I’m not exactly sure when I first used the term “horsemanship through life,” but I do remember why I used it. It was in response to a question a lady asked me regarding what I thought the most important factor in becoming a good horseman was. I told her it was finding a way to practice horsemanship in your everyday life, not just when you were with your horse. The woman looked somewhat perplexed at the answer.
I went on to explain that from what I often see, many horse people (particularly the “backyard” horse person) really only practice their horsemanship when they’re with their horses. They may go through the rest of their day yelling at the kids, arguing with coworkers, inadvertently butting in line at the supermarket, or having a bout of road rage on the highway. Then they just assume they can work with their horses and suddenly become patient, calm, aware, and understanding.
Or, on the other end of the spectrum, they may go through their day verbally or mentally negotiating every little thing that comes up (even when negotiation isn’t appropriate or needed). Yet they think they can approach their horses and somehow become calmly assertive, if and when it’s necessary.
The biggest problem is that most people who own horses these days are pretty limited in the time they are able to spend with them. It may be anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours per day, if that. The rest of their time is spent on the routines of their everyday lives, which seldom have anything to do with horses. While maybe an hour or so per day is spent with their horses, as much as twenty-three hours are spent away from them. Yet, in my opinion, it is actually those other twenty-three hours that can be the most beneficial, as far as improving our horsemanship!
You see, when we are with our horses, we have an opportunity to spend time working with the normal tools of the horsemanship trade––halters, lead ropes, saddles, bridles, and so forth. But when we are away from our horses, we have the opportunity to hone the greatest horsemanship tools we have––our minds and bodies.
For me, being good at horsemanship isn’t just about how we do things when we are with our horses. It is also about how we do things when we are away from them. Even someone who is only able to spend fifteen minutes a day with his horse can be working on horsemanship throughout the rest of the day. After all, the qualities required to be good with horses are the same qualities required to be good at life in general, and vice versa.
Chances are real good that if a person is indecisive, angry, scattered, hesitant, belligerent, argumentative, bossy, or impatient in everyday life, he is bound to bring those same qualities to his horsemanship, and in turn, his horse will tend to reflect those qualities. By the same token, if a person is patient, calm, willing, quiet, self-confident, focused, and dependable, it is more than likely to be those qualities the horse will reflect.
Whether positive or negative, it is almost always those qualities we practice in our everyday lives that have the most powerful effect on our horsemanship. Of course, the greatest thing about all this is that not only do we have the power to choose the qualities we want to exhibit in our everyday lives, we also have the power––and the time––to practice them!
For me, the idea of “horsemanship through life” took on a whole new meaning several years ago, when I found myself bothered by some old physical injuries, as well as some seemingly unrelated personal issues I was going through. Without realizing it, I began to allow these issues to creep into pretty much every aspect of my life, including my horsemanship, and the results ended up being, shall we say, less than favorable.
For a time, I tried to fix the problems in my horsemanship without addressing the other issues, only to find that not only did things not improve, to some degree they actually became worse. Only when I began looking outside the world of horsemanship and took a path that ultimately led me into martial arts, did I begin to find the answers I was looking for. Consequently everything began to fall back into place in a positive way.
Going through this experience firsthand helped me see that the concept of “horsemanship through life” could be much more than just a way of doing things with horses . . . it could actually become a way of being with horses. As such, my hope is that in some small way the account you are about to read will be helpful to you––whether you’re a professional horseperson, a backyard horseperson, or just someone who admires horses from afar––and that it might also help illustrate just how much power the idea of horsemanship through life can hold for us all.