Horsemanship begins on the ground, and continues under saddle
Riding may be a verb, but horsemanship is a noun, describing a state of being. It is certainly possible to ride a horse without ever understanding horsemanship, but to do so is to miss out on most of the pleasure that riding can bring.
Horsemanship isn't something fancy, like dressage or show jumping, although the best practitioners of those sports are almost always gifted horsemen. It doesn't require expensive equipment, or stylish clothing, or competition. You can experience it while riding bareback down a lonely trail wearing dusty old jeans if that's your style. There's really only one thing you can't do as a horseman: you can't do it alone, because horsemanship is a state of constructive and mutually rewarding relationship between horse and man, both on the ground and under saddle.
Never underestimate the enormous gulf that nature has imposed between man and horse. The one is a slow, weak, solitary, manipulative predator, and the other is a fleet, powerful, herd-dwelling, entirely reactive herbivore; the two species really have almost nothing in common at birth and are built to see the world, themselves, and each other in two completely different ways. As a consequence, learning horsemanship requires practice (on both your parts). And nowadays that usually means that it requires instruction, as well.
In times past, most folks grew up in the company of horses, and long before learning to ride the typical child already possessed a wealth of horse sense to draw upon — not merely how to feed, groom, and care for her horse, but, more importantly, how to live with horses, how to command their respect and cooperation, how to trust herself with them and be trusted by them. She learned, from simple observation, that a horse will take as much liberty with her as she permits it to, or will pay her as much respect as she earns.
Today, however, perhaps the majority of riders are first-generation horse lovers, often realizing their dream of owning a horse only in adulthood. Lacking the advantage of having been raised immersed in the world of horses, they face the same challenge in learning horse sense which many of us encounter when attempting to learn a second language as adults. Books, videos, and web sites can help, but for most of us there really is no substitute for the direct, highly personal, generation-to-generation transmission of horse sense. Lacking this, the novice (or even experienced) rider often becomes frustrated and discouraged by her horse's 'bad attitude'. Many search for the solution in a different horse, only to encounter the same problems again and again. Others turn to riding instructors for professional help — but riding lessons are only the tiniest sliver of horsemanship instruction.
Please feel free to study and enjoy the articles I publish here from time to time, which range widely over many aspects of horsemanship from ground work and riding aids to tack tips, horse care, farm management, and much more. If you live in the Piedmont region of North Carolina or south-central Virginia and are ready to take your riding and horsemanship study to the next level with personal instruction — or if you love a 'problem' horse in need of attentive training either at your barn or while boarded here at New Avalon — please consider my services and don't hesitate to contact me to discuss them.