Horse people, no matter the discipline or job description, are easy to spot.
Let’s be honest. To the “outside world” a cowboy (or girl) seems pretty easy to spot. There are the obvious telltale signs—a hat of some sort (be it palm leaf, straw, felt or a logo ball cap). The clink clink clink of spurs on a hardwood floor is another dead giveaway. Factor in a pair of distressed jeans carrying a considerable amount of dirt… or starch… or both… and you can be fairly confident that there’s a horse person of some sort standing in front of you.
Of course, this laymen’s generalization of “cowboy” gets a lot more specific to those of us who actually ride (or at least have an affinity for Western culture). In one quick glance, a horse person can not only spot another rider, but will pinpoint specifics such as discipline, origin of influence and sometimes even experience.
We just can’t hide from one another.
Of course there are exceptions, but often, if you cowboy for a living or run a ranch, you won’t be mistaken for a weekend trail rider. Performance horse trainers have a different presence than a professional rodeo cowboy. A barrel racer and a rodeo queen rarely get mistaken for each other in a performance. If you’re a buckaroo from Nevada or a calf roper from Oklahoma, the rest of us on the inside circle can usually tell.
As I ponder this reality, I can’t help but feel as though I’m experiencing an equine identity crisis of sorts. As I see it now, I’m a Texan/ex-Californian/ex-Coloradan who helps her husband in his two-year old cutting horse program. I’m a turn-back girl that wants to be a numbered heeler and hopes to show as much as possible as a non-pro in the near future. I own a feather-legged horse (or two), a couple of ponies, and some performance horse prospects. In my past I’ve competed a little bit in reined cow horse, ranch versatility, little kid hunter-jumping and local branding contests. I love to go out for a big ride in a new place, I enjoy branding calves, and secretly sort of wish I could be a three-day eventer. I’ve got a buckle that I won in an Australian event (campdrafting), on a Mexican-made belt. I have California highlights in Texas-sized hair (and my hats usually hide all that mess anyway.) Most of my garb is function over form. But sometimes a little form sneaks in, too.
But really, I think it’s acceptable to wear a lot of hats (well shaped, of course). I need to remember that I’m here to enjoy my horses and continue to learn and grow. My appearance tells my story—and no, it’s not always crisp or on point. But that’s me. The most timeless “cowboy” style is to celebrate your love for the horse, equine profession, or the competitive arena you are passionate about and fly your colors (so to speak) proudly.
And if you decide you’re exhausted of the cowboy life and want to spend a day incognito—maybe just look like a “normal” non-horse person—load up the pickup with snacks and hide at the beach one afternoon.
But we can all still see you. Those sun-starved legs are glowing from a mile away!