Jul 31, 2009

With a Little Help From Our Friends

A recent post on Mugwump Chronicles kind of pulled at the heartstrings. She tells a story of a young Mugwump, excited to be invited to attend a competitive trail ride with a friend and her mother. The friend, knowing Mugs hadn’t the money or the opportunity to learn about the sport prior to going, does not help set her up for success by sharing her knowledge, but rather watches in the shadows at Mugwump’s humiliation for the lack of it. We’ll never know if the friend’s motive was to score better or to make Mugs look bad. Regardless, I am sure there are many times in both our childhood and adult life that we have felt ambushed by so called friends.

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't met some folks like Mugwump’s friend, whose bravado must be measured by other’s failures or short-comings. Some can be a bit patronizing, others downright mean. I’m not sure if this comes from their own insecurities or just plain taking pride in seeing someone else struggle. Although I wasn’t born in the saddle, I’m thankful my skin is as tough as leather. It’s a rough world out in equine land! But I won’t blame the activity. I see these same people at our boys’ sporting events and other activities I have partaken in over the years. There are some in every crowd. I bet even those scrapbooking people get cut-throat on occasion! (And no offense to the scrapbookers – it just struck me funny thinking of someone saying “did you see how she handled those pinking shears?”)

On the flipside, in the years that followed the purchase of our first horse, my address book as changed considerably. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some people through horse activities with whom I would have never met in my other walk of life. These friends have been instrumental in making me a better horsewoman. They have done so by setting a good example, having the patience of a saint and most of all, a sense of humor. They know how to offer advice without criticism and lead by example. Some of these friends have had horses all their lives and others, like me, come into the sport with a strong desire and little experience beyond a childhood pony. (Thanks, guys. You know who you are.)

Some of my best horse memories were those shared by friends. Having almost a decade behind us, we have a lot of “remember when” moments now. I heard a statistic once that said 80% of new horse owners will have called it quits in the first year. Of those 20% that stay with it, 80% of those will be out of it in 5 years. So out of 100 new horse owners today, using this theory, only 4 would still have horses five years from now. (And feel free to check my math because it’s NOT my strong suit.) I am pretty sure that statistic would be higher if they had horse friends like mine!

We are all busy in our lives – horse and otherwise. And admittedly, I am guilty of looking down my nose at a new rider or two who had tried my patience in a particular activity. (Those who know me well know I lack in the patience department.) But I am going to make it a point to pay it forward as a thanks to those who didn't look down their nose at me. I'll try harder to make a new horse owner feel like they belong. To reward the try, advise without criticize (when asked) and lead by example. It doesn’t matter what I know or don’t know, nor does it have to be a lifelong commitment to that person. It only takes a moment to offer kindness, support and a pat on the back and hopefully that gesture will perhaps give that person the courage to continue this crazy sport another day.

Who’s your best horse friend? Did you have a mentor or worse, a nemesis? Feel free to share your story in the comments.


  1. We've been in the horse world three years now and the overwhelming majority of people have been very kind and helpful. Our first year we boarded at a local family's private barn and that lady was more than generous in sharing her many years of knowledge with us. And she managed to keep a straight face through our many bone-headed mistakes and stupid questions.
    But shows can be another story entirely!

  2. Nice post. You share some very good thoughts. Most of us are trying to improve our horsemanship, whatever level we are at and it helps to associate with those who want to see everyone succeed.

  3. This post is spot on. Are you sure you didn't peek into my brain and write what you saw there?

    I've had horses most of my life. I have found people like the girl in mugs' story. The worst ones were those threatened in any kind of competition. My dog was killed and my show saddles stolen because someone didn't like the fact that my cousin and I were winning that weekend. Then there's the ones who gave me the shirt off their back and the boots off their feet.

    I try to remember that we all started somewhere. I teach Horses 101 for the local 4-H. This includes Horse Bowl and Horse Judging. It's my way of paying back for those instructors and mentors that taught me so much.

  4. I have always liked the western riding. I have not found someone yet that I feel comfortable riding or talking with about horses, riding, etc yet!! My boss has a dressage barn and everyone in that barn is so stuck on themselves that I hate to even walk in her barn when anyone is around. I go for riding lesson for just getting over my fear issues and when that has been accomplished I will not go back and my lessons thank god are very early in the morning!! I play with my horses by myself and with no one because of not having someone that will make me feel like I am being judged. I hate to have that feeling and hope that some day I will find someone that lives close to me that I can get with. I am involved with Pat Parelli's program.

  5. This was a great post, my friend. And I love how you are aware of and wanting to change the way you view and treat other horse owners, especially us newbies.

    Those are interesting statistics, too. I hope I don't fall into them. After what has happened to me who knows. Only time will tell, I suppose.
    I do love horses and want them in my life, but haven't really found anyone who is my mentor and is supportive and encouraging.
    I felt like I was finally living my dreams, but after only a year with horses, I had the rug ripped out from under me, twice!. Leaving me to now wonder...what next?


    ps, I loved those photos. The top one os so joyful and free. And the cowgirl weekend sounds like something I truly would enjoy.

  6. Janette4:34 PM

    I have been riding all my life. I feel like I know what is going on,But I still Have People that treat me like I am a dummie. I even Know a lady That has been riding only one year that tells me Things. I say don't let it bother you. Just have a good time and you are the WINNER.

  7. Wow, those statistics, I never realized!
    I've had horses all my life and whenever people I know are involved in horses, especially new horse owners, I do whatever I can to share my knowledge with them, maybe too much, sometimes.
    It's good that you are so involved with your horses. You are a great horse friend too! Thanks for the trail ride in May. It's one of my top horse memories of my life.


I am so glad you stopped by and look forward to hearing from you! Do come again.