I've recently had conversations with a few people about what true horsemanship is and how it seems to be diminishing as of recent. No, I'm not that old, but growing up I was taught the proper way to care for my horse and that being an equestrian wasn't just how well you could ride. I'm so thankful I was taught great horsemanship as a kid. And here's some examples of what I mean...
I worked with my horse -- I didn't have someone do it for me (no, I'm not knocking training rides). I didn't show up to lessons to my horse tacked up and ready to go; I didn't hop off afterwards and leave the barn because I had other things to do.
These are things all equestrians should know and be taught as early as possible. I'm surprised at the amount of riders that don't know the proper way to do the things I've listed -- or they know how to do them, they just don't and cut corners wherever they can.
Hell, before I was allowed to do too much in the saddle I had to know the name of and be able to point out the parts of a saddle and bridle -- AND put a bridle together from pieces strewn across a table.
From Barn Rat to Adult Amateur
My pony hunter came to me as somewhat of a wild child. Yes, I was under amazing trainer supervision, but it was up to me to turn this pony into what I wanted him to, and what I knew he could, become. I was the one that put in the meticulous hours and hard work. Ground work, lunging, trail rides, and just spending lots of quality time with him not under saddle helped our relationship more than I could have ever imagined.
Most summer days I would be at the barn from 6 a.m. until after dark doing barn chores and riding. I was the epitome of a barn rat. My parents' philosophy was that if I wanted it, I'd really have to work for it. They wanted me to understand horse care through and through to make me the best equestrian I could become. There was no if's, and's or but's - no matter the weather I'd be out there taking care of my pony. I loved those days and truly believe it molded me into the woman I am today. I can't thank my parents and trainer enough for those important lessons -- both horse-related and general life lessons - learned.
Now as an adult amateur with a horse of my own, even though working a full-time job doesn't allow me to consider myself a 'barn rat,' I am just as habitual in the care I take of my horse and tack. And I wouldn't have it any other way, for my peace of mind and for my horse's health and well-being.