Have you ever been at a show and seen someone whose riding was amazing, yet they dismounted unsafely and dropped the reins on the ground?  Or the Groom that can turn a horse into a mirror but doesn’t care at all about keeping fresh water and clean bedding in the stall?  Both are examples of someone who may be good at parts of their jobs, but I’m not sure I would call them “horsemen” or “horsewomen”.  Being a Groom, or rider, or trainer, or owner, is great, but what makes a good Groom, rider, trainer, owner a HORSEPERSON?  My thoughts here.  


-You speak horse.  You understand how their brains work, how to read their body language, and how to influence and train their behavior in positive ways.  Giant, thick books on the topic have been written, you have memorized them all, and you still learn each and every day about how horses communicate by observing and interacting with horses. 


-You also speak human.  All this horse knowledge is useless if you can’t “play nice” with your boss, your co-workers, the barn clients.  You will also recognize your own needs, and the needs of those around you.  Yes, “horses come first” but at some point you need to sit your butt down and eat a sandwich and take care of yourself.  No horse will die if you wait 30 minutes to clean stalls or do some turnouts.  


-Spend time focusing on the basics, the simple things.  The tricks will follow.  This goes for in hand work and under saddle work.  If you have a horse that dances in the cross ties or likes to be a jerk when you are leading him, tackle teaching new behaviors on the most simple level with positive reinforcement.  When he’s still and quiet in the stall with you, reward.  The behaviors transfer to other situations, just keep it simple and positive. 


-Groom for health, not looks.  Sure, one very wonderful side effect of the grooming process is a shiny and clean horse.  (Or, during a very wet winter, a shiny-ish and clean-ish horse…..)  But grooming is the best time to learn about the health of your horse.  What are his vitals - his TPR?  Where is he sore?  Does he have a new cut?  Does his sheath need cleaning?  You get the idea….


-Never and always rarely have a place at the barn.  Never and always have a way of closing your ears and closings your mind to new ideas, new information, new science, new solutions.  Horses will always (oops!) prove you wrong, and they will never (oops again!) let you forget it!  


-All parts of the job are awesome to a horseman.  From cleaning the wash rack drains clogged with poop, hair, and dirt to your favorite barn chore - the horseman understands the necessity of each job and does them.  With a smile.  OK, maybe not a smile, but some sort of facial expression will do. 


-Horsemen never stop learning, asking questions, and discussing great ideas.  I have not been in a western saddle for over a decade, but I’m obsessed with learning new training methods and nuances of different disciplines that I can’t stop reading about them.  I want to ask everyone I know about their experiences and knowledge.  Get ready for loads of questions!!


What makes a person a HORSEPERSON?  Share your ideas!!