Lessons Learned From Horses

Horses may be teaching you a lot more than you thought.


We often think about what we can teach our horses: to stay in a frame, to load onto a trailer, to stand at the mounting block. But how often do we pause to appreciate all the important life lessons horses teach us?

lessons horses teach
Like a fine wine and a good horse, humans get better with age. Photo courtesy Mikkelvog53/Shutterstock

Every time we visit the barn, sit atop a horse, or even just comb a mane and tail, the noble equine is teaching us silent lessons. Some of their teachings are funny and some are more heartfelt, but they’re all worthwhile if we’re willing to pay attention.

Here are just a few priceless ways horses have enlightened me over the years; surely some of these life lessons will resonate with other equine enthusiasts as well.

Treats really do make everything better.

Who appreciates a treat more than a horse? Horses are so big, they work so hard, and yet a little peppermint or tiny sugar cube seems to make their day. 

Perhaps that scoop of ice cream after a long day at work is just what you need to perk yourself up. Go ahead and add some sprinkles. Enjoy!

Daily grooming makes a huge difference.

Regular conditioning treatments and brushings are necessary to maintain a horse’s healthy coat, mane, and tail. Taking the time to indulge in some grooming sessions for ourselves isn’t such a bad idea either. Getting our nails done now and then, our hair trimmed, or our sore back massaged adds up and makes a big difference in how we feel about ourselves. 

self care horses
Horses need regular grooming to maintain their health, and it’s no different for people. Photo by Arman Novic/shutterstok

The takeaway? Buy the coconut-scented bubble bath. Get that hot pink pedicure. Heed this lesson horses teach and take care of yourself and feel your best.

Like a fine wine and a good horse, humans get better with age. 

Sure, that handsome bay gelding may have a few less teeth as he gets up in years, and we might have a couple of extra silver strands scattered in our hair and a few more wrinkles—I mean laugh lines—spread across our face as we age, but there are benefits to getting along in years, too.

The oldest horse in the barn is often the favorite. He’s the one we trust with our littlest or newest riders. He’s the one who deserves some extra attention after the work he’s put in over the years. 

Maybe getting older isn’t so bad when we gain friends and wisdom along the way. As we age, let’s try to be as kind to ourselves as we are to our sweet senior horses.

Being part of a herd is comforting.

Who’s in your herd? There’s nothing like the comforting feeling of being part of a like-minded pack who has your back. 

lessons horses teach
There’s nothing like being a part of a herd that’s got your back. Photo by Grigorita Ko/shutterstock

If you’re scratching your head, pondering if your circle of friends has your best interests at heart, it might be a cue that it’s time to expand your horizons. Try another pasture. Maybe there’s someone else in the neighboring field who will make you feel at home no matter where you are. 

Horses feel secure and at ease with trusted companions. We should take this lesson horses teach us to heart. We deserve it.

Treat others how you want to be treated.

How many times since childhood have we heard this old adage? Horses remind us of this bit of wisdom every day without saying a word. A gentle nudge is often more effective—and much kinder—than an aggressive kick. 

A nice pat on the neck for good behavior goes a long way to reward that pony of yours. She lives for that pat. Making time to be kind and gentle to others is a truism for horses and people. Be good, feel good, and get good back.

Nobody’s perfect.

Virtually every rider in the history of time has been humbled by a horse. We can be proud and confident, absolutely certain we have mastered a particular maneuver with a sprightly young gelding, only to take a tumble when he spooks at the blue bucket someone dared to leave in the arena. Or maybe we still cringe thinking about the time we were dead last in a horse show when all our non-horsey friends finally came to watch. Or perhaps we simply can’t convince our horse to do the exact thing that we really want her to do, like pick up the correct lead, no matter how many times we try. 

lessons our horses teach us
A pat on the neck goes a long way as a nice reward. Photo by Anastasija Popova/shutterstock

Horses remind us that we’re, well, human. We make mistakes. We’re far from perfect. In fact, they seem to take pleasure in being the first ones to point that out.

Perhaps we can all be more like the horses we know and love with a dollop of deep conditioner here, a sprinkle of humility there, and a chocolate chip cookie thrown in the mix. We mere mortals can strive to keep on trotting and to live in the moment, no matter how red in the face we may be, how many gray strands are sprouting on our head, or how challenging it can be to find our herd. 

Let us never stop listening to our horse’s quiet lessons. Life is short. Let’s enjoy the ride.

This article about the lessons horses teach us appeared in the May 2020 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!


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