The True Cost of Horse Boarding

Tire kickers, if you sell horses or run a boarding facility you are gonna meet “Tire Kickers.” If you’re not familiar with this term these are the folks who come out just to look and have no intention to move (or even own a horse). I don’t mind too much the Tire Kickers because I’m proud of my barn and what we do here. However, many tire kickers like to end their complimentary barn tour by telling me that I charge far too much for board. Now, to be frank our barn, and most all barns in America (probably worldwide) likely do not charge enough for board. Most of the time “tire kickers” have done a calculation of the cost of a bag of feed, a bag of shavings and a bale of hay multiplied it by a minimal number and call that “board.” If only…”Boarding” is so much more than just flinging food into the stalls and road apples out.

“Board” is kind of a misnomer for what professional barn owners do for a living. It’s a word that harkens back to the 19th Century job postings for a Governess. But yes, we do house your horses. We feed them. We clean up after them, just like the boarding house Jo inhabited in Little Women. Barn owners are more like the full-service staff at an all inclusive retirement community.

Most horse barns are far from places where horses simply eat and poo. Boarding facilities also house (safely) your equipment, from curry combs to horse trailers. I remember talking to our insurance company when we first bought LEC. We had to estimate a dollar amount of “assorted equipment” that we’re “responsible for.” Its a dazzlingly high number because you have to multiply in your mind the average cost of saddle, bridle, headstall, all grooming equipment and whatever else people keep in those lockers. If we’re robbed blind I need to make sure my policy covers that. (Also: never do the math on how much money you’ve spent on your tack…I could have been to Nepal by now, instead I have 80 Saddle pads)

I’m not cleaning your saddle, I am however providing a safe place in which you can keep your stuff as well as keeping an eye on people enough to know that no one is walking away with your tack or your trailer. I don’t think on a day to day basis a lot about “managing” everyone’s equipment, I have security cameras for that and a barn full of great people. We know how many horses, saddles, trailers, bridles and expensive things are in this place, and when we need or if we have to we certainly know that everything is where it is supposed to be. Nevertheless, you would not want to be at a barn where you were afraid to leave your tack in the spot provided for you. Nor would you be excited to be a “boarding facility” that did not have room for your equipment.

Since I mentioned it, everyone’s favorite thing, Insurance. We’re paying for something we never want to use, and thinking annually a whole bunch about situations we hope never come to pass. Fires, accidents of all kinds. We are lucky to have a great Insurance Agent who even once helped me move hay into the barn while we discussed more of these great figures about the total value of X, Y and Z in the barn. They have been so helpful navigating the 400 different types of insurance we need to carry because: people, dangerous animals, vehicles, natural disasters, fire, thieves. Sadly, insurance is not free. And if you found out your boarding facility didn’t have insurance well, you probably wouldn’t want to be there too long you know…just in case of some horrible thing.

At LEC we have staff. Paid staff, who make not a horrible wage because the work they do every day year round is hard. My staff works when its 104 degrees, they work when it’s -9 with winds blowing 40mph in the North doors. Each of our stalls is cleaned to the same standard every day (even the 5th of July and Christmas). They are often the ones who notice something is off with a resident horse. We hire “horse people” to work for us, having found that non-horse people can do the work, but people who get it are better. I think an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s wage. Our staffers get a real paycheck with taxes pulled out and everything. I wish I could pay them more because they are so worth it to myself and to the horses they care about. And in the case of holidays, illnesses, family events, music festivals, car troubles, doctor’s appointments we, the owners clean the stalls. We’ve never had 1 day at Lincoln Equestrian Center when all the stalls were not cleaned. Not ever, not even when I was in the hospital, or if we’ve been sick, tired or suffering greatly from mechanical problems.

Inherent in this whole conversation, but most often overlooked: we’re here. We made the financial, physical, emotional, whole life commitment to buying and running a place where “townsfolk” can drive 10 minutes into the country and go ride a horse in a field. We have an investment here, and like all businesses that investment and all of its associated tax burdens (for those not located in Nebraska, our property tax rates are famously high) are something we take seriously. Forget improving or even maintaining a nearly 30 acre property, that there are 30 acres of horse property West of town is something. In so many areas “Equestrian Spaces” are shriveling up and people have to travel longer and longer distances to ride their horses, or ride in places where the space is limited. When you board, in particular here you’ve got room to roam a bit both indoor and outdoor. It’s not likely many people would be interested in “boarding” at a facility where there was no place to ride.

There are other hard to calculate costs that go along with a professionally managed boarding facility. Like that my life, and my husband’s life is 100% devoted to this business and the care for the horses who live here 365 days a year. Our whole life is literally punctuated by the needs of the horses, and rises and falls on a weekly basis depending on whats going on down there. What’s the dollar amount you ascribe to missing your brother’s birthday because there was an urgent problem at the barn? What is the value of our combined 50 years of horse experience? Can you put a dollar amount on having people in the barn that can answer your questions every day? Forget questions, what is the dollar amount you put on having someone around while you are riding?

“Board” is so much more than covering the cost of our inputs. it’s services, and the peace of mind that your big investment/passion has their home with people who are not only qualified but committed to making sure they are better than okay all the time. So to my “tire kickers” I’m glad to show you around, but at least add in electricity, diesel fuel, machine maintenance costs to those low ball estimates.

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Horse Crazy Kid Holiday Guide!

Earlier in the week we made some suggestions for great gifts for your equestrian adult. As promised we’re following up on that post with ideas for your horse crazy kids. We’ve also included teenagers in this guide.

When kids like something THEY REALLY like something. I know, I have a nephew who was OBSESSED with cows last year. So for Christmas I made him cow shaped and decorated sugar cookies AND got him his own cow barn for Christmas and he LOVED them. (I think he’s moved on to Dinosaurs this year so…new cookie cutters for me!)

Anyhow, horse crazy kiddos are no different. I will caution you about kids, especially horse kids, they can be very specific. So it’s VERRY IMPORTANT to know if your horse crazy kiddo rides English or Western. Namely, is a cowgirl or not. Trust me, the kids care. It’s usually much easier to find horse “stuff” of all kinds for Western riders. A good rule of thumb with horse toys of all kind is: if the saddle is brown on the horse it’s probably a Western Saddle. If the saddle and tack are black then it’s usually english. ALTHOUGH there are exceptions just know, if it looks like John Wayne would sit on it it’s a Western horse. If it looks like it galloped out of a painting of Napoleon then that’s English.

Okay.

Like with adults, it’s good to know if your kid has a specific color they consider their riding color. These colors are important, they help them remember which stuff is theirs and also make a statement when they go to shows.

As with adults you certainly want to know their horse’s name, color and breed. If you’re going to get something personalized, consider having it personalized with the horse’s name, not the kid or both.

Here are some good ideas for horse kids (12 and under):

1: Clothes for the barn. Yes, clothing might not be the MOST exciting gift, but if it’s clothing to specifically be worn while riding that’s totally different! T-shirts with horses on them. Riding breeches and hoodies are all good options. Most of our kiddo students are really excited to have JUST BARN CLOTHES and are always showing us their horse tee’s and breeches. For specifically kid friendly, affordable, useable horse themed clothing I suggest Kerrets Brand. They are durable and well made for riding, and don’t break the bank. Kerrets brand is available for purchase on Amazon.com. As an added element of fun Kerrets clothing comes with Carrot seeds. Ariat also makes really nice kids clothes for slightly more money, Ariat clothing is also available on Amazon.com

2: Supplies As a child I asked for a manure fork as a reward for good grades. I still have that fork. Kiddos want the weirdest, most boring horse supplies. They see adult riders or their coach has something and even if it seems kind of silly or boring to you if it’s for the horse it’s exciting. A full tack cleaning set with their own bucket is a nice gift! You’ll need little hand friendly sponges, saddle soap, saddle conditioner and some rags. For bonus points in your tack cleaning kit, add a can of Never Dull which is an amazing, oddly smelling product that miraculously and easily polishes metal buckles, spurs, stirrup irons and any sort of metal work at all. Often times horse kids have just the bare necessities when they start out. Horsemanship is a consuming hobby. We have to take are of our horses AND our equipment. Shampoo and conditioner for horses would also be a fun gift, especially paired with some Show Sheen or Cowboy Magic detangler and a nice scrubby brush. Again, not exciting UNLESS you’re horse crazy then it’s AMAZING.

3: Breyer Horses. Breyer horses ARE THE VERY BEST horse crazy kid gift for kiddos under the age of 10. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, they all want them they will be treasured and played with forever. I still have mine, and in fact I have my mother’s Breyer horse as well. They come in several sizes and there are options for barns, horse trailers, tack and everyone’s favorite “Brenda Breyer.” As mentioned before, make sure your Brenda is the the correct Brenda for how your kiddo rides. This is when you need to remember the “John Wayne or Napoleon?” rule.

4: Riding gloves. Like all gloves, kids lose them so don’t worry if your horse crazy kid already has a pair, they need another one. (True for adults as well…seriously where are all of my gloves???). They need them they’re an under appreciated piece of safety equipment for riders of all kinds. Useful in the saddle and also if you are leading a horse or loading into a trailer. At LEC we have discovered that baseball gloves fit the bill really well for riding. They’re durable, washable and have good grip and are more readily available than horse specific riding gloves.

5: Little horse details Maybe you have your gifts already and want to add something horsey in to the mix as a stocking stuffer. Stickers are a great add or a journal for them to track their progress. Horse treats, especially candy canes are extremely fun things to give kiddos. Horses LOVE candy canes and kids LOVE to feed them to the horses. So when you’re putting your stocking stuffers together don’t forget about the pony! Add a little note with a horse’s name and stick it to a candy cane. Kids too will be excited and happy you thought of their horse.

….Now for teens.

Teens aren’t quite kids and they’re not quite adults. They are THE HARDEST people on Earth to shop for who aren’t my mother.

1: Matching saddle pads and wraps/Saddle Blankets and boots Teens have a penchant for wild colors (unless you specifically know they don’t). I say for Christmas go big or go home. Get the wildest combinations you can find. Teens love to show their style at the barn, and if you think your 16 year old is growing up too fast, she probably is, but she’s still in love with her horse and definitely wants to dress him up a bit for Instagram.

2: Equestrian Specific Backpacks and Equipment bags. There are lots of great bags out there for Equipment. Ariat and Noble Outiftters both make wonderful bags for all things horse, from clothing to grooming. Backpacks in a horse setting are often referred to as a “Ring Bag” owing to the fact that people carry them to the show ring with things like water, towels and snacks for the horses. Teens who are showing will appreciate a matched set of garment, boot and helmet bags for horse shows. Matching is kind of a big deal in the horse world.

3: A Show Trunk. IF you’re looking for a great big showy horse present that isn’t a horse I suggest a show trunk. You can go as fancy or as approachable as your budget allows. Many people use Stanley Tool chests as show trunks. They are durable, and have wheels for easy transport. Depending on the setup of your horse teen’s barn they may use them daily. Look to ETSY for a custom decal with their name or horse’s name. Dover, Smartpak and many of the major equine retailers also make custom wooden trunks, however it will be a bit late in December to receive a show trunk in time for Christmas.

4: Monograms OMG you guys. Monograms, everything monograms. If you have a teen, seriously, just go to ETSY right now and order some custom vinyl Monogram Stickers in their favorite range of colors and be done with it. Your horse kid can tag as much of her equipment as she sees fit. Although fading in popularity, it’s even possible to get custom helmet monograms for your teen. Buy several sizes for different types of items!

We hope these gift guides have been useful to you be sure to share them with Grandmas and others who are looking for just the right gift for their horse person. Sometimes being a horse kid/teen can make a kiddo feel kind of like an outsider because horses are just not as popular or cool as basketball. Kiddos don’t want their passions to be skipped or ignored because family members think the things they want may be hard to find. It’s not as complicated or difficult as it may seem. I’ve mentioned this before, but if the ONLY thing you do that is horse related this Christmas is to stick a carrot with a bow in your Little’s stocking for their horse you will have successfully included your horse kid’s passion in the holidays!

Happy holidays to all of you out there!

Happy holidays to all of you out there!

Gift Guide for Horse Loving Adults

December is here! Time to hit up those holiday closeout sales and shower your friends and families with meaningful gifts. Alas, being a horse person at any age can certainly complicate things! So here’s a handy guide of ideas for your horse loving adult family members and friends. There will be a second post all about gifts for kids.

Know before you buy:

What does your equestrian consider his or her “Color” everyone has one. Mine is electric blue. Find that out, because if you CAN buy horse stuff in their official color you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD.

What is their horse’s name, breed and what color is it? Again, if you’re going to go custom with something you may consider customizing with the horse’s name. Make sure you know how to spell it! Checkout their Facebook or Instagram pages for the correct spelling or barn name. I’ve got a horse named Diamante, I always call him “Bling.”

Five Solid Ideas:

1: Bags and organizers: Does your girlfriend’s car look like a tack trunk exploded? Does your wife often go from work directly to the barn? Organizers for the backseat or trunk of a car are a great gift for your equestrian! Your equestrian can easily store her riding gear neatly away from her jumper cables and grocery bags. Along the same line, a stylish equestrian backpack or customized canvas bags also make ideal gifts for dragging your horse equipment around. Little stylish zipper pouches are excellent gifts to go along with bags. They hold on to bits and bobs from work outfits or small things, like spurs.

2: Technology: Are you constantly being asked to video your horse loving friend when you come out to the barn? Have you really been a jerk lately and seriously need to make up for it with a wonderful Christmas gift? Look no further than self-tracking cameras. There are several companies out there who make a self-tracking Camera. The Pixo robot camera man ensures your horse person can video each ride all by themselves! This system works indoors as well as outdoors. For jumpers, eventers, barrel racers a Cambox under helmet camera is a lighter, safer and smaller option to the ever-popular GoPro.

3: Treats for the horse: You may not want to spend the time trying to track down actual equestrian items for your special person. You can however, add something into your gift giving plan just for the horse. Most all horses LOVE peppermints. Yup, peppermints, available at Walgreens for like $2.00. Simply thinking of the horse on the holidays can be enough to really make an equestrian’s holiday.

4: Music to their ears: One thing equestrians may or may not tell you is they 100% have a theme song for their horse. They certainly love to listen to music while they ride. Wireless bluetooth ear buds are a great idea for your horse lover. As are small, sturdy bluetooth speakers they can keep in a tack locker. Pair your wireless bluetooth speaker with some saddle soap, and new rags and your equestrian will swoon at how thoughtful you are.

5: Photos Horse people LOVE photos of their horses. Is their Instagram or Facebook profile photo of their horse? Print those photos off on a larger scale and gift it to your horse loving friend. Better yet, find a great local photographer and pay for a photoshoot for your loved one and their horse.

So where do you find this stuff?

Horse people buy “horse stuff” all over the place, not just specialized retailers.Believe it or not, Amazon has a wide assortment of equestrian items, be sure before you buy that you know what size you are looking for and what color. As with all things Amazon you sort of need to know what you are looking for. Reliable brands on amazon that sell some of these things are: Ariat, Noble Outfitters, Equine Couture, Classic Equine

In Lincoln you can find “Tack” or horse equipment at The Fort Western and Tractor Supply Company. In Omaha, there are two tack stores: Reg & Wally’s and The Paddock, both places will be more than happy to assist you in finding something horsey for your loved one.

An Homage to Auditing or more than just sitting there

Perhaps you were not quick enough to get signed up for a clinic. Maybe we didn't hear about the clinic in time and think "well shoot.  I wanted to ride!! I really wanted to get some feedback from This Wonderful Teacher" Guess what?  Even if you aren't riding you can still learn a great deal from auditing a clinic. Clinicians by nature, are teachers. Their classroom is the arena and EVERYONE in the arena, not just the one on the horse, are the students.

Having sat through numerous clinics over the course of my life both valuable and perhaps not so much I've been able to pick up a lot. Yes, it's certainly wonderful to be the rider but if for whatever reason you've not scored a riding spot all hope is not lost. For a fraction of the cost you pay to ride, auditors have the pleasure of observing the ENTIRE DAY of rides...that's right for anywhere from $0 to $200.00 (depending on the clinician/symposium) you can go home with tons of knowledge and insight. 

Here are the top 5 reasons to Audit a Clinic:

 1: It's Cheaper than Riding   Yes, that's right. It's worth repeating. Auditing a clinic is a more affordable option than riding in a clinic. Throughout the course of two days a rider can absorb a lot of the same lessons as if you'd ridden in the clinic. If you think you only learn riding techniques by riding them, well, to be frank.  You're wrong.  You watch videos, read magazines and books.  A clinic is just the same.  Most riders when paying attention will have some of the bodily feelings of riding even while sitting in a chair while they watch a horse go, so in a way you're riding every ride and getting that feeling. Every clinician has a trademark or an emphasis...that will be repeated and worked on throughout the clinic. Guaranteed you'll go home from even a day of auditing with that idea imprinted in your mind and YOU'LL TRY IT AT HOME!

2: Clinicians Interact with Auditors Ever watched Youtube and wished you could ask George Morris a question? If your answer is yes, then you should know many times clinicians will answer questions from auditors.  So long as you are polite and wait until it's a good time most clinicians are happy to answer your questions. It's also not all together uncommon for clinicians to engage with auditors with non-mounted learning experiences especially as it relates to riding position.  If you stick around for lunch there are often plenty of chances to interact with clinicians.  

3: Try Before You Buy Has someone in the area brought in a new clinician? Perhaps someone you haven't heard about, and your budget is already shot from buying fancy stirrup irons?  Not certain you are ready to pay $150.00 for a lesson? Audit the clinic. Watch this new person teach and see if you think that person is someone you'd like to work with or if their methodology is something that's helpful to you. If yes, then you are certainly poised to immediately speak to the clinic organizer and get a spot in the next clinic.  If no, well then you just saved a whole bunch of money.

4: Support Your Community If there is no interest, people won't organize clinics. How do clinic organizers know if people are interested in clinics? Well, folks sign up to ride and people come to audit. If perhaps you're too busy to ride in THIS clinic or can't do a clinic right now because your horse is injured...well audit. Let the organizer know that you're interested. Organizing clinics takes time and energy, if there is no interest there will be no clinics, and it could be a long time until someone in your area tries again to bring someone in. Auditors ARE part of the clinic experience, they bring an essential vibe to each clinic that's appreciated by both rider and clinician alike.

5: It's fun Don't tell them, most especially if they aren't famous for a sense of humor, but clinicians are funny. It's a great time to be with your horsey friends over the course of a couple of days learning and enjoying the horse world without having to haul the horse and do the thing. It's relaxing, entertaining and good to experience something a little different than your normal weekend of cleaning the house once you get home from the barn.

Not enough yet?  Okay...how about 2 more BONUS reasons to audit a clinic.

6: Get Inspired!! Inevitably there will be at least one great ride and one ride that's got some pretty awful moments.  Both types of rides are totally inspiring. One ride is the one you want to have and the other fills you with pride in the person who gets through that tough spot. Auditing a good clinic will really inspire you to go home and try some new things. 

7: What's Happening? Just moved to the area? Audit the clinic, meet new people who are active in the community.  Looking for a new trainer? Go to a clinic and watch them ride. Trying to sell a horse/buy a horse/check out a barn...AUDIT a clinic. Go to the place where the people who you need to talk to are going to be. 

 

 

HOrsemanship: A Beginners Guide

Strictly speaking “horsemanship” is a term that simply means: the art and practice of riding horses.  However, many (including myself) would argue that horsemanship is a broader term, extending beyond simply riding. In my mind horsemanship is a skill set which encompasses the competent handling, management and riding of horses. 

Horsemanship in my mind covers: knowledge of breeds, colorations, markings, standard brands and anatomy of horses. Knowledge of all pieces of tack, how and why they are used. A functional ability to manage a horse through an endless array of situations: loading in a horse trailer, riding, leading down a barn aisle, familiarization with new places, hand grazing. A horseman should also know equine first aid, the equine digestive system, giving a horse a bath and basic biomechanics…

This is a short list. Because identifying suitable hay, changing tires, mucking stalls, providing and maintaining proper housing, riding correctly, training horses, communicating with vets and farriers, and the entire giant subcategory of "horse showing"  also appear on this list.

When you own a horse you need to know A LOT of things relating to the animal you own and ride, apart from simply how to pilot your steed.  Horsemanship is a broad ranging topic. Becoming a competent horse person is quite the undertaking.

There are many styles of horsemanship.  Traditional, natural and all things in between. Between disciplines and styles of riding and driving good horsemanship means something different. Truly, there is a broad spectrum of expectations.  All of them are hoping to achieve the same thing: happy healthy horses, and good safe riding.

There are a few things a person needs in order to become a true and competent horse person:

1: Time.  Spending time in your riding stable around horses and horse people is important. Becoming aware of the rhythms and patterns of horses and how things are done. Becoming part of the local culture and of course time enough to become fully comfortable around horses, and the situations that present themselves as part of horse life.

2: Observation. A lot of time the best way to learn about horsemanship is through simply watching. Observe horses and observe horse people. Watch what other riders and trainers do, then see if you are capable of emulating what they do. Posture, timing of corrections and asks. What do horse people wear (gloves are a good example)? Observe horses moving and how they act when they are in turn out, when they are in their stall. Watch other people ride, both in clinics, lessons and just for fun. What does posting look like or asking for a lope off? Head set, over-stride. Observe your horse’s reactions to things and the environment and the interactions you share with them.  If a horse is scared or nervous, what makes them better? What makes them worse?  Watch and see. 

Observation includes listening as well. The equestrian world is filled with its own special vocabulary. Listen to how seasoned horse people communicate, pick up the lingo, the special terms and when they are used. 

3: Mentors. If you’re new to the sport or looking to increase your skill, after spending your time in the barn, and observing things, also find the person or people whose horse skills you most admire and refer to them, if possible for help and advice. “If this was your horse what would you do”  Watch how they wrap legs, or handle a spook. Watch how they get a stubborn horse into a trailer or how they lead and handle their horses. Horsemanship is a skill which has been handed down for millennia. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from people who know more than   you. All horse people get a large portion of their information by asking for help. 

4: Education. Where possible seek out reputable educational materials and experiences. Take riding lessons and askyour instructor or mentor to help you learn how to do things you are unsure of. Read books and magazine articles from reputable sources. Be wary of self-published books, miracle cures for problem horses and guarantees of expertise within short periods of time. Be mindful that ANYONE can post videos on YouTube and the technique you may be watching on YouTube is perhaps dangerous, improperly done or just simply ineffective. 

Good books and magazines have the information you are looking for. “What does the bit do?” “Why do I need to change my posting diagonal?” Becoming a good horseman is primarily an experiential endeavor but a wealth of knowledge can be had from publications. Reading and watching videos can communicate the same concepts you are learning but in a different or more in-depth way. 

Reputable Sources include: (magazines) Equus, Practical Horsemanship, Chronicle of the Horse. (Books) Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship, Complete Equine Emergency Bible, International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.

5: Find your own Style. You don’t have to be a horseman like Buck Brannaman. You can be and should be your own horse person. It’s okay to meld natural horsemanship techniques with more traditional methods. So long as it’s safe, and effective develop the style that works for you and be confident in how you do it. The shared language between on rider and one horse may not necessarily work exactly the same for another rider and a different horse. 

Becoming a knowledgable horseman takes time and effort, but it’s worth it! In horses there is no end to the opportunity for expanding your knowledge base. Just when you think you have seen everything and done most everything something brand new crops up to challenge what you know. Horsemanship is something you can take pride in, and that pride will carry over into the rest of your life. Giving you more confidence than before you started your great journey.

Life with Horses

A study was released this year from Sussex University in England which showed that horses can recognize human emotions. To any person who lives with horses or has had a horse for a considerable amount of time likely would exclaim "duh" upon seeing this news crop up in the headlines.  Of course they can! Most everyone has a story of coming out to the barn after a hard day and getting a snuggle or a whinny from their horse.

The reason for this is *Spoiler alert* in large part due to the fact that equine and human have been working together for thousands of years. Over that period of time our horses have learned what our faces, body language and tones mean. Just as we have learned that pinned back ears and snarling muzzles are trouble, they two can recognize a scowl and prepare. 

Humans and horses have existed as a partnership for thousands of years. Across the globe, from China to Chicago there is now and has been: horse culture. Every place is a little different or a lot different but the motives and the feelings are probably pretty universal across the globe. There is something inside of horse people that just connects with this other species. Lord knows human beings have tried to replace equines as work machines and to remove them from our lives but despite, trains, bicycles, cars and mopeds there is no replacement for a horse. 

For me it's the feeling. Simply being around my horses, especially if it happens to be quiet makes me feel very complete. I own 5 horses, and they are all very different animals, with distinct personalities. Some are more independent than others. Some more confident. Some kinder but all good and pure souls. Horses simply are who they are when they are with you. They are genuinely themselves and for this I am usually always grateful. 

I like the first breath I take when I sit down in a saddle on my horse. The moment of connection. The exhale that says "okay, now we're gonna do something together." The first thing I do when I sit down on the saddle is to thank my mount "good boy" because gratitude for the experience is a daily occurrence.

We humans and they horses we are tied together, truly bonded. Somewhere along the line there was a horse and a human someplace. They looked at each other in the eye and they made an unspoken pact "I will take care of you" they both said in their own way. And from there I think, al the rest of it must have began. 

Every day, literally every single day I am excited to see my horses. I have been riding horses for over 30 years and I still every day get excited to ride. I dream about riding. I feel the riding in my body when I watch students move. I do not dream of my car, and no matter how badly I may want a Vespa I'll still never love it so much as I do any horse I've ever owned. 

The connection that can be cultivated between one human and one horse is incredible. Man and horse, we elevate each other to something greater than we would be on our own.