Horsewoman, Know Thyself
- June 25, 2017
- Jolyn Young
“Who do you think you are, Clint Eastwood?”
I stopped walking across the round pen toward the stud colt I was starting and looked up at Ben.
“You’re walking like you’re all big and tough,” the horse trainer replied.
I hadn’t realized that I had drawn myself up to my full height (5’5″ with my boots on) and squared my shoulders while walking toward the colt. At the time, I weighed about 115 pounds fully dressed, so I was subconsciously compensating for my slight stature by trying to appear bigger than real life.
Once I was aware of what I was doing, I was able to purposefully use my stance and posture to my advantage when working with horses. I could round my shoulders and look down when approaching a touchy horse, or I could summon Clint Eastwood for a confidence boost before climbing on the little cutting-bred stud colt for the first ride.
Back when I started colts (now I’m a mom of two small children and have taken a semi-permanent break from riding anything that might act unpredictably), I liked working with people who cracked jokes a lot, because I was more relaxed. I tended to get nervous before the first ride, so I knew that taking some deep breaths and smiling helped me have more relaxed body language. This helped the colt feel more relaxed, and horses are less likely to get tight or buck if they’re relaxed.
Nowadays, I ride the gentle broke horses because my husband is awesome. I only ride a few times a year, and I usually get so anxious and excited when I’m horseback that I’m liable to stab a spur in the wrong spot (is there a right spot to stab a spur? I feel like “stab” isn’t a verb that should be used with “spur”) or yank on my reins or kick way too hard with both feet at the same time. I know this about myself, and I’m not too proud to take off my spurs before stepping aboard a super-sensitive horse.
I’m also a little on the timid side, so another cowboy’s “ease up there” might be my “kick and hustle.” I usually need to turn up my aggressive-ness dial a bit to obtain the desired effect in mashing cows or running up to rope something.
Being timid is a character trait and not a major drawback, though. Success with horses and livestock relies on many factors, one of which is knowing yourself and the energy you project to the animals. Everyone projects a certain energy, and you can change your energy according to your needs for a specific situation. Need to get close to an unhalterbroke weanling? Look at the ground, round your shoulders, and casually walk sideways toward the little feller. Need to chase a cow out of your yard? Stand up tall and holler loud. Want to sort some horses in the night lot? Walk quickly with sure steps to decisively cut off the animal(s) you want. If you step with a wishy-washy attitude, they will a) sort themselves, or b) run you over.
Are you a tall, naturally authoritative person? Softening your body language might help colts or unsure horses warm up to you more quickly. Are you real jittery and nervous around horses? Take a few seconds to draw in some big, deep breaths before swinging into the saddle. Are you a small, timid person? Then screw your hat down tight and ride it like you stole it.
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives on the O RO Ranch in northern Arizona with husband and their two small kids. To learn more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....