The Academic Equestrian: 5 Things Equestrians Do Better

Equestrianism has its rewards — we know about things like confidence, responsibility and time management, but Haley Ruffner takes a look at some lighter-hearted benefits as well.

Photo by Rose Ruffner.

Riding and spending time with horses gives equestrians a unique skill set that makes us useful at the barn. Elsewhere, these abilities make us the subject of “yep, there’s the crazy horse girl” shrugs, but sometimes unusually strong thighs or the ability to fix anything with baling twine comes in handy wherever you are. You can take the girl out of the barn, but the barn stays with the girl — and sometimes, that’s a good thing. Below are five things equestrians do better, whether we mean to or not.

1. Intimidate. Our horses know that look and tone of voice, and when you use it they shape up immediately (or else). You know the power of a sharp voice and body language, having honed it for years at the barn until every horse (and person) within earshot knows you mean business. This “I’m in charge” attitude sometimes pops up in situations where it’s less appropriate, like when your coworker is about to take the last doughnut at the office or someone is walking too slowly in the hallway.

2. Braid hair. We can’t guarantee a fashion-forward prom-night ‘do, but if someone needs tight, even braids, equestrians are experts—and we might even have bands and Quic-Braid handy. After countless evenings spent wrestling an antsy horse’s grimy mane into perfect braids (and then redoing half of them the next morning), human hair is a piece of cake.

3. Find uses for baling twine. When you have gobs of the stuff hanging in the barn, you look for ways to put it to use—by this point, it’s likely half-holding up the barn with how many places you’ve tied it on. You’ve used it as a (rather prickly) belt, kindling, to tie off extra feed bags, and somehow it has made its way into your home décor, wound around a lamp for decoration (or maybe just looped on a hook in the mudroom because you accidentally brought some in from the barn and forgot about it).

4. Remove stains. Whether it’s the pee/grass/mud stain your horse gleefully displays the morning of a show, or the green trail of slobber dried onto your favorite white show shirt or pair of breeches, equestrians are, by necessity, pros at getting rid of stains — no one wants to shell out $200 for a new pair of breeches when the old ones could be fixed with some bleach and elbow grease. Our repertoire includes everything from ketchup to dish soap to baby powder, and oftentimes desperation leads to resourcefulness and unorthodox solutions.

5. Clean up. Maybe it’s because our sport leaves us especially grubby compared to most, but on the rare occasion that we dress up (or at least wear not-riding clothes), our appearance elicits the response “Wow! You clean up nice.” In addition, the necessity of having a neat appearance in the show ring combined with the hard and grimy labor it took to get there makes equestrians experts in trading dirt for makeup on a strict schedule.

All that time and money spent on horses does, if nothing else, have the benefit of teaching equestrians life skills applicable in the real world. Beyond the physical capabilities of balance and strong legs from riding, these equestrian-exclusive aptitudes pop up in daily life, accidentally or on purpose.

Haley is the author of Horse Nation’s “Academic Equestrian” series, following her collegiate experience as she balances her studies with participation on the varsity equestrian team and time with her own horse. Catch up on past columns by clicking the #ACADEMIC EQUESTRIAN tag at the top of the page!

Haley Ruffner is attending Alfred University, majoring in English with minors in Business and Equestrian Studies. She owns a Quarter horse gelding At Last An Invitation, or “Cricket.” Haley is the captain of the AU western equestrian team, and also competes in reining and loves trail riding.

Photo courtesy of Haley Ruffner.

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