Ode to the Average Horse Person

“Not all of us can replace those National Velvet, Trigger, or Seabiscuit assumptions with exciting, real-life stories. That’s because, unlike Shiny-Boots-Show-Jumper-Extraordinaire, or Barrel-Racing-Cow-Cutting-Ranch-Hand… some of us are just average horse people.”


House full of ribbons, trophies, and glory? Uh, no.

Hi-Ho-Silver, hooves in the air every time you hit the saddle? Please God, no.

Sometimes when we tell a “regular person” that we have a horse, we must disabuse them of some stereotypical assumptionsm such as no fancy-pants, steeple-chasing, gunslinger riding going on up in here.

Not all of us can replace those National Velvet, Trigger, or Seabiscuit assumptions with exciting, real-life stories. That’s because, unlike Shiny-Boots-Show-Jumper-Extraordinaire, or Barrel-Racing-Cow-Cutting-Ranch-Hand… some of us are just average horse people.

Some Average Horse Person sentiments:

“I don’t do any extra-curricular horsey activities… I’m happy to just ride when I can.”


“Trail riding, flat work, jumping… I love it all, but showing takes the fun out of it for me… I just want to enjoy my horse.”

Another favorite:

“My horses are my pets. Just grooming and being around them makes me happy… and I love seeing them out in the pasture, just being horses.” (Gasp! shocking, I know)

So, is that such a bad thing? Of course not.

But sometimes when comparing ourselves to the “non-average” riders who enjoy training, competing and showing in their chosen discipline, being the average, non-competitive, “haven’t-had-the-horse-on-a-trailer-since-the-day-he-arrived” equestrian can feel a bit… less.

But, Average Horse Person… fear not! You are not alone! And you know what?…

You don’t need to know the difference between a jumping saddle or an all-purpose in order to be a fabulous horse person…

That time you heard the hunter/jumper crowd talking about cavalettis and wondered if a new Italian restaurant had opened… that’s okay, a totally understandable mistake.

And you don’t need to know every training exercise in the book to ride your horse well.

(Obviously, training helps us become better riders — don’t get your breeches in a bunch, Above-Average Horse People.)

So you just realized skid boots are things, and not a little-known punk-band from the 80s… Who cares! You don’t need to know about every single product developed to aid in training/riding/competing to enjoy riding your horse, when and where you do.

And you don’t need every accessory out there to have a healthy, sound animal. Of course, some products are fabulous, but so is good old-fashioned intuition and knowledge.

I think it’s those two things — intuition and knowledge — that should soothe the self-doubt we Average Horse People sometimes feel when comparing ourselves to the “Big Guns,” the shiny boot- or buckle-wearing equestrians.

Common sense goes a heck of a long way when dealing with horses… regardless of which club you belong to. And really, there is no better teacher than experience.

A little clarification before we go on: the Average Horse Person as defined in this writer’s mind, is:

The person who — regardless of how many Benjis are in the bank — chooses to own, ride, and enjoy her horses with NO desire to compete for ribbons, titles, belts, medals, or saddles. (NOT that neighbor whose ex-boyfriend decided to bring home the horse he won in a bet which is kept with the goats and several geese in a muddy, postage-stamp-sized pasture in the back yard.)

Now, with a more stable savings account, some average horse people might resurrect dusty dreams of show-ring glory, but since this article isn’t about the financial sink-hole of horse ownership, I’ll stick to addressing the “purposely average.”

Even though some average horse people haven’t taken lessons, or have limited exposure working with trainers, they’ve learned the same way every truly great equestrian has… hours and hours in the saddle.

So listen, Average Horse Person —

Although the dedication and skill required to achieve training and competition goals does deserve the utmost respect…

There are no ancient concrete tablets chiseled with a commandment for all horse owners and/or riders: “You MUST become an EXPERT and win many trophies and ribbons… or else you are a loser.”

You just go on being your bad self, you fabulous Average Horse Person: don’t you dare feel bad about cantering up the dusty trail whenever the upcoming show or event prep is blazing through the barn. When you allow yourself to remain blissfully average, the absence of competition conflicts or show-day melt-downs means… you just get to ride.

The average guy shouldn’t begrudge the training goals and competition aspirations of his more serious counterparts… and neither should the serious equestrian assume that the lack of official training or appropriate lingo on the part of the non-competitive rider indicate the absence of skill, competence, or indeed passion…

If we can adopt the “you do your thing and I’ll do mine… but I’ll like you no matter what that thing is” attitude… well then, peace on earth is just like, a Beatles song away! (And irritating us, making us feel insecure, and judging our every move will be the sole responsibility of our horses.)

Embrace your average, or love your drive… when it comes to the totally awesome, crazy, terrible, wonderful creature we know as the horse whether we’re “Expert” or “Average,” they’re gonna drive us all nuts… and touch our lives with magic just the same.

Sara Shelley is a writer who enjoys her family of “nineteen” (husband, three kids, one horse, one dog, three cats, six chickens, a turtle and three fish) surviving the resulting chaos only through faith and a well-developed sense of humor. She spends as much time as she can riding her horse, and making memories with her clan.

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