For The Love Of Horses

Being a part of a rural community, I am often questioned about my stand on horses. If you haven’t already figured it out…I am definitely pro equine. However, the beef producers and crop farmers do not quite see to eye with me or my fellow equestrians.

It is true that we are definitely a league of our own. I mean, how many other groups of people throw money into an animal that we so often see no returns from? To help you gain an insight on how we work…I have compiled a list of thoughts that we have and how we perceive them that others may not see. As always, enjoy!

1. They have been our confidence boosters.

Not every day do we get to handle a thousand pound animal, and ask of it things that we want it to do knowing it has a mind of its own. Doing so is truly a unique feeling that many do not understand. The feeling of have a successful ride often times makes you feel as if you can accomplish anything.

“These thousand pound animals are letting us ride them, and as a kid, letting us do a number of shenanigans with them. They could seriously injure us in a matter of seconds, but they don’t.”

                                                                                                                                                                -Brittany Rucker

“It’s crazy how I can trust a three year old stud to take care of me, but I can’t even trust the cashier at a store to give me back the right change.”

                                                                                                                                                                -Jessa Haley

But the confidence boost goes even deeper as you progress. After all the hard work that you have put in builds, you often find yourself showing beginners a few ropes. Teaching others your passion solidifies your experiences, and it turn makes you glow as you realize you have reached a pivotal moment that you know enough to share with someone else.

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2. They are our escape from reality.

Take a moment and stop and think about all of the annoying moments that fellow humans have put you through….just today. There are rude people, people that just get on your last nerve, and those that are just set out to destroy you. Now I’ll be honest, there are horses out there that are the exact same way, but the beauty of horse ownership is that you choose to put them in your life as opposed to having to get along with them on a day to day basis.

“For me its like horses are in my life to remind me that we can’t be in control of everything, and that is ok.”

                                                                                                                                                                -Jessa Haley

“Horses mean life to me. They were my rock and escape when the world was too rough for me to handle.”

                                                                                                                                                -Whitney Amelong

“When I’m riding I’m not worried about anything else, all my concentration is on my horse. I’m free from everyday stress.”

                                                                                                                                                -Crystal LaRae

With this in mind, you seek out your equine partner to escape the world and its stresses. For a few moments, you take time out of your busy and sometimes chaotic life to care for and think about something else. Our horses seek our attention while we are with them, making this easy for us. This is truly a gift, not often do many have a hobby that genuinely allows them to reach peace at this level.

3. They are a responsibility.

For myself, having a horse to learn about, to learn from, to care for, to provide for, etc. has taught me the most about life in general. Not only do you learn the general knowledge involved and how to ride, you also learn about daily chores that an animal requires, time management, and have a financial obligation that will teach you the importance of money. The beauty of a horse in this aspect is that you seek out a horse to own and care for, as opposed to having to learn these lessons paying bills that no one looks forward to.

“My horse does cost me alot, but she has also taught me alot and I think that pays for most of it.”

                                                                                                                                                -Crystal LaRae

“In rain or shine, snow or sleet, high winds or a gentle breeze, in 98 degrees or 6, We train, ride, prep and care for our horses.”

                                                                                                                                                -Izzey Nanninga

“It is not about the money; however it is about what makes you happy. Horses make you happy.”

                                                                                                                                                -Alison Bos

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4. They have kept us out of trouble countless times.

Horse people are truly unique; we plan our life around daily chores, riding, and shows or events. We often find ourselves forgoing a social gathering on the weekend because we would rather miss the party of the year as opposed to the horse show we have been training so hard for. We also go to bed early not because we have a curfew or no social life, but because we know we have to get up those two hours earlier for feeding, stall cleaning, and turnout before we face the real world. Consequently, we also seem to band together as we all understand the same priorities. So next time you get that DWI or get grounded for missing curfew, just remember that the crazy horse girls would have kept you out of trouble!

“A wise artist aged 78 shared his fountain of youth secret with me. Your friends should always be at least 10 years younger than you are. He said it was his secret to keeping his ideas fresh, his enthusiasm robust, and his outlook positive. My equine partners have enabled me to connect with younger competitors, and force me to ride beyond even my own expectations.”

                                                                                                                                                -Lynn Carbol

“A social life consisting of all sorts of horses, ponies, barn cats and farm dogs who all (sadly) hold better conversations than most humans in your life.”

                                                                                                                                                -Izzey Nanninga

5. They allow us to participate in a sport….and riding truly is a sport.

Many non-horse lovers refuse to accept the art of riding as a sport. We compete, there are professionals in the face of every discipline, associations are established to monitor many aspects of the industry, and there are even horse racing and equestrian sports on the television. This may be the one and only argument we can make for financial defenses outside of a stud or selling a horse, because after all just like many other sports, there are many opportunities to win checks at upper level horse shows.

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6. They have taught us that failure is simply a part of the process.

We all have good days and bad days, and so do our horses. Just because we have won several shows in the past doesn’t mean they will always win in the future. But in our defense, failure happens in every aspect of our lives. If you do not fail, then ironically you are not doing something right. After all, our most valuable lessons have often been taught through embarrassment of being wrong. But the unique thing when dealing with a horse, they are often very honest. A large majority of accidents or mistakes are often the result of rider error, forcing us to take the brunt of the liability of failure and forcing us to work that much harder.

“When you fall, you always get back up. You never quit when you fail.”
-Crystal LaRae

7. They keep you humble, in more ways than one.

It is often said that you are not truly a rider until you have fallen off 7 times. As fellow riders we have all been there! We know how it feels to go over the top of your horse at a jump refusal, to be taken by surprise when your horse spooks out on the trail, and being unseated during a quick cut after your horse makes a great effort to beat a calf. Whatever your situations that you relate through, you learn to simply remount and try again and often in good spirits since no one likes a sore loser.

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8. They take the necessity of patience to a whole new level.

There is a very apparent language barrier between our horses and us. With this in mind, we are forced to find alternative ways of communication to train and handle our horses. And even better yet, each and every individual horse learns differently just as we do. A responsive horse may learn after a couple repetitive cues, others take a couple days. But as equestrians, we are able to achieve communication skills that many others do not ever have the chance to understand because they only ever surround themselves with fellow humans.

“You can’t rush them, it just takes repetition.”

                                                                                                                                                -Crystal LaRae

9. They teach you to multi-task.

This is the ultimate reaction I look for when teaching my new beginner riders. I often start with individual aspects of the importance of body position in riding, and 9 times out of 10 when all aspects are grouped together they are amazed with how many things they must remember while riding. From keeping your heels down, to sitting up straight, to looking where you are going, and not falling into your corners, it is certainly not as easy as it looks. As equestrians, we learn to make the not so seemingly easy task of riding look graceful. Very few things in life can accomplish both of those individual aspects in one overall task.

“It is a constant learning experience when dealing with horses. Even if it is a horse you ride every day, they always seem to do things that you learn from. You know what they like, what they don’t like. What they understand and what they don’t understand. You know just how far you can push them. How do we know these things? Horses teach us.”

                                                                                                                                                -Alison Bos

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10. They teach you to be responsible for your actions.

Your horse not only acts how you let it, but they also look like how you manage and maintain it. This creates a reflection back upon yourself, if your horse is not up to your standard then there is not anyone left to blame but yourself. This is important as our horses mean so much to us, forcing us to constantly work towards our mounts. As soon as we quit trying, then our lack of effort soon catches up with us.

“My horse reflects me, and my training. And my actions reflect who I am to the world.”

                                                                                                                                                -Crystal LaRae

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In a crazy way, we are crazy in our way…but yet so much better off than many others in the world. I owe so much to my horses, with the variety of lessons I have been taught throughout the years. Even though my viewpoints with my involvement in the agriculture world may not be the same as many others in different aspects, I have still managed to learn many of the big picture lessons that others have…..just did so through different experiences. We are definitely a league of our own, but we don’t think the way that we do or do the things that we do for no reason. I hope that my non-equestrian readers now see a few viewpoints from our perspective, and thanks again to my wonderful friends and followers for sharing yet again!

 

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Importance of Collegiate Equestrian

With the recent, saddening news of the Kansas State NCAA Equestrian team being terminated, a lot of discussion has been stirred up in the equine world regarding the future of the entire collegiate equestrian program itself. This hits at home for me, as some of my fondest memories and greatest successes must give credit to a collegiate equestrian program. I am sure that this can be said for any competitive college rider, but I found my place was Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. Please enjoy 10 lessons the team not only instilled in me through a passion, but that life has consistently reminded me of.

1. You are only as strong as your weakest rider.

As being part of a competitive Intercollegiate Horse Show Association region, we competed against several schools in our area and at each show our team would choose point riders for each division. In a sense, we were playing a hand of poker. Our coach did not inform us who exactly these individuals were so we were constantly continuing to work hard in hopes to help carry the team. But, importance also came from those in the same class that were not held responsible for the point rider. If the top ranks in each class were taken by others not given the label, this would hurt that rider’s status as the lower that they placed, the less points they received. With this in mind, the point riders were not held in a limelight to work harder or gain more attention, everyone was pushed to do their best to highlight the team as a whole.

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2. Save it for the van.

Competition can sometimes bring out frustrations, especially if it didn’t go quite like you had planned. Often times you may not agree with how a judge placed a class or how a horse rode. Human instinct, is to vent frustrations….but at a busy horse show this is almost impossible as you never know who might be within earshot or in a bathroom stall as you are subconsciously expelling your frustrations. To save our team the embarrassment of ever saying something that we shouldn’t, we incorporated an honor system in which we only vented to each other, in the privacy of our vans on the way home. But more importantly beyond that, this is a great lesson that we should all be so thankful for learning from our coach as we can instill this in a day to day basis. In Chelsie Huseman’s words, “It’s so tempting to publicly slander someone that has burdened you but it does nothing good for you, or others.” This is said to be true in any walk of life, not just in a horse show scenario.

3. Ride or die.

Because our team had goals of winning and competing head to head with the top teams in the region, we had an attendance policy in place to ensure that all members of the team worked as hard as everyone else between competitions. After all, if you were not committed to put in the hard work then you were not going to ride in place in someone that had. With this being said, if you were not sick, dying, or knew someone that was dying then you were expected to be in attendance of all practices, meeting, workouts, and team events. But on the flip side, there is another viewpoint on this common phrase that was contributed to the back of team t-shirts by an outgoing teammate. This viewpoint is basically the idea that as a rider, you must put your ‘all’ into each practice to get the most of every second spent in the saddle in order to keep improving yourself.

4. Let the horse take care of you.

One of the IHSA’s claims to fame is that during each show, the rider is to draw a horse and showcase their skills without the ability to warm the horse up and learn their quirks or ‘buttons’. A brief warm-up may be witnessed prior to each show to see each and every individual horse go through their paces and a small description is given, but other than that you are on your own. This tests the skill of a rider to be able to skillfully maneuver unfamiliar horses in rail work and in a pattern. But at the end of the day when all the nerves have built before your class, the best thing to do is to take a deep breath and simply let the horse do what it does best. You can’t control the unknown, but you can certainly do what you have always done and not what you will shall never do.

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5. Stay fit.

At first the thought of 6 am weekly team workouts and monitored individual workouts sounded like a horrible idea, but we were soon reminded that being actively fit and strengthening regional and core muscles would not only improve our health, but also strengthen our riding. Kudos to our coach for putting up with our moaning and groaning as our sore, achy muscles were constantly screaming at us between all the riding, working out, and even up the steps to the dorms. But in the grand scheme of things, making a habit of being physically fit sure payed off as we rode our way to the top and were able to squeeze into our fitted shirts and show chaps! 😉

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6. It’s ok to be a guinea pig.

I am proud to say that I was a member of the NEO Equestrian team during the very first season of competition. This meant that we were in a sense, tested on to determine how efficient the team rules and schedules were and tried out team practice horses. In no way, shape, or form was this a bad thing. We certainly feel that we created a legacy that we hope will live on and leave a mark on the small school we all have moved on from and no that it will only continue to grow.

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7. Use it or lose it.

The long hours of practice, hours at the gym, and many hours spent in the saddle outside of practice on my own, resulted in a muscle memory of a correct leg position. To gain this position without serious concentration and physical readjustment after transitions, was quite the accomplishment for me. Luckily, I am now in a industry that allows me to continue to use and refresh this skill on a weekly basis so I can continue to ride and find my correct position. But, many of my students now find that revisiting horseback riding activities is indeed harder than riding a bike and the constant nag of their instructor regarding their leg continues to find the commentary on a week to week basis. This can be said about many things, we must continue to sharpen the skills that we have worked so hard to finesse in order to not lose them to the wayside.

8. Make friends for a lifetime.

Not only did the team atmosphere require attendance for team goals, but also for us to get to know one another and work as a team. With so many hours together, it was no surprise that we soon became a family in a sense. Leaving practice was not the end of our associations, we would often head over to the cafeteria to eat dinner together, and then even back to the dorms for study sessions. It may have not been all about what we learned during our time there, but also who we met. Some of my very best friends were the teammates I made while on the team.

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9. Be aware of your surroundings.

With busy team practices, full show classes, and crowded show facilities, we were constantly taught to plan ahead whether it was to avoid horses colliding into one another or to not miss our draw for our class. By also competing in the large mid-west region, we found ourselves traveling across 2 states at times to get to shows. This meant we traveled as a group and looked out for another in this crazy world, where danger seems to be lurking around every corner.

10. Hard work pays off.

In the end, the hours of commitment and hard work continued to pay off. Sure a team ribbon was always the goal at the shows, but even more importantly were the individual strengths gained throughout the season. Our main intentions were not only to do well, but to also obtain a degree during our time there, and hopefully see each other again while working in the industry.

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All in all, I am so thankful to have been a part of such a great program and would not trade any of my experiences for the world. I certainly owe my individual success at this point in time to the dedicated coach that we had, Chelsie Huseman, I know that I am certainly not the only collegiate rider that owes many great successes to this sport and I hope that we will all come together as a team, as a family, and as fellow equestrians to see that the great programs throughout the United States will continue to prosper.