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Are you a Horsewoman?

Published: 5/27/2015
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Editor's Note: Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and a horse gal since age six. She runs Essence Horsemanship, rides and teaches English and Western. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, and many others.

Read more about Amy here.

Read more Journals & Journeys here

By Amy Skinner

When I was a little kid, I remember looking from window of our 10th story apartment to the busy six-lane highway below. The deafening traffic, honking, and smog faded away before my eyes: smog turned to dust, cars to horses and the pothole-ridden asphalt to hard, rocky terrain. Horsemen and women galloping in scores – the clouds of dust they kicked up! The sound and the smell!
Suddenly, my senses were calmed, no longer filled with the toxic feel of city life, but with the ripe smell of horse sweat, manure, and the sound of thundering hooves. Suddenly, I felt much more peaceful, and things were right when I looked out that window.
Being a horsewoman has always been important to me, even in those younger days when I was sans horse. It doesn't just mean you have horses, ride horses, or make a living by working with horses. To me, being a horsewoman is so much deeper, and I know I will spend my lifetime seeking to become one.

Are you a one?

  • Are you willing to dedicate yourself to a life of learning without becoming set in what you know?
  • Are you willing to work hard without becoming rigid?
  • Are you willing to  stay flexible without losing your ground?
  • Do you have room in your soul for the possibility of the stillness being with a horse can bring?
  • Can you learn from each mishap, each situation gone awry?
  • Can you accept that it may have been your fault without self-doubt and blame?
  • Can you can forgive your horse, forgive yourself, then you can start fresh every time?
  • Do you see life through the eyes of a horse, and are you willing to empty yourself to be totally free and in the moment with them?
Each day is new. Each day is exciting. It is only our need to classify, label, and add bias to it that quashes the moment and turns it into anything other than a learning moment.

  • Do you know what the horse needs, and are you willing to abandon ego, selfish need or want, to let the horse be healthy and mentally balanced?

Show schedules, convenience, over-protection, anthropomorphizing: the horse doesn't understand these things. What he craves is the society of other horses, space to roam, graze and play, good feed and shelter. A balanced trim and float will go a long way to keeping him moving sound and feeling healthy.

Are you willing to put on a coat and walk a few extra minutes to catch him instead of having him ready for you and stuck in a stall?

Are you willing to take the time it takes to help him understand the trailer and load readily, instead of cramming him in for the sake of time?

Are you willing to let him spend his youth playing, growing, and learning to be a horse, instead of rushing an undeveloped mind and body for the sake of a time line or goal?

Do you have a spirit of adventure, a desire to learn?

Do you have a creative mind; one that is willing to experiment and to play? Drilling is the enemy of lightness and willingness. Every situation is different. Every horse is different. The true horseman or woman never settles for learning a program or memorizing a set of steps. He or she is willing to see in that moment that what is currently not working should be abandoned without judgment before moving onto something else.

An art teacher once told me when I stood staring blankly at an incomplete drawing, “if you don't know what to do, do something.” He was right for so many reasons. Horsemanship is a constantly changing work of art, like a river flowing and changing shape over the land it covers. It flows easily, never fighting the terrain, but finds a way around obstacles. Horse and rider blend, shaping each other and changing each day.

Are you a horseman/woman?

If what the horse truly has to offer speaks to you, then listen closely, consciously, and intently, for the voice of this gentle spirit is a quiet one.

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6/1/2015 Julie Kenney
YES! I can honestly answer yes to all those questions, but it has taken years of getting past self-doubt and lack of knowledge to reach this status. I love being a horsewoman and I have no doubt it makes me a better person too. Thank you so much for your thought-provoking questions.

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"Here lies the body of my good horse, The General. For years he bore me around the circuit of my practice and all that time he never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same." - President John Tyler's epitaph for his horse