When an opportunity to try something new with your horse arises, don’t hesitate to take action.
Story by Katie Frank
Photography by Ashley Keadle
If you’re anything like me, you tend to overthink things. It’s a bad habit of mine that gets in the way of doing fun, spontaneous activities, especially with my horse. Questions and worry flood my mind: Are we prepared? What could go wrong? Am I overlooking something I need to be concerned about?
A few weeks ago I crushed that bad habit when my friend Courtney and I attended a “cowboy clinic” in Bryan, Texas. The Cowboy Fellowship of Aggieland hosted the event, which benefited Still Creek Ranch, a Christian-based organization that rescues troubled and at-risk youth and places them in safe environments. Part of the recovery process focuses on working with horses to encourage growth and healing. Participating in the clinic was a wonderful way to learn with my horse and support a wonderful cause.
When I learned about the clinic, I was hesitant. Was I going to look like the novice among a group of capable riders? Growing up competing in reining, I knew nothing about roping or gathering cattle, though they’re skills I’m hungry to learn. I made the decision to jump in and sign up. Of course, I persuaded my friend Courtney to sign up, too. I couldn’t go by myself!
The clinic was one full day, with a dinner the night before. Stations included a roping class, gathering and sorting cattle, a trail course and a ranch horse versatility course. Accomplished horsemen and –women led each station, including the Texas A&M equestrian team. They were all wonderful, patient teachers.
During the clinic I struggled with selling my horse and myself short before even attempting a challenge. A huge teeter-totter within the trail course made me want to turn around and stick to just trotting over cavaletti poles. But the coach nipped my doubt in the bud. “Look ahead and walk towards it, beyond it,” she coached. “Keep your eyes up!” And with that, my red mare walked onto the platform. When the teeter tipped, it happened so fast that neither she nor I could react. Then I urged her forward and she calmly walked off. We did it! And we did it four more times.
I’m finding the less I think and the more I do, the more confident my horse and I become as a team. I trust my horse to tell me if she’s not ready for something, and when she does I’ll listen. But until then, I shouldn’t back away from the unknown. I need to keep my eyes up and ride on!