Friday, November 13, 2009

Horsemen vs. Riders

Courage is not the absence of fear. Stupidity is the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to acknowledge fear and then let it dissipate from your mind.

With our second IHSA show quickly approaching (tomorrow is course set, schooling and prepping!) I've been thinking a lot about the differences between horse people. For our IHSA shows, we always braid our Open and Intermediate division horses because it makes them look professional and this year, only three other girls beside myself offered to braid horses for the show. I thought to myself "that's it?" out of a team of 40 girls, only 4 know how to braid? To me, any person who shows should know how to braid a mane. It's part of learning horsemanship. Anyway, it got me thinking. In my mind, there are two types of horse people: those who are "riders" and those who are "horsemen."

Horsemen (or horsewomen if you want to be politically correct) are the kind of people that always put the horse first. These are the ones who forge their way to the barn in all types of weather (be it monsoon, tornado or snow storm) because they can't bear the thought of their horse a) standing in a dirty stall b) not getting turned out or c) all of the above. These are the ones who know exactly how much hay and grain their horse eats, they now how to give shots and manage a deworming schedule...these folks are the down and dirty, the ones who manage every aspect of their horses well-being. These are the ones who, in the saddle, take responsibility when things go wrong, like a missed distance to a jump. Instead of "my horse is being a jerk" they answer with "I dropped my shoulder at the fence." After all, 90% of mistakes are the riders fault right?

Then there are the riders. The type who put themselves first, who want to ride the horse and go home and who don't at all mind skipping a day at the barn when the weather isnt just right, never mind if Tubby is going to be standing in a filthy stall all day weaving from boredom. The rider prefers to pay someone to know how to take care of their horse rather than to know it themselves and in the ring, most mistakes are blamed on the horse. This is not to say that the riders are bad people, but they arn't horse people.

Over the summer, I made a really great friend while traveling as an A circuit groom for a local hunter barn. She is the epitome of horsewoman at the highest of levels where the horsemenship of clients has been replaced by grooms. All summer she traveled with her Junior Hunter mare and a second leased Junior Hunter gelding and even at the most prestigeous of shows, her first and foremost concern was the well being of her horses. Although she payed for a groom at shows, she almost always took care of her horses herself. She was there every morning, sometimes as early as 5:00am, to braid both of her horses manes and tails. She tacked them up herself and wrapped them when she was done. During the day, she made sure that they got out for walks and for plenty of grazing time. She was a little bit of beacon of light for proof that horsemanship is not dead among the junior ranks.

So which are you? I have become a horsemen for two reasons 1) out of my love for the animal and 2) out of necessity. Growing up in a household of 6, money was never truely abundant and although my parents tried their hardest to support and provide for each of their children, we had to learn to be resourceful. My first horse (Emmy) was purchased for $700 from a local riding stable because she was a crazy Thoroughbred that no one could ride. Looking back on it, she was definetly too much horse for a 13 year old kid, but I loved her anyway and in return she threw her heart over every jump for me. When I wanted to start showing, I taught myself how to braid and used to get up early to braid other peoples horses in order to make the money to pay my entry fees. If I close my eyes I can still feel myself standing on a bucket in Emmy's stall for hours at a time, trying over and over again to get the mane and tails braids right. No one ever taught me how, I just watched over a few shoulders and practiced. When Johnny came along, I realized that I couldn't afford to pay and have the vet come out and give two horses their yearly and bi-yearly vaccinations and so I asked a vet to show me how and have been doing it ever since. Sometimes, we learn to be horsemen because we have to be, but it's the ones like my dear friend, who learn because they WANT to learn, that give me the most hope :)

Which are you?


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