Best of JN: An Open Letter to Lesson Horses

In this week’s Best of Jumper Nation, Gillian Warner offers her thanks to the lesson horses of the world. After all, where would most of us be without them?

Thank you, camp horses, lesson horses… the steady eddies of the world. 

Thank you for showing up every day with the capacity to love and support so many different riders. Your patience as I find the right stirrup length for your next rider, your consistency as you maintain your rhythm on the rail, and your kindness as you lower your head to help your kid take off your bridle do not go unnoticed. 

Watching campers fall in love with our horses is the best part of my job.

The smiles you bring to these riders brightens the day of everyone touched by you — near and far. Parents receive letters with detailed explanations of how exciting it was to be assigned to you again. Counselors and coaches hear it all — how beautiful your mane is, how calming it is to groom you, how perfect you were on a trail ride. You give so much to the riders, their hugs extend beyond the ones they throw around your neck — they tackle me in giant hugs as they thank me again and again for being able to ride you. 

The experience you have given these riders will stick with them for the rest of their lives. I still remember my favorite lesson horses, my go-to camp rides. Without Millie, Scooter, and Tootsie Roll, I don’t know how I would have developed the love for the work and the confidence to pursue the sport. 

As the riders successfully complete their first canter safely on your back, move up from a pony to you, or confidently jump a course with a new horse, I see horsemen and horsewomen developing. I see my friend, who grew up to ride as a hobby after a wonderful junior career. I see my sister, a lifelong horse lover who always finds opportunities to be in their presence. And I see me, the kid who grew up and still has to be drug out of the barn. 

Without you, I couldn’t do my job. Without your ability to connect with the kids that show up ready to learn and grow with you, I couldn’t encourage riders along their horsemanship paths. You are the reason they fall in love with riding, and you are the reason many of them will continue to fit horses into their lives. You are the reason for our horse crazy adults and professionals — you are the foundation of our work.

Thank you for making so many people happy and keeping so many people safe. Thank you for creating our next generation of riders.