When the NFR rolls around, we all watch in anticipation as steer wrestlers fly out of the box, team ropers turn steers, and barrel racers speed across the arena. But there is one thing that all of those things have in common and it’s basic horsemanship skills. Some may be inspired by this action-packed event and head out on a journey to do the same, or maybe it’s a journey filled with less action and more sauntering down trails. Either way, these athletes, both animal, and human, make it look easy. And while these words aren’t here to discourage you, when it comes to riding, this sport is rarely easy. But it’s a road worth taking.
A Quiet Horse is a Good Horse
Whether you are roping steers, taking a trip around the show pen, or just looking to go on a trail ride, learning and knowing how to communicate with your horse is going to give you the best possible outcome. A horse that stands calmly before the cue to leave the roping box will be far more effective than one that rears and breaks barriers. A barrel horse listening to its rider as it comes up the lane instead of locking onto the bit and rushing is more focused on the run. This is even true when you are just looking for that relaxing ride. A horse that throws its head, runs sideways and paws the ground furiously whenever you think about stopping defeats the purpose. To get the best out of any horse you ride, you must first develop the skills needed to ask the horse correctly for what you want.
To Get a Quiet Horse You Have to Develop a Basic Understanding of Horsemanship
The development of basic horsemanship doesn’t sound sexy and exciting but can provide a person and horse with a much better and safer experience in the long run. Basic understanding of a horse starts with knowing that they are looking for a bond. There are horses out there who have learned it’s easier to just do the job and not worry about the rider, but the vast majority seek a relationship and understanding. Obviously, horses don’t speak our language, and neither do we speak theirs, but with guidance, practice, and most importantly, time, we can learn to understand them just like any other. They don’t speak in words, but in movements and gestures with their bodies, with the look of their eyes, and the energy they emit.
Treat Riding Like a Sport
Riding horses should be treated as a sport. But a sport where the ball has a brain that tells it what to do without needing input from you. Developing the basic skills of riding also takes time and energy. One must learn to balance on a round barrel, develop the strength to stay there, and then learn how to use each body part in coordination with other body parts to correctly cue the horse. On top of all of that, one must then develop the confidence to know when and where to use all of that knowledge. The correct physical way of riding a horse is not just meant to keep you in the saddle but also for your horse’s comfort, benefit, and to showcase its full potential.
How do you get Started?
Taking lessons with a local horse trainer is an ideal way to start. Look for someone open, honest, and who comes with reviews. Just like when looking for any other professional help, the first person you take a lesson with might not be the right fit, so don’t be afraid to try more than one. Also, be prepared to invest some money. Horses aren’t cheap any way you look at it, and while more expensive doesn’t always mean better, even the lower-end lessons are going to run you $40-$50 bucks for an hour.
Whether you already own horses and compete at the highest level or are looking into buying your first horse, all of us and our horses can benefit from continuous learning. How to interact with them in more appropriate ways, how to ride correctly, and how to truly enjoy the peace and harmony horses can bring to our daily lives is worth the time needed to develop your basic horsemanship skills.
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