You’ve probably learned dozens of cool horsey skills while spending time at the barn or traveling to horse shows. But did you know that while you’re doing more ordinary things like mucking out a stall or perfecting your two-point, you’re also learning valuable skills and lessons that will stick with you forever? Being an equestrian comes with many life lessons.
Keep reading to learn about five life lessons and skills learned as an equestrian that will help you out at school, home, with friends, and even in your future college and career path.
Have you ever been to a show and ridden in a class where you didn’t place as well as you wanted? Or maybe you won your class, placing ahead of somebody who is very competitive.
How did you react? Did you get angry if you didn’t get the ribbon you wanted, or brag to the other riders if you won? Or did you tell them congratulations for a good class?
Our reactions and behavior in these situations are what sportsmanship is all about. No matter how you place, it’s important to treat your fellow competitors, judge, trainer, and horse with respect and maturity. Being a good sport at horse shows is a great way to practice being kind to your friends, family, classmates, and teachers, even when things don’t go your way.
The first time I fell off my pony was one of the scariest moments I have experienced while riding. He bolted, I landed in the sawdust pile, and he stepped on my back. Luckily, I didn’t sustain any serious injuries (reminder: always wear your helmet!), but I was very shaken up by that fall.
I could have walked away and stopped riding forever, but instead I was brave enough to get back on. Each time you get back on your horse after a scary experience, you are expanding your courage.
And as your courage grows, imagine all the other scary things you can face! Remember how brave you are the next time you are preparing for that difficult math test or class presentation.
It’s no secret that lots of hard work goes into being an equestrian. Think about all the tasks that go into taking care of a horse: feeding, watering, cleaning stalls, exercising, grooming, and so much more! Just like having a household pet, there is a large amount of responsibility that comes along with owning or leasing a horse.
There will be many times in your future when people will depend on you for other things too, such as babysitting younger children, completing your part of a group project, or finishing your chores at home. These activities might not all be your favorite, but just like at the barn, it’s important to take care of the hard jobs so that we can enjoy the fun ones—like riding!
One of the first things that all equine lovers are taught when they start spending time around horses is how to interpret their body language. You probably remember your camp counselor standing up and telling the group that a horse with his ears pinned back is upset, and that you should be cautious around him. Maybe your trail guide told you that if your horse drifts to the side, that means he is trying to grab a snack and needs to be brought back to the center.
Not only do these principles help keep you safe and enjoying a smooth ride, they’re also important foundations of learning how to understand what your horse is saying. Think about how you talk to your horse: Sometimes you might use vocal cues like saying “whoa” or clucking, but you also probably use non-verbal signals with your legs, seat, or reins.
As you ride, you and your horse are having a conversation with one another, even when you’re not using words. You’re learning to communicate in new ways with a different species. And that’s pretty incredible! You get lots of practice that will help you be a good listener and communicator in all parts of your life.
5. Lifelong Learning
Do you ever feel like no matter how many lessons you take, there’s always a new riding skill to master? This is one of the best parts about working with horses, but also one that is very challenging.
Sometimes it can feel frustrating that there’s a seemingly endless list of skills to improve. On the other hand, the fact that there’s always something else to learn is very exciting! It means that there will always be new goals to work toward to push you and help you grow. This ability to welcome lifelong learning will come in handy as you’re asked to study new and more complex subjects in school and beyond.
There’s no doubt that spending time at the barn is a valuable experience. Now the next time somebody asks what you learned in your riding lesson, you can tell them about the new equine skills you practiced, plus the life lessons being an equestrian taught you!
This article about equestrian life lessons appeared in the March 2022 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!