having health problems, or if they are bucking you off… it is your fault for not taking the time to show them or find someone that can show them how you want them to behave.  

7) THE ONLY TWO EMOTIONS THAT BELONG ON YOUR HORSE ARE PATIENCE AND A SENSE OF HUMOR: If YOU get frustrated or angry with him or her, it is only because you have not perfected a maneuver.  Don’t over complicate… it is a journey.  If you knew how to do everything on a horse, and your horse knew exactly what you always wanted, it would not feel so great when you finally do perfect these incredibly hard things you are trying to teach to them.  The best feeling is when you try and try and then finally succeed at it.  Keep your emotions at bay…enjoy the process, and don’t quit!  You will get it…some things just take time!   

9) BE SILLY… don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh. Laughter makes everything else easier.

10) TAKE CARE OF YOUR HORSE INSIDE AND OUT… learn how to take care of a horse through nutrition, chiropractic, acupuncture, and dental… they need all the same care that we do.  Learn who in your area is the best at all the different ways and go to them and learn!  Trainers will teach you how to take care of behavior, farriers and Veterinarians will help you take care of feet and so on… The better they feel the more they can do for you!  

11) BE PRESENT. When you are riding do not think about all the other things you need to do…be right there!  You spend so much money a month and do so much for them, enjoy the moment they are giving you.  Give them not only your time, but your focus, your attention and your soul. Do whatever it takes to clear your head so that when you are riding you are fully there. 

12) DON’T BE AFRAID OF BEING A DORK!  You will make mistakes and so will they. Try not to make too big of mistakes, and learn from the ones you do make. The dorky things you do you will look back and laugh and love how far you have come with your horse.  

13) BE WILLING TO LEARN… you don’t have to have it all together. BUT be willing to share your fears and feelings, and get proper help.  When you do get help make sure that the advice makes sense and the teacher can explain in a way you understand, and give you reasons for what you are doing.  Be quick to acknowledge your mistakes and move on from them and be slow to blame your horse.   

14) FORGIVE IMMEDIATELY and focus on the future rather than carrying weight from the past. Don’t let your history or your horses hold you hostage to what you can or cannot do.  How will they ever move on and get better if you remind them of doing the wrong things.  If every time you pass the gate and get nervous that he will buck then you are also sending those signals to him. Handle behavior by constantly telling your horse what you want them to do, don’t tell or discipline them for what you do not want.  Be an active rider not a reactive rider.  FORGIVENESS IS FREEDOM. 

15) MOST IMPORTANT … you have to decide if the horse you own if his or her behaviors are worth your time and effort.  If you come back with the mindset that you don’t know if you can take all the time you need while not getting hurt, angry, or wanting to quit… then sell the horse.  There will be someone that is willing to put in the specific effort for that horse and then you did the right thing by the horse and yourself.  Remember this is a hobby and a passion.  If it is too hard sometimes it is better to find a more suitable home for the horse.  If you are looking for a horse, find one that makes you feel so excited to put in whatever effort it is going to take.  Some horses need more time than others.  That needs to be a part of your decision making.  

In the end HORSEMANSHIP isn’t about EASY AND SIMPLE.  It’s about work, and a commitment to grow together along with a willingness to continually invest in creating something that can be a fun and an amazing relationship.  Through that work, the happiness will come.

Horsemanship will bring ups and downs. Embracing all of the cycles and learning to learn from and love each experience will bring the strength and perspective to keep building, one brick, one lesson, one fundamental at a time.

If you are reading this and your relationship with your horse isn’t what you want it to be, take 100% responsibility for YOUR PART, regardless of where your horse is at, and commit to going and learning putting in the effort it takes! 

Be the type of horse owner that makes other horse owners ask how did you do that?

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