Equestrians: We’re more similar than we are different

If we spend more time focusing on our similarities rather than our differences, we might all learn a little something about different horse breeds and riding styles.

I remember my first high school equestrian team meet vividly, mainly the chaos. Growing up in the hunter/jumper discipline, tying your horse to a trailer all day as opposed to renting a stall seemed like a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Then when I joined a collegiate polo team, it baffled me to tack up the polo ponies and leave them tied in the stall until we were finished riding. I never truly understood the practices of these disciples, I merely adhered to the standards that were expected of me.

That all changed once I dove deep into my equine science classes at Michigan State University. I’ve condensed what I’ve learned about the basic necessities of horse management into four major lessons I learned.

  1. Horses are horses. Whether you have a 17-hh (horse’s height in hands) warmblood used for dressage or a 15-hh American quarter horse for cutting, they all have similar living requirements. Individual management varies for human convenience, however all systems have the same intention of keeping healthy, happy horses.
  2. “There’s more than one way to peel an orange.” As one of my dad’s favorite phrases, this was drilled in my head at a young age. This became one of the truest and most evident key points of my studies. There are so many different ways to achieve managing a healthy horse, each with equally valid pros and cons. Doing something differently does not mean doing something wrong. Everything is a choice: feed, stalling, fencing, individual riding technique. After understanding the logic behind different techniques, I can appreciate each person’s approach a little bit better.
  3. Get a taste of the different riding styles and disciplines. Doing this has only made me hungrier to learn more. I am motivated to know and understand each individual breed and discipline, and am absolutely fascinated with the versatility of the horse.
  4. Take pride in what you do, but never stop learning. The day you stop learning is the day you stop living. There will always be someone who does things differently and they might just have the answer to a problem you’ve been having.

Cowgirl at rodeoIf you have never been to a rodeo, I strongly encourage you to go to one. The power and speed of the barrel horses is enough to get any heart racing. Stop by a horse show some time. The precision and skill so clearly displayed through horsemanship classes inspires me to have that same kind of connection with my horses. Go to a polo game if you’ve never been to one. Not only are they galloping at full speeds on a massive field, they’re also leaning considerably off the sides of their horses in the attempt to hit a tiny ball. Polo is one of the only team equestrian sports, and the dynamic of working with your teammates and horses is empowering and strategic.

The attention to detail and focus in dressage events proves the importance of “the little things,” and the beauty of it all coming together. The bravery and willingness exhibited by jumping horses does not go unnoticed either. It takes special trust for a horse to gallop at a 4-foot solid fence without hesitation.

In the end, I hope you look at your equestrian co-parts and see similar struggles and similar desires. Instead of focusing on how you do things differently, concentrate on what you can learn from each discipline. Realizing the importance of each individual breed and discipline can do wonderful things for the industry as a whole, uniting us through the passion for horses.

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