BY INTERN CARLY PHOON
Being fully responsible for a living, breathing, animal– to some, the matter is mentioned with a casual shrug. But to me, it’s exciting, daunting, and a long-term goal. One day, I will own a horse. `
I’ve been around horses for my entire life. Yet I’m nowhere near ready to own one.
My journey started from a summer camp, which became weekly lessons, which became occasional shows, which became leasing ponies and falling off them regularly, which became leasing horses and competing successfully. Where I am now? I’ve realized I’m a lopsided equestrian. My riding experience surpasses my horse care experience… by a long shot.
As a five-year-old kid, I memorized all the basic parts of the horse and rattled them off to my parents, thinking I was a genius. I truly enjoyed learning about horses, the first step in being horse care savvy. But somewhere along the line, my focus on riding overshadowed my focus on total horsemanship. I started to become lopsided.
Sure, I know enough to get by without a groom for lessons. Grooming, tacking, basic barn chores, basic horse care facts. But I’m not satisfied with that anymore. I want to be fully confident in all areas: Feed and nutrition, anatomy, medical problems and treatment, vaccinations, leg and hoof care, stabling, even genetics and breeding. The list goes on.
The resources for learning both riding and horsemanship are there. Barns for all riding disciplines are found from coast to coast. Videos and interviews of top riders are available at a click of a button. There are horsemanship study guides online and crosswords in the monthly TPH magazines. Even reading rulebooks and prize lists is educational. Being a working student, or even shadowing the local vet, can provide invaluable hands-on experience.
But for me, horse care just hasn’t been emphasized as much as riding. The barns I have learned from have been primarily focused on running smoothly (and they are right to), so they taught me the skills that would help their efficiency. Grooming, cleaning tack, and a sense of orderliness and responsibility. In short, I was able to come to the barn, gain riding mileage, and leave the barn the same way it was as I came, maybe a little bit tidier. But if you asked me about the nutritional components of my lease horse’s feed, I was unable to answer. I’m still unable to answer that now.
Like many, I haven’t dug my heels in and made myself equally comfortable in both areas of the equestrian sport. Until recently, most of my equestrian career has been mostly play, and little work. If my goal of owning a horse is so important, then the journey to getting to that point is just as important.
It’s never too late to learn. This year, I’m entering in the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge with the short-term but lofty goal of getting to the second round. I’m taking the advice of Intern Tori Weed and saying “Yes” to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities: internships, summer programs, hands on experience, and more.
For the first time since I was that five-year-old kid horse crazy kid studying my horse books, I’m taking initiative to learn the work that makes the play possible. I don’t want to be a lopsided equestrian any longer. Little by little, I work toward my long-term goal. My future horse will be so worth the wait.