Horse Listening horsin' around
Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

I often write about how being around horses changes a person. In many ways, there is no chance that a person who is involved in horses - whether as a rider, or barn owner or manager, instructor, volunteer, or someone who helps with the chores - can stay the same as they were pre-horses. While there's likely plenty of physical improvement, there's the even more important aspect of development of character.

Well, it makes sense when you think about it.

First off, there's the being-out-in-the-country factor. For many of us who live in suburbs or cities, being outside "for real" puts us in a much different position than we're used to. The sheer space and conditions create an environment that is rarely experienced these days by most people. Quite opposite to the hustle and bustle of our city lives, being at a farm makes us do things differently.

Time slows down. Pace slows down. Even while we have to actually perform tasks (that won't get done otherwise), the physical aspect requires us to focus on one thing at a time, prioritize tasks, find the most efficient way to do things and to "live in the moment."

Then there's the horses.

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They teach us so many "soft" skills like empathy, responsibility, leadership, compassion, determination and organization. That doesn't even include riding-specific skills.

So why does horsin' around make us into better human beings? Here are 24 ways.

    1. Work hard: Whether we're carrying water buckets or cleaning out stall after stall, we're in it to get 'er done, no matter what it takes!
    2. Ready to pitch in when needed: We learn quickly that many hands make light work.
    3. Compassion - for people too: (As in, not only for the animals. We become "tuned in" to others, period.)
    4. Clean without complaint: Well, maybe just a little complaint. But we realize that if we don't do the cleaning, the mess will build up quickly and not go away on its own!
    5. Walk briskly and far: Walking is the major way to get around farms and so you learn to go - fast!
    6. Not afraid to get dirty: We get right into the mess of things and clean up later.
    7. Keep doing despite the weather: Like turning horses in just as the huge downpour begins, or taking the wheelbarrow to the muck pile after a white-out blizzard covers the path.
    8. Put others' needs first: The horses always get taken care of first because they rely on us for almost everything.
    9. Stubborn: In a good way, we try, try again in order to learn the new skill.
    10. Make decisions - even the hard ones: As the person responsible for the horse, it's our duty to keep our selfish needs to the side and do what's best for the horse.
    11. Have fun! Stay a while in any barn and hear the laughter echo through the rafters (literally).
    12. Alone time: Except we're not really alone. We relish our quiet time listening to the munching of hay and occasional snorts of our equine friends.
    13. Enjoy being with others: Even the most introverted of us becomes more outgoing and social simply by virtue of the shared passion we have for horses.
    14. Stick to it when the going gets tough: We learn that almost any problem can be overcome with perseverance and a little bit of creativity.
    15. Willing to "perform" in front of others: There's no way around it. You watch others ride and others watch you ride.
    16. Step out of own comfort zone regularly: We become more willing to do try new things and grow - whether in the saddle or on the ground.
    17. Share information and knowledge with others: We pool together all of experiences and research especially when there's a horse in need.
    18. Finish tasks: Because the chore won't get done otherwise.
    19. Take initiative: Our leadership skills flourish in a barn setting.
    20. Lift heavy objects: We build our strength and we aren't shy to use it (water bucket, anyone)?
    21. Can be counted on to pitch in or complete tasks: Because that's just the way things get done in a barn.
    22. Communicate clearly: We use white boards, lists, text messages, memos, and old fashioned "face time" to make sure we're on track and the horses are taken care of in a consistent manner.
    23. Self-starters: We will find the things that need to be done and do them on our own.
    24. Life-long learners: Because we need more than one lifetime to learn everything we need to know about riding and horses.

When you take a look at those 24 characteristic traits, it's pretty easy to realize that little by little, day by day, being out in that barn and interacting with those horses adds a huge dimension to our way of being in the world. How have your horses made you into a better human being?

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  1. This writer is sooo “on the mark”. In my 55th year of horse ownership (always at stables with multiple horses and riders) I have experienced, on a lifelong basis, every one of the things she describes. Horses have helped me develop socialization skills, team playing, determination, stress management, a love of nature and wild places, empathy, self confidence and physical fitness. Horses have made me what I am.

  2. Owning and riding my horse has made me more patient, more assertive (I am the lead mare), and more humble. I am in awe that this lovely animal trusts and relies on ME!