Skill is the second in my list of “Five Skills Required to Be A Backyard Horse Owner”. It is one thing to absorb a lot of information. It is another to be able to apply what you’ve learned in such a way that you get positive results in the real world.
Hopefully you are constantly adding to your knowledge and skill base no matter how long you’ve been around horses. If you are new to horses or backyard horse-keeping, I highly suggest you acquire certain basic skills before you bring home your horse(s). Taking riding lessons, riding with friends, participating in clinics and even volunteering at therapeutic riding centers and horse rescues can allow you to interact with horses in a supervised environment where you can hopefully grow.
Can you lead, groom and pick up all four hooves without risking life or limb? Can you calmly and confidently tack up your horse and ride by yourself? Can you load your horse without help in a trailer without drama? Your backyard horse-keeping will be so much more enjoyable if you have these skills with your horse already established.
Make sure you have as much foundation as you can before you venture out ON YOUR OWN. I emphasize those three words because doing things alone with your horses is a different dynamic than when you have company. The atmosphere can feel quite different when it is just you and your horse out there in the pasture, trying to get on the trailer or riding in the ring.
One type of skill that often gets left out of the equation is the skill of exercising mental or inner fitness. Being able to moderate your own emotions and how they manifest in relationship to your horse is critical to your success. Fear, anger, disappointment and other strong emotions can easily crop up in your work with horses. Your mental state affects your horse, often more than we realize and in ways that we don’t expect or even recognize. Exercising mental fitness is something that I regularly struggle with myself and so is of particular interest to me in my continual growth as a horsewoman and rider.
Interested in exploring your inner fitness? I highly recommend the book “Inside Your Ride: Mental Skills For Being Happy and Successful with Your Horse” by Tonya Johnson, MA. This book features lots of practical exercises. These exercises allow you to turn knowledge of mental fitness into actual mental fitness skills when you employ them in real time while working with horses.