What Horsemanship Means to Me: The Unique Bond between Horse and Rider


Equestrian sports are as much an artform as they are a sporting discipline. Horsemanship, in its purest form, embodies the sacred pact between horse and rider. It is the cornerstone of success in the equestrian world, a world that demands more than just honed athletic prowess.

To me, Horsemanship transcends technique; it is the profound bond, often indescribable, that forms between the two entities. I believe that horsemanship is what distinguishes our equestrian sports from others.

At its core, horsemanship is a dynamic relationship built on mutual trust and respect. On the ground and in the saddle, every movement, every interaction – subtle or pronounced – finds its significance in the continuous dialogue between horse and human. The understanding that develops is not merely a command-obedience dynamic but a profound interweaving of one’s intentions with the other’s innate wisdom.

I recall the days spent with Sketch, my retired racehorse, who stood at a modest 14.2 hands. Our partnership was an alchemy of patience and perseverance. Our bond was effortless, we had seamless communication, and I believe it stemmed from my adolescent rawness and honesty that all children carry. With Sketch, it was not just about leading him through tasks and obstacles, but about leading our lives in step with one another. Our bond taught me the value of patience and the importance of keeping my emotions in check – a valuable lesson not just in the ring, but in life.

For equestrian sports to be more than a series of events, horsemanship must be the guiding principle. It is the bedrock upon which champions are made and local enthusiasts find joy. I have seen firsthand how this bond can turn a good rider into a great one.

When we talk about success in equestrian sports, it is often measured by jumps cleared and times clocked, but what truly propels these feats is the remarkable partnership between horse and rider. This is the unseen force that not only keeps riders safe in daring movements but also allows both to find their personal best. With Sketch, my successes were his, and his strengths made me better. Our unity in the ring was an unspoken understanding that words could never articulate.

For me, horsemanship is a continuous quest for improvement, not for victory’s sake, but for the sheer delight of bettering oneself and deepening our bond with our horses.

What sets horsemanship apart is not just the beauty of the connection, but the aspects it brings to athleticism that are often overlooked. As I reflect on my journey, I see how this bond required me to be more than physically capable. It mandated a certain level of emotional intelligence, a readiness to tune into the horse’s world, and a humility to recognize that sometimes, it is the horse who teaches the rider.

The emotional component remains one of the most unique traits of horsemanship. It is a two-way street, a give and take of energies that transcends the definitions of sport. The recognition of another living being’s contribution to one’s achievements fosters empathy and gratitude. It also instills in the equestrian a remarkable sense of responsibility, not just as a rider, but as a custodian of the animal’s wellbeing.

In contrast to the isolation often felt by athletes in solo endeavors, horseback sports are a shared journey. This journey extends beyond a training session and sometimes beyond the lifetime of one ride. It is a testament to the holistic development that equestrian sports afford.

In my life, Sketch occupies a thread that not only colored my past with irreplaceable hues but continues to brighten my present and future. His lesson of pure and genuine connection has had a profound impact, not just on my performance in the saddle, but in shaping my character outside the ring.

In a world that often glorifies the individual, horsemanship stands as a living example of the beauty of coexistence and collaboration. It reminds us that sometimes, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line but a curve bent by the wind, synchronizing the strides of two kindred souls.

The equestrian world, with its emphasis on horsemanship, is a sanctuary for those who wish to learn, grow, and compete with heart. It is my firm belief that this unique relationship with the horse is an example of the harmony we seek in all aspects of life. In embracing its lessons, we not only become better riders but better humans. As I continue on my journey, my hope is to carry this spirit forward, to hopefully share and inspire others to cultivate their bond with their own horses, and reap the lifelong benefits it bestows. For in the end, horsemanship is not just a skill; it is a way of being, a philosophy that grounds us in empathy and propels us towards excellence with our four legged companions.


Lauren Abbott

Lauren is a lifelong equestrian. She was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn. Lauren has worked in Journalism for over 20 years and has served as a staff writer, designer, photographer, audience and business development consultant, & advertising senior executive. She is the Owner & Publisher of MSHR, and CEO of Ford Abbott Media, LLC, the parent company of the Horse Review and Hunt & Field Magazine.

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