Do You Know Your Own Horse?

I have never believed in grooming and tacking horses for my clients, except in certain very rare, pre-arranged circumstances. I have caught some grief for that over the years, especially from adults. Couldn’t I make the kids groom and tack by themselves as a learning tool, but do those tasks for the adults who are too busy, distracted, whatever? Nope.

I believe that time is essential for any rider to make a connection with the horse, to assess the horse’s mental and physical well-being. And it’s a responsibility, just part of the lifestyle of horsemanship.

There are many ways to interact with your horse that will improve your partnership. But there are practical reasons for getting to know your own horse, too. Years ago, a barn where I worked had several wealthy clients who were novice horse owners. The policy for those clients was that they could call ahead and the staff would have their horses ready, groomed, tacked and standing in crossties when they arrived. They would come into the barn and a staff member would greet them and help them get organized, adjusted and out the door to the arena. Once, though, the wife opted to ride on her own on a day when the barn was closed. That meant she had to get her lovely bay mare out of its stall, groom it and tack it on her own – maybe for the first time ever in her riding career.

Luckily one of the training staff stopped in just as client wife had completed grooming and tacking. There was, indeed, a horse in the crossties, groomed to a shine and wearing the client’s tack. And it was a bay horse. A bay stallion. (!!) That belonged to another boarder.groomingbox

Yes, all the experienced horsemen and -women reading this are cringing at the little movie in their heads, the one in which novice rider thinks she’s getting on her quiet, well-mannered mare and instead mounts someone else’s not-so-docile stallion and havoc ensues. Yikes! Happily for all concerned, that was averted. But, really folks. Spend the time. Do the work. Get to know your own horse.

If you don’t go home from the barn dirty, you didn’t do it right!

4 thoughts on “Do You Know Your Own Horse?

  1. I love this post Stacey :) Also, one of the best ways to get to know who your horse, and even YOU really are, is to spend a weekend camping with them, having them tie to the trailer, and being around them 24/7. Faith and I do this for competitive trail rides, and it really solidifies your bond with each other. Also, caring for your horse round the clock is a great way to learn all their quirks. Whenever we come back from a CTR ride, I have a small panic attack at being separated from her to have to go back to work!

    • Thanks Julie! What an interesting perspective. Not many of us have had the experience of living with our horses 24/7 or the feeling of separation anxiety when we have to go back to our normal schedules. But we can all surely benefit from taking the time to get more tuned in to our horses in whatever way we can. Their quirks can be absolutely fascinating, quite entertaining and always valuable to know.

  2. I cannot express how much I agree, and it shocks me how often I see adults who don’t express any interest in the care of their horse, tack, or general equine surroundings. It’s frustrating to see horses back in their stalls after a ride with sweat marks, unpicked hooves, and other obvious signs of carelessness, and tack thrown back in its place (or all over the floor!).

    As a kid, my first ‘riding lesson’ didn’t actually involve much riding at all. Lisa greeted me at the barn, showed me who the school horses were and told me their names, let me know which one I would be working with that day (Katy!), and spent the entire time teaching me, with my own two feet on the ground, how to get ready at the barn without needing the help of an adult or trainer.
    That day, all I learned were things like opening the stall door the correct direction, approaching a horse calmly, correct haltering and un-blanketing, safe tying and cross-tying, the tools of the grooming box (why, when, and where we use them), and the different pieces of tack, how we put them on, and on what side. Since that day, I always make sure to add half an hour each to the beginning and end of any ride for grooming, warm-up, and general time with the horse I’m riding. If I don’t have that time, I just don’t ride!

    • I agree, Carla – it’s shocking and it makes me sad. The horse and the person are missing out on so much when time isn’t spent on the basic care and on getting to know each other.
      Sounds like you had much the same type of start I give my students – thorough instruction in those basics. Although it’s time-consuming for the instructor to do this at the beginning with each new client, I have always thought it kept horses and people much safer and always saved time later. It’s so nice to have students of all ages who are empowered to get their horses and themselves to their lesson properly attired, appropriately warmed-up and ready to learn. And it’s even nicer to see students turn into skilled and knowledgeable horsewomen – something I believe Lisa and I agree on!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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