But first, be a horseman...
Horseman horse-man \ noun
1: a rider or driver of horses; especially : one whose skill is exceptional
2: a person skilled in caring for or managing horses
What does it mean to be a true horseman? For me, that means always putting the horse's best interest first. Before our goals. Before our dreams. Before our egos.
Their health, confidence, and trust are fragile things. It is up to us as riders and caregivers to always take that into consideration with every decision we make. Today I made one such decision. From some, I was applauded. From others, I was judged. It makes no matter to me because I know that I made the best decision for my horse on this particular day. While taking London Dry Gin out on his first cross country outing in a show setting, I could tell that his confidence was shaky as he is still very much a baby. After a few stops on course, we cleared our last fence with confidence and style. Our last fence was fence four. I chose to retire on course to ensure that he ended his first recognized show on a good experience and came away from it a more confident individual.
Everyone wants to bring home a ribbon. A fancy halter. A top three finish on that USEA record. However, at the end of the day, none of those things truly matter. What matters is building a relationship with your horse and putting them before all other trivial things. To leave your horse in a better place than he began with every ride. To do right by him despite the thoughts and opinions of others. That, my friends, is being a horseman.