* This article is a featured interview on The Dressage Radio Show! Click here if you want to listen to my commentary about many of the points made in the article below.*

At first, horse riding is just like any other skill you want to learn. You put effort in and eventually become more effective as time goes on.

At some point, things begin to change. Somehow, without you necessarily knowing about it, the seemingly sport specific skills the horses have taught you take on more meaning. "Horsey" skills become relevant in your daily activities, even when the circumstances have nothing at all to do with horses.

While we develop as riders, we also grow as human beings. Not only do we grow in terms of physical ability, but perhaps even more so, we grow in character.

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Situations that used to affect us one way no longer bother us in the same manner, not because the circumstances themselves are any different, but more due to how we have learned to deal with them.

Then we realize that the true teachers are the horses themselves. All we have to do is learn to listen.

Horse riding becomes life when...

1. The patience you develop working with your horse becomes the patience you use with your friends and colleagues.

2. The body language you use to communicate with the horses becomes your source of confidence in group activities.

3. The coordination you learn on the back of the horse keeps you safe from unexpected physical mishaps.

4. Heavy lifting/pulling/pushing/hoof cleaning develops your strength enough to allow you to fluidly function during physically taxing circumstances.

5. Facing your fears while on another's four legs teaches you how to have courage in the face of life's many difficulties.

6.You learn to temper your (often over-scheduled) daily routines by slowing down to meet the simplicity of horse life.

7. The leadership skills your horse teaches you carries into your work and relationship interactions.

8. The self-confidence you develop from knowing you can influence a powerful animal seeps into every interaction you have with people.

9. You learn from horses that it's okay for things to get worse, because after things get worse, they always get better.

10. You discover that taking shortcuts might not be to your benefit in the long run; some things have to take the time they need to take.

11. When certain maneuvers get a little difficult (like riding through a corner), all you need is a little extra impulsion to smooth things out.

12. Sometimes, you just have to let go (especially when the horse bucks and bucks)!

13. In general, riding (life) isn't about brute strength - it's about gentle technique and strategy.

14. There is no such thing as a day off - you begin to value the rewards that hard work reaps.

15. The work has to get done whether you feel up to it or not - invariably, you learn to prioritize responsibilities and get it all done.

16. You understand completely how asking nicely is always better than demanding.

17. There is no such thing as instant gratification. There is only hard work and step-by-step development.

18. You seek perfection,  but realize that you can rarely reach it!

19. The path is more important than the end result.

20. Although we all have our own "conformation faults" that might work against us, we can overcome almost anything with skill, time and effort.

There must be so many other examples of how horses sneak their ways into our daily lives. Feel free to keep adding to my list (in the comment section below).

Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!

Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions. 

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Other titles you may enjoy:

What Responsible Horse Ownership Really Means: We need to keep in mind that horses are prey animals and long-time domesticated livestock. If we listen well enough, we discover that what we think of as giving might not be what the horses truly need.

10 Tips for the Average Rider: Are you an average rider? Then join the club!

23 Ways to Solve the Riding Problem: Of course, we rarely speak of the one “true” way…

Ten Habits of Competent Riders: This is our most popular post by far. What do great riders have in common that makes them appealing to watch, steadily develop their riding skills and become role models for others to aspire to emulate?

Top 10 Ways to Reward Your Horse: A happy horse is a willing partner, and many horses will give everything they have if they feel your acknowledgement and generosity of spirit.


  1. Loved the post. Carried me back to my early teen years. I had riding lessons and learned English saddle. It really changed my way of thinking. I developed a deeper love for horses. I did develop more patience in many aspects of my life. That love for horses has spilled over into my writing. Most of my novels include horses somewhere. We’re developing a symbol for my writing and it will have a horse included. Everyone needs to be around a horse sometime in their life. They’re just a calming animal to me. Thanks for the post 🙂

  2. My horse, my mirror. He reflects back to me who I am. If I don’t like what I see in him there is something to change in me. I cannot lie to him because he can never lie to me. No argument can be won it can only be negotiated to a mutually beneficial conclusion, and it is my horse who tells me when this is so. He has taught me to listen. 🙂 … Thanks for sharing …

  3. I may have said this before in a comment on another post of yours, but horses keep you in the moment, because that’s where they live. You can’t dwell on the past or fret about the future when you’re riding, you must be fully present and in the present, aware of what the horse is aware of every moment. (If you’re not, you may end up on the ground when your horse shies at that fox in the bushes that you didn’t notice!) In that way, horses are Zen masters and can teach us to be more Zen in our non-riding lives as well. 🙂

  4. Ha, ha–my lessons were basic mechanics. Like when I go over a big bump in my truck, I find myself leaning into it as if I were jumping a horse and then posting with my legs to make the ride smoother.

    But your story reminds me how much I miss horse flesh, the wonderful SMELL of a horse. Whenever I meet a horseback rider on the trails and get into conversation with them, the first thing I ask is if I may approach to pet and sniff.

  5. Yoga was like that for me. I started to use it while driving, at parties, waking up. I felt stronger, more supple and more alive. Thanks for a great post.

  6. Great list! I’ve been riding since I was 6 and haven’t stopped since. In fact, I had my riding lesson today. 🙂 The horse I ride unfortunately had to get some stitches on his neck…poor guy! Anyway, awesome post. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  7. Great post! I love how you compare what horses teach us to everyday living. These animals have such beautiful souls. I plan to share this with my granddaughter who lives for horses…at 8 yrs old she is competing and starting to jump.

  8. That’s interesting. We owned three horses at one time, and never learned to make it enjoyable. I find horses about as easy to figure out as cats, but much more dangerous. I wish I had your wisdom with them.

  9. Havent ridden a horse in years, but I long to quite often. I really enjoyed your twenty things and think that even non horse people could use these things. Lets all slow down, that would be awesome. Great post. enjoyed it. congrats on being freshly pressed

  10. A very thought provoking post. I’m a great believer in the power of the equine-human relationship. I speak from personal experience. Horse riding and quality time spent with horses has helped me weather a close family bereavement. I now have dystonia (a chronic neurological disorder) and my relationship with horses, is once again, supporting me. Long live the horse!

  11. This is a wonderful post. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I used to have my own horse – a beautiful Thoroughbred called Folly – but sadly had to sell her when my academic commitments and college took over. I miss riding a lot and look forward to the days when I will be able to have my own horse again.

  12. The reason I liked this post so very much is because this is something I say, and a lot too. I went horse riding for nine years, through my teens, and haven’t been able to for the past three years, college etc. now my fiancé and I can finally go, but he’s afraid of horses, lol. I’m definitely going to wear him down though. Heaven is on a horse’s back. =)

  13. I’ve ridden horse’s a lot , in fact one year I was taking care of the neighbors horses when one day, my foot got stepped up, ouch.
    when I was a kid we used to go to the Oregon coast and ride horses….thanks for rekindling a memory.

  14. I was drawn to this post because the horse in the photo looks so much like the horse I rode in my early teens. I was lucky enough to lease her and get half of her time and almost all of her care. These things are all so true and I’m so grateful that I had that in my life at an early age. I really think it shaped my life in so many ways. As an adult I’ve been living in NYC and don’t get to ride. It’s something I need to get back into my life.

  15. When I was about 8 years old, me and my family went to my Dad’s friend’s house who owned horses. One night I woke up and found myself in a field, by the house, surrounded by about ten horses. I became petrified and began screaming; my sleepwalking had got the best of me that night. Thank god my dad and his friend had come to the rescue.

    Even since then, I’ve had a fear of horses. I’ve tried, more than once, to get over that fear, but to no avail. It almost seems like the horses can “sense” my fear. Even though I’m 56 years old now and have been reasonably successfull in life, that one fear seems to be lingering.

    I loved this article. It shows how one passion in life can act as a catalyst to refine and fine tune our character as well as our character defects.

    Maybe sooner or later I can conquer that one persisting fear and finally scratch it off my bucket list. Maybe you can give
    E some tips on how to “listen” to the horse more carefully, and actually how I can get the horse to “listen” to my fear and gently coax me along the way.

    1. Reading your comment it appeared to me that the horses obviously did not hurt you, right? How amazing is it that a child can sleep in a field surrounded by so many horses and is actually rather protected than threatened by the animals. Have you ever thought about that? Just a thought, may be it does help in some way. Best wishes.

  16. Brings me back to the days I’ve spent working with horses at camp, and learning from others who love horses much more than I do. There is a magic about horses that I know I don’t fully appreciate, but see in the eyes of others.

  17. This is precious and clever. I am going to show my friend who’s a horse fanatic–she’ll LOVE this. Thank you

    {Photography and Wisdom}

  18. I was just commenting to my husband that I would love to ride horses. Unfortunately in urban singapore we cannot. I enjoyed this post. Thank you.

  19. Reblogged this on Anne Squared and commented:
    Horses have always been my passion. In the last year, they have been healing me…this explains how horses can have such an impact on our lives. At least on mine.

  20. Totally agree. Caring for the horse and the horse caring for you. Double orbit. You’re connected with the horse, understanding its feelings while it understands you. I enjoyed your post. Congrats on getting FPed. 😀

  21. “9. You learn from horses that it’s okay for things to get worse, because after things get worse, they always get better.”

    That’s what my grandad said, just before he died of cholera!

    1. Youch! Don’t know how to answer that!
      1) Condolences about your grandpa.
      2) I don’t think I’m talking about the same thing here – just about horsey behavior! ;-P

  22. horse shows and horses teach you how to both win and lose graciously in front of large crowds of people

  23. Your post put into words how I feel about horses and what I’ve tried to explain to my friends and family who just “don’t get it”. Thanks!

  24. I would say those ways are truly going to make it easy for the horse riders while riding and also the methods given of handling their horses.A very Good and lovely article!

  25. I’ve been obsessed with horses for as long as I can remember. I learnt to post on my bike and got my first lesson at 10. I have been bitten, kicked, stomped on fallen off and been bucked off numerous times and now 70 and no end in sight. I have 4geriatric horses, no longer ride due to physical problems but up to feed and do chores at the break of dawn daily. Just the smell and all that shedding hair amongst the snuggles keep me going and what a feeling at the end of the day when they return to the barn and you hear that munching of hay and sighs of contentment. It makes it all worth while. How can anyone possibly get through life without a horse? I just don’t get it.🙀

  26. I truly appreciate how horses have taught me to listen; Listening literally to what is being expressed by others such as my kids and family and most important, learning to listen to and trust my instincts.

  27. Awesome article!! At the end of the day if our non-horsey friends don’t understand how much our horse (and other animals) enrich our lives then that is their loss. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.