Loving a horse changes you forever. Whether you’ve owned one horse or a whole barn full, the daily responsibility of caring for a beloved horse changes you into a whole new person. On the outside, those changes might look like wearing a permanent suntan on your arms from the elbows down, possessing a bank account that’s always one big vet bill away from empty and owning a car with floor mats perpetually littered with dried mud, bits of hay and the odd sprinkle of sweet feed.
But just as surely as owning a horse changes you on the outside, it changes you on the inside, too – forever, and for good. And just like you, we’ve got questions about this process. Namely, what is it about owning horses that can make us feel like a brave superhero, a proud parent and an overworked and exasperated servant all at once? And how do these thousand-pound creatures own us, body and soul, from the first time we feel their soft lips whisk across our palms, see them thunder across the pasture toward us or smell that sweet, earthy, magical smell of horse flesh that’s unlike any other smell on earth? Well, there’s no one right answer to any of these questions, but there are plenty of good ones – and the best answer is probably in the name that everybody knows us by: horse lover.
In this blog, we’ve collected our top ten favorite answers to the timeless question, “Why do we own horses?” Next time you’re spending the night in the stall next door to your colicking horse, hosing down a hot leg or hunting over hill and dale for your horse’s missing shoe, read this list to remind yourself you’re not crazy – you’re just hopelessly, helplessly and totally in love, and that’s the way it was meant to be!
WE OWN HORSES BECAUSE…
10. They teach us how to trust. You’ve never known what trust is until you’ve swung a leg over a horse’s back and learned the true value of partnership.
Ranch versatility competitor Amanda Sanchez of Farmersville, Texas, says horses have been her greatest teachers in terms of learning trust and building perseverance.
“Working alongside a thousand-plus pound animal, you have to trust not only in yourself and your abilities, but also your horse, and he needs to be able to trust you,” Amanda said. “In competition, we fail more than we succeed, but we keep coming back and improving ourselves and our horses a little bit every time. It’s not the ribbon or medal that is the reward, but the confidence we grow in ourselves and our horses. Any time I think I am less than, I remind myself of all the triumphs, big and small, that I have shared with my horses, and my confidence is regained.”
9. They demonstrate the value of budgeting. Anyone who has ever saved up their pennies and dimes to buy a new horse has learned the value of fiscal responsibility. But it doesn’t take long before you also realize that the purchase price of your horse is just the first time you’ll need to scrimp and save to afford horses. From vet bills to farrier visits to feed bills and show fees, horse owners always know where the bulk of their money is – it’s just not always, um, very liquid.
8. They provide us with free therapy. It’s a big, scary world, and we have to find our coping mechanisms where we can find them. For horse people, that coping mechanism usually nickers when it sees us walk in the door.
For lifelong equestrian Christine Henry Gillett of North Richland Hills, Texas, horses have always been a path to peace.
“Horses have provided me with a sense of peace that honestly changed my life,” Christine reflected. “As a teen and into my college years, I recall feeling the stress, anxiety and worries literally disappear when I picked up my halter and grooming tote to begin tacking up for a ride. Even now, when I drive down the driveway where my horse is kept, I feel the peace and tranquility flooding in as my tires roll toward his pasture.”
Megan Hephner of Fort Worth, Texas, has owned horses her whole life, and says the benefits of owning horses have been different for every phase of her life. She started out competing in the all-around and hunter world, then as an adult, found a new passion in the art of cutting. But no matter what discipline she’s in, horses have always been her escape.
“As a ‘weekend warrior amateur,’ horses are my complete and total release from the stresses of life,” Megan said.
7. They teach us to have a sense of humor. Horses can be some of the most elegant, beautiful creatures on earth one minute – and then gallop across the pasture, bucking and farting uproariously, only to tumble face-first into the dirt the next minute. If you love a horse, you’ve got to learn how to laugh at your greatest passion sometimes, too.
6. They give us our very own Spidey-senses. Like your friendly neighborhood Spiderman, we can feel danger. Whether our horse is about to spook, or that innocent-looking nail in the barn wall is going to be our next vet bill, or we just know the electric fence is down without looking at it, horse people develop a Spidey-sense that helps us avert certain disaster like, 50% of the time.
5. They remind us to work out. We may not always have a current gym membership, but do you really want to arm-wrestle with someone who mucks stalls, hauls hay, carries 50-pound bags of feed and drives T-posts in their free time? We didn’t think so.
4. They show us who our true friends are. Like calls to like, especially when it comes to horse people.
“I have forged lifelong friendships and connections with others who I would probably not have met if it weren’t for horses,” Christine said. “From the girls and other teenagers at the barns I rode at as a child to the teammates I rode alongside in college to the other adult amateurs I showed with once I was in ‘the real world,’ and so much more – horse friends are the best kind of friends.”
3. They hone our sense of smell. Not everybody loves the smell of horse manure, and they’re wrong. But from sniffing out the slightest bit of mold in an off-bale to identifying the unmistakable odor of thrush in a hoof to inhaling our favorite smells when we walk into the barn each morning, horse people have some of the most sensitive noses on the planet – kind of like new parents who know exactly when their kid’s diaper needs to be changed.
2. They build our communication skills. Much as we wish they would, horses don’t speak English. The first thing an equestrian must learn about horses is how to communicate with them, and it’s a skill you can never stop developing. Trail rider, mounted archer and endurance rider Tiger Schultz of Birdseye, Indiana, values his sense of communication and connection with his horses.
“The top three benefits are learning solid communication skills, the kinship with ‘your’ horse and unselfishness,” Tiger said. “You learn to communicate with an animal that can't speak. You have to use body language, or tone, or other ways to communicate and get the horse to trust you. Unselfishness comes in because you learn to care for another being that depends on you. And the kinship is the best part. When you've bonded with ‘your’ horse, it's a partnership unlike any other. It's not the same as having a good dog or being with your spouse or the relationship with your kids. It's a connection that is on a plane all its own.”
1. They show us how to find our confidence. As a 12-year-old girl learning to get along with her first owned horse, Christine still remembers a time when she learned to handle a difficult situation with her pony – and the confidence that victory instilled in her lingers to this day.
“Peter Cottontail was a pony who had figured out that I was a little fearful when he got pushy,” Christine remembered. “When I would bring him to his stall, he would bowl me over – pushing me out of the way so he could gobble down grain or hay. My trainer at the time showed me what to do to start to break him of this habit, and I set out to fix this issue. I can still feel the victorious sensation in my mind’s eye when I was able to walk him into his stall on a slack lead, with his ears tipped towards me, clearly listening to me and my commands instead of steamrolling me and bolting into his stall. Small steppingstones like this instance allowed me to build confidence around my horse, shaping me into a confident and self-sufficient horsewoman.”