5 Surprising Things You Can Learn From a Horse

By Sarah Boucher, Publisher Macaroni Kid Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Muskegon May 27, 2020

I'll never forget my first time riding a horse.  She was a small horse named Lollipop, and I was on top of the world the moment I climbed in the saddle and took my place in line to follow the lead horse from the guided trail ride.  Since then, I have been fortunate enough to own two horses and learned countless lessons from them.  Although I'm no longer a horse owner, what the horses taught me has stayed with me.  

While initially you might think that riding lessons or equestrian experiences are about learning the anatomy of a horse, horse safety, how to saddle the horse, and basics of riding, there is so much more to it!  Here are 5 surprising things I learned from a horse:

  1. You can't mask your true feelings.  Horses are sensitive animals and they feel what you're feeling.  No matter what kind of a day I was having, my horse knew it.  My horse gave me permission to feel how I wanted to feel, but also let me know that I needed to work through those feelings as my horse felt them too.  It was a great reality check for me to be honest with myself about what was going on inside, good or bad and to realize that feeling all those feelings is the best way to process through them.  

  2. Communication is more than the words coming out of your mouth.  My horse responded to my tone and my body language more than to the words I was saying.  It's a good reminder that "it's not what you say, it's how you say it" and "body language doesn't lie".  I learned to be consistent with my words, my tone, and my body to ensure a clear message was being given and I wasn't giving mixed signals.  Just like in life, clear communication is important to make sure we are sending the right message.  

  3. Details matter.  You'd think that being a small person atop a big animal with a saddle between me and said animal that tiny movements wouldn't matter.  I didn't need to worry about the details, just the big picture when riding.  Right? Wrong! Remember me saying horses are sensitive?  Not just in emotions, but also in physical touch!  To be successful riding, the details of how you're sitting, where your hands are, how you shift your weight matters.  Just like in life, the details of a situation can change the entire big picture.  So pay attention to the details and don't take shortcuts thinking no one will notice the missed or unattended to details.  

  4. It's OK to be still.  Horses don't need to be ridden or trained all of the time.  They are very content with bonding with their person hanging out in the pasture, getting a good brushing, or just relaxing in the barn.  In life, often we think we have to be doing something all of the time, and that if we aren't doing, we aren't productive.  Horses remind us it's OK to enjoy the moment, to slow down, and to simply just be.  

  5. Life is better with friends.  Horses are not solitary animals, and they want to be part of the herd.  They want to know where their herd is and they look out for each other.  This is true in life as well.  No one should be on an island or alone, we all need each other to lean on and to walk with on life's trails.  

Without even knowing it, my horses got me through a lot up ups and downs in life, and taught me some important life lessons.  If you want to experience some of these life lessons while enjoying the company of a horse, check out Pepper Oaks Equestrian Center.  Whether you are a beginning rider or have lots of experience, there's something for you.  And, kids of all ages (yes, that means you too adults!) can have fun!  Whether you're looking for lessons, leasing a horse, attending horse shows, or even summer kids' day camp, Pepper Oaks has it all.  My daughter can't wait to go to camp in June as she too has come to appreciate the amazing animal called a horse.  And, I look forward to taking a few more lessons, as it's so good to be back in the saddle again!