I can’t tell you how I know everything I know about horses. I didn’t take a class. I can’t pinpoint one person that taught me “everything”. I’ve learned a little from everyone, and I’ve ended up with a lot of invaluable information as a horse person.
A horse person isn’t just a rider. They don’t just show up to the barn in their perfect outfits and ride for 45 minutes and call it a day.
A horse person knows the ins and outs, how to diagnose, how to treat, how to problem solve, how to act quickly and calmly. How to handle a horse that has hung himself up on a fence and is now bleeding profusely from belly down to hoof (not even the vet was calm in that situation). How to diagnose colic and get them out of it before anything awful happens (banimine, anyone?). How to treat rain rot (that’s called tranquilizer, gloves, and pick pick pick before that tranquilizer wears off). How to recognize an abscess before it’s even an abscess. How to sweat wrap. How to polo wrap. How to wrap for a trailer ride. How to wrap, wrap, wrap, and wrap again. Shipping boots were not an option!
I specifically remember being little, and I mean under the age of ten little, my mother making me pack the night before a show. I remember groggily walking into the barn at 5:00 AM to ponies in blankets, and trailering in the dark, and your tack and supplies better be on that trailer or you’re SOL because no adult double checked for you.
I remember getting home late for horse shows and your homework better be done for school tomorrow. I remember watching a foreign trainer in my teenage years show me how to hook up draw reins. Once. You didn’t get a second lesson and you didn’t get a do over. You learned it right the first time and you demonstrated the lesson taught the first time you tried it.
I remember as a young adult taking lessons at a local serious hunter show barn. I was taken to a white board with my name and a horse’s name next to it. I was instructed to find their tack, and be in the arena on time. There was no one to help me figure any of that out, and thank goodness I didn’t need it.
I remember my mom buying books upon books upon books before we brought our horses home. I can tell you the the negatives and positives of paper bag shavings, plastic bag shavings, blown in shavings. The differences in sweet feed percentages. I can name you three farmers to get your hay from, in case one runs out and the other one has bad hay. I can tell you where to buy vet supplies for cheap, and I have the tack trunk in the barn that has any supply or medicine you never knew you wanted or needed. (But you WILL need it one day!)
Maybe I was brought up too strictly, by too many Type A personalities. Did they make me Type A as an adult? Or am I attracted to this sport because of the organization and preparation it requires? Was I too involved? Am I too involved? Do I love horses so much that I soak up anything and everything I can? Is just riding not enough for me?
This all has a point. I promise you. I feel like an oldey timey “well, in MY day…” saying any of this but… where did all these lessons go? Are we the generation that has to teach the new generation the invaluable information I was taught growing up?
What happened to taking total care of your horse whether you own it or not? What happened to riding horses being a privilege, not a right? What happened to cleaning stalls was fun, cleaning water buckets for your horse made you feel good about your day, making sure they are perfectly tucked in at night was the goal? What has happened to ownership and pride in your work and a job well done and not just your ride that day? What has happened to horsemanship as a whole? Has being an equestrian become so mainstream and so easily accessible that it’s just about riding now?
The first thing I learned about horses was how to get the mud off.
The second thing I learned about horses was how to look for booboos.
The third thing I learned about horses was how to feed them.
The fourth thing I learned about horses was how to clean their stalls.
The last thing I learned TO DO was how to ride.
And learning how to ride was earned after all the hard work was done.
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