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What’s on Your Horse’s Bucket List?

Many equestrians participate in this unique sport with set goals, whether those ambitions be focused in the show pen, at home, or on a trail. They can range from learning distances to teaching ground manners to gaining trust or to riding bareback. The aspirations are endless, and equestrians are determined.

While everyone has their horse’s well-being in mind, our horses do not necessarily have a “say” in our goals. Generally, our horses just work because we ask them, not because there’s a big upcoming show or because a potential buyer is coming to test ride.

Although our horses may not comprehend our personal goals, they do have their wishes that they, unfortunately, cannot verbally communicate to us. Imagine it as their bucket list in life. Here are some likely ideas of what may fall on this list.

Treats, duh.

Holding the highest position on every horse’s list, of course, is eating treats. After eating the same hay and grain every day, there is nothing more exciting than a sweet treat after a tough workout, or just for simply being the cutest horse ever. They aim to eat as many snacks as possible and try every food they see their rider eating.

Teaching you a lesson.

Each horse will teach you a lesson, although the methods may differ. A chestnut mare’s methodology involves sass and attitude, so you learn tolerance, caution, and drive. An old gelding aims to improve your confidence level in a variety of environments. An unbroke 2-year-old will teach you patience, safety, and grit.

Whatever the lesson may be, they will persist until you master it. That trusty gelding will carry you around the show pen or through the woods as many times as it takes, and when you finally gain confidence, he will do it for the next rider. It is up to you as a rider to figure out what lesson a specific horse will teach you, and if you are ready for it. A misunderstanding of a horse’s goals can lead to frustration or boredom for both horse and rider.

Fostering a child’s love for horses.

Most equestrians fall in love with horses at a young age. Our eyes lit up when we touched their fuzzy nose and combed through a mane for the first time. It was a life-changing, magical moment, although most of us were too young to realize it at the time. The one who did know it, though, was the horse who we first fell in love with. Maybe it was a miniature pony at a fair, an old retired horse in a pasture, or a flashy show horse. Whatever the case, that horse accomplished one of the most significant goals of fostering our love for these animals. Their role in our journey with horses is imperative, yet many of us forget about our very first encounter.

Seeing you smile.

Horses read our emotions, so naturally, they would prefer we are happy, relaxed, and positive. They breathe a sigh of relief when our tension and nerves become excitement and joy, indicating that whatever they did was good.

While we frustratedly assume that some horses are out to get us, they are likely wishing for the opposite. Horses want you to be happy, they want you to be relaxed, they want you to feel joy because, in the end, it affects how they will feel as well.

Watching you grow.

Some horses are lucky enough to find a forever home where they develop a young child into an empathetic adult. They watch the child grow both as a rider and as an individual. The child learns to ride on this horse, shows for the first time, wins their first trophy, experiences their first loss, and learns endless lessons. They do this all as a team, as an unwavering partnership.

This horse will grow old with his rider, whom he taught so much to. The rider will give anything for this horse, considering he is the reason they are such a confident, responsible individual. Over the years, he handled the tantrums, celebrated success, dried the tears, and appreciated the compassion. He accomplished the most difficult, yet rewarding goal of developing not just a rider, but a resilient person.

Each horse’s list will vary, but there are like elements on every list: they all want to teach you and love you. They hope for the same in return, as they give you everything they can. It takes a conscious equestrian to recognize their horse’s bucket list and develop their own riding goals with it in mind. Most importantly, the part no rider should ever forget, is that treats will forever be of utmost importance.

About the Author: GoHorseShow writer, Emily Ambrose of Chardon, Ohio is a junior at Kent State University. She trains under the guidance of Seth and Amber Clark from Pierpont, Ohio. Emily avidly shows her horses, Play for A Minute, known as Ralphie, who is a 13-year-old all arounder, and Super Yellow Doc, known as Doc, who is a 23-year-old ranch horse. Her love of showing has been strengthened with the support of all of her friends in the Quarter Horse community and will continue her passion through and following the completion of her college career.