The horsemanship journey follows curves, detours and bumps along the way to better connecting with the horse.
By Kelli Neubert
April 9, 2016
At 11 years old, I didn’t care about technicalities or methods behind riding a horse. I was lucky enough to have my own gelding and would spend hours on his back, daydreaming as I rode through the golden California hills. We logged many miles together and I was ecstatic to be his passenger—just sitting back in my saddle, looking up and enjoying the ride.
I remember when this all shifted. One day I encountered a tough spot where my gelding refused to move forward. He’d had enough and was testing me to see if I would work through this trial. I asked for some help from a trainer at the barn, and she shared some tips and methods to help my horse free up his feet and move out willingly.
I was so impressed with the process and felt empowered when I saw results. This was the first experience I had teaching my horse something while also learning along with him. I was hooked. From that moment forward, I no longer wanted to settle for being just a rider. I decided to dedicate my saddle time to becoming a better horseman.
What is the distinction that horsemen carry above those who just ride? (And for word count’s sake, the label “horsemen” includes women as well) The term itself carries a sense of mastery and accomplishment. It’s a title of honor and respect toward equestrians who cultivate an extensive skill set while building a personal philosophy that establishes a successful working relationship with the horse.
My personal thought is that horsemen are in a constant pursuit of knowledge. I believe that the path is paved with open-mindedness, patience, humility, and a hunger to attempt new things without fear of failure.
Horsemen are not limited to a specific discipline, region or style. They come from different walks of life, hold different occupations and possess diverse techniques and theories. They may be novice riders or dedicated and accomplished competitors. Perhaps their string is a remuda full of performance bloodlines, or they may just have one old swaybacked mare in the yard.
Either way, for those of us that have decided to pursue this journey, it’s a process that we will carry through life. It is an art and not mere science. There isn’t a defined right way/wrong way approach to our horsemanship—just different methods to teaching our horses and helping ourselves hone in on our skills. Just when we think we’ve mastered something with our animals, we may step on a different horse or find ourselves in a new situation and have to adapt. It’s a path, and not a paved one. There are curves and detours and bumps but it’s a rewarding and exciting way to constantly connect with the amazing animal that we call the horse.
As I’ve gotten older, the view from my saddle has changed a little. Instead of gazing at golden California hills, my view consists of yucca, mesquite and lots of black heifers. My single little stubborn gelding has morphed into a herd of ponies, geldings and mares that are all individuals with different things to teach me. Like many of you, I struggle as I try to help them become the horses they deserve to be. I relish moments of accomplishment. I encounter daily moments of humility. I look forward to the knowledge that’s ahead of me and I am thankful for the experiences I’ve had thus far that have helped shape my journey. I’m excited to continue pursuing my path to better horsemanship.
And amid all of the work and learning, once in awhile I need to remember to just sit back in my saddle, look up and enjoy the ride.