The Future for Horse-Keepers: Isolation or World Change?

It’s what we do: We keep horses. Sometimes a foal too young to be ridden, so we show patience and keep them. Sometimes it’s adult horses with flawless training and good minds, and while we practice the art of riding, we keep them. Too often we get horses who have been damaged by harsh handling, so we work hard to regain their trust but whether that works or not, we keep them. For all their beauty, horses are also fragile and when they become un-rideable, we do the right thing, we keep them. Even when we sell horses, we end up bringing others home and we keep them. It goes without saying that when our horses grow old, we give them the warmest corner and we keep them. And when the day comes, young or old, that we know their pain is great and will not heal, we call the vet and stand as strong heartbroken witnesses to their lives passing to light, and in our most special place, we keep them.

Who are we? To the chagrin of those around us, we were born loving horses. We’ve arranged our lives into a horse-shaped world. We tend to be introverts drawn to the barn in worn jeans and boots. We’ll get anything our horses need but we don’t use sunscreen as much as we should. We’re hooked without choice and even after our hair’s gone gray, we’re teased about our silly horsey phase. We smile back but it isn’t really a joke. We struggle with the same peer pressure we felt not fitting in during high school. We had the wrong clothes or the wrong hair or the wrong general awkwardness. Meaning everyone was awkward, but some of us were made to feel even worse about it. Now we’re adults and we fit in about as much as we ever did.

Sometimes we are talked down to by vets and farriers. Sometimes we are diminished for our concerns, as if we’re foolish horse-crazy kids, even if we have kept horses for longer than those professionals have been alive. Even if we are professionals ourselves. Even if we have research to back us up because educating ourselves is another one of our annoying traits.

Now think about these general characteristics as if we were a breed of horse. How would we be described? As a spooky Arabian or a strong smart endurance horse? As a hyper-sensitive flighty Thoroughbred or a brilliant agile athlete? Get my drift?

Over 90% of horse-keepers are women. For the handful of men who read this blog, I appreciate you’re faced with the same challenges and I have empathy, but just for today, I want to speak to women. I’ve been asked about my vision of the future and I profoundly believe that the future of horses is up to women, the 90%’ers. We buy horses. We hire trainers, farriers, and vets. We pay membership fees, organize clinics and are the majority of competitors. We’re global; we import tack, clinicians, and more horses. Our money is the foundation of the equine industry.  It isn’t even close and that buys us the right to our opinion.

But here is the paradox. In my travels, I meet riders doing brilliant work, but many of the women at clinics share the same story. Most feel isolated, many of us feel judged. Our methods are questioned. Our confidence tested by railbirds. Our minds haunted by old-school voices telling us to doubt ourselves, insisting we’re ruining our horses with kindness. It feels like we’re training on the fringe, hiding out with our horses because we don’t like the violent training methods we commonly see. We’re shy to share successes for fear we’d be bragging, so many times we pretend we know less than we do. We wear humility as a disguise when we are too introverted to speak up for horses. Worst of all, we listen to the nastiest naysayers, all too often living between our ears.

I am not saying pretend to know more than you do. There are enough people doing that now. I do wish we’d all be students of the horse forever. Discerning students who build a deep understanding of the calming signals of horses with a bit of brain science thrown in. Then we just listen, horses will always tell the truth about the humans holding the reins.

On a semi-related topic, interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classes still drops off for girls at a certain age. It matters because many good-paying jobs are in those fields and not all little girls marry men with high paying tech jobs. Or even men who pay child support if it comes to that. That interest drop-off was just as true when I was a kid and the reasons haven’t changed: Girls suffer from peer pressure, having few good role models, and getting less parental support. Has much changed as we became adults?

Sometimes I think horse training should be added to the STEM list, not because we ever lost interest. It’s the exact opposite, but how else can we explain numbers that dominate the horse world but still leave us feeling isolated?

While ruminating on this over the summer, I saw a tee-shirt that said these words: ‘They whispered to the woman, “You cannot withstand the storm.” The woman whispered back, “I am the storm.”‘ I laughed when I read it, but it’s another one of those things not actually funny. Would I wear it? Did I have the courage to advertise my confidence? I can list twenty trainers who’re on the cutting edge of animal behavior and new training paradigms, not including me, and we joke about struggling with Impostor Syndrome. Also, not a bit funny.

  • Be it resolved: Horses need help in this world of harsh handling, destructive training methods, and rider/owner shaming. With over 90% ownership, who else can change the world for horses but us?  No brainer, the future must be women, and for the distance horses have brought us, we rise to return the favor.
  • Be it resolved: Positive role models unite! This week, my friend Bex Tasker and I are launching a group called Train & Sustain Collective where like-minded trainers come together to collaborate, consult, and create change in the world by making peace, sticking together, and seeing the core of what is important while not getting stuck on our methodological differences.
  • Be it resolved: More positive role models unite! Write your books because our words matter and our voices lift each other up. I’m collaborating on a publishing house to be announced this spring. Get editing. Your turn is here.
  • Be it resolved: We choose positive peer pressure. Let’s sing out in blunt, audible voices praising each other’s good efforts. Let it become a habit to make a friendly connection, speaking up even if you’re shy because affirmative training means saying yes to humans, too. Generously compliment every good thing because what we pay attention to grows.
  •  Be it resolved: As we stand for horses, so we do for ourselves. Be self-kind. Challenging as it might be, please quit selling yourself short. Take credit for your experience and what you know. Negative self-talk doesn’t make you more palatable. Commit to loving yourself as much as you love horses. Think of the change in the world if we even simply started by affirming our own highest and best.

Here’s why you should believe me: I’m a loudmouth party-pooper and you can trust me to avoid empty flattery. I travel far doing this work, which includes listening to honest comments about powerlessness and isolation, ironically stated to a group of like-minded people who live close together. The next group says the same with perfect regularity. I’m convinced there are more of us than we ever imagined but because we’re introverts, we don’t tell each other.

We fear the judgment of railbirds but why jump to the worst conclusion? What if it’s just false bravado covering their fear of change. Have compassion; they might feel a bit threatened or even envious of the relationship you have with your horse.

The changes that horses need will not be made by people like me. It’s all of you who are changing the world, making ripples every day in small barns in remote places. You can hear the rising wave of individuals impacting neighbors by their positive example. A tsunami will grow as we support each other because the Golden rule still shines. What if the friction you feel is change hitting its stride? I’m filled with optimism, inspired by all of you, stronger than you know. Horse-keepers are the storm!

How do we trust ourselves? Horses tell us we’re getting it right and I believe them.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm

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Anna Blake

90 thoughts on “The Future for Horse-Keepers: Isolation or World Change?”

    • I’m right there with you! What a great way to start the year! I just told myself yesterday, while walking away from the paddock, “I will not listen to the voice I often fight that says I’m not good enough to do this” or “you WILL get hurt”. This is my year to shine. If only for my horses and myself. ❤️

  1. …and your broom sweeps better every day. My former horse life lives in dusty corners now, and I feed two pensioners daily with no expectations of them other than to step aside so I can dump their feed buckets and fill their water tubs. My saddles have new homes, and only one halter hangs in my tack room. So I read this with an eye towards “not horse-keeping” but “self-keeping.” And your broom, my friend has cleared yet another path to a revelation. Dang but you’re getting clever! xo

  2. Thank you, Anna. These words really speak to me. I believe the main source of my feeling isolated these days is that I simply cannot do the things with my horses that my NH friends are doing ( trail rides, eventing, and their unbearable-to-me horsemanship clinics that involve excessive force and criticism of the horse). Of course the Barn you have created helps so much to mitigate the isolation.

    I hope and dream of the day I might be able to go forth with my horse, perhaps Bear or another horse, as an example of a very positive relationship built on affirmative methods and positive “conversations.” . To perhaps interest others in this way of BEING.

    What I CAN do right now is speak up when someone in their ignorance calls my horse a “jerk.” and speak up with confidence about the path my horse and I are traveling these days.

    I am so grateful for your support and your writings on behalf of horses and the people who “horsekeep.”

    • I do believe that “jerk” comment was defensive… and your kind support of others is unrelenting. You make bigger waves than you know, my friend. Thank you.

  3. Indeed, it’s easy to change the world of one horse; the real challenge is to make the world a better place for horses.
    Thanks Anne! It’s folks like you that give us quiet introverts the courage to make waves and the confidence to stand strong as the tide tries to suck those waves back out to sea.

      • You are right on yet again! Your words touch me deeply, every time…
        You are the voice of the herds, true and clear…thank you for sharing!
        This group gives me hope that a kinder future is possible for our beloved horses and for those who walk beside them (or behind them 🙂 …

        • Our wild horses need more voices now too to save their very existence!

          There is a war being waged against our wild ones by the BLM, ranchers, oil, gas and mining companies to take over all the public lands and remove every last Mustang from the range.

  4. Oh my gosh… yes, I keep horses – only 3 and for me, only one is rideable. But in this past year, I have had health issues that make me extremely hesitant or unable to do that. I’ve heard for years that I should “get rid” of them by people who simply have no clue what they mean to me. All my old endurance horses have now passed, but I have these now who are responsible for keeping me going out there every day and staying more physically active than I ever would without them. They keep me moving. And yes, introvert is totally true. My social activities are trips to the feedstore, vets and farriers. Yes, I have family – my kids, who are more tolerant and understanding than my mother. Fortunately, she is so mentally out of it now, that I don’t hear any of HER opinions of my horse activities. It was all about money with her, however she spent more money on her old cats than I do on my horses and I told her so.
    Thank you Anna!

    • Same same Leslie, I hear you. I thought I was reading about me! It has been challenging at times to rise above the naysayers also ie, “why keep horses if you only ride one” and “they’re going to waste or they ain’t paying their way” Argh! It’s no wonder I prefer to be an introvert, stay connected with Anne and live the dream….my way 🙂

    • I got hurt! nobody said ” you shouldn’t vaccum or carry laundry baskets” So many said “sell them, you shouldn’t ride anymore” We have to stick up for what we want and believe! They say those things out of fear or concern. I just gently set them straight with my little laundry, vacuum rent. The silence is wonderful!!! 53 with 7 horses and a motorcycle ??

  5. Your Barn quote today appears to be in perfect alignment with the spirit of this blog. I aspire to the Donkey Creed. Not to return aggression and to “persist beyond the judgment of others.” Such synchronicity today!

  6. Thank you for this article. I am the obsessed horse lady at work. Lucky for me they are all very kind about it most of the time. Non-horse people will never completely understand it, which is fine by me. I waited patiently for 30+ years to have a horse again. My small world of horses, and horse friends reminds me of how hard work, patience, and being still while observing (listening) makes for a fulfilling and content life. I am so very thankful for it all. Thank you again for your mindfulness shared through the written word.

  7. Good essay on an extremely complex issue. As I think about my library of horse books, nearly all of my faves were written by women, whether they be instructional or in essay form. Frankly, if women are feeling as if they are being treated with less respect than men in the horse world, dare I say it’s because so many women opt to follow men? I had a talented friend/trainer/bodyworker who often ranted over women seeking the “cute cowboy” and not a woman – talent and knowledge being equal – to help them attain their goals. She found it extremely frustrating. I can understand. I loved working with her until she got too ill to continue. Currently I am training with Nahshon Cook, who is the biggest talent I, personally, have ever met. He believes in love and the possible poetry of horse human relationships without forsaking the necessary boundaries.

    Love the t-shirt about being the storm. Women are also warriors, and we should not forget that. However, there is nothing wrong with being soft and happy without allowing ourselves to be trod on. Our horses appreciate that, no matter the gender.

  8. How many paragraphs are in this post? YES! to each of them.
    Be it Resolved: to be a positive role model and advocate for my brilliant TB horses.
    P.S. Another awesome photo!

  9. Anna, you are a change-maker! You are lifting people up, inspiring them to their highest potential. And we, as women are our worst “enemies!” If we don’t get 100%, we think we’re not enough. We are enough! We must learn to truly Love ourselves with all our human-ness! We can admit our mistakes without judgment or blame. Learn from those mistakes, forgive ourselves and move on. First and foremost is to LOVE ourselves. Look in the mirror at yourself and say, “I love you” and keep saying it until you believe it. Yay, I’m still working on it after many years. It’s getting easier and I think I’m actually starting to believe it. ?

    Thank you, Anna, for your continued wisdom!!! ??‍♀️

  10. Wow, great timing! I have been in the position too often where I am questioning the status quo with regard to what is best for my horses, cats or dogs. When I have followed the norm and allowed those with advanced degrees and letters after their names perform their jobs on my animals only to have dire results, I finally grew up and realized that I really did know what was best. Too many times I have cried tears of regret for following not standing up for them, being their advocate. I have lost farriers, vets and friends because I have learned to question (not be rude, just question) their knowledge. Who else but those of us that immerse ourselves in their lives without the “glory” as the reward, can better care and respect them? I love reading your posts, it is always refreshing to see how many kindred spirits there are out there…imagine what we could accomplish if we united as one!

  11. Thank you Anna! This is a marvelous read. It hits home at so many points. I am a horse trainer and I feel I am putting my back against the storm, no longer breaking, but veering back every time. And growing stronger every time, because there are many of us. If we can close ranks nothing can stop us from changing the horse world.

  12. WOW you always make me think. I may not always agree totally with you – BUT you always have strong words that have really changed me. Someday I hope to sit with you over coffee.!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. So very true… I’ve come back to horses after a long absence. The whole horse world seems to have gone crazy. Everyone is a “trainer” and horses are expected to be trained and show ready in 30 days or 60 days or some other nonsense. I grew up with horses, was a Pony Club A graduate, and competed to very high levels while keeping horses in my back yard from elementary school to my 30s. These days as an older woman working kindly and slowly with a young horse I am seen as a muddling amateur. Everyone seems to think they need to tell me what to do, and irritatingly they will step in and try to “help” until I ask them politely to leave us alone. The saddest comment I have heard recently was a trainer who said she “had to” hit her horse to make him do what she wants because she is a professional trainer and can’t let him get away with not doing the work 🙁 Please continue to speak for the horses. We need more kindness.

    • Ack. As a trainer, it hurts to say sometimes trainers are so dense. You know it, but slow and steady wins the race. Thanks,Laura

  14. Anna,
    Absolutely on the spot (although we are not all introverts…but there are many). Speaking of that, as more of an extrovert, my horse has taught me to stop making so much noise. I still talk to him and I often get strange looks from people, even friends. Yet a group of us always talk to our horses. Our horses definitely talk back. When his ears flatten, I know I have spoken too much. They are great teachers, if we listen.

    We are often criticized for not, not using what are often considered time-honored training methods.
    Forgive me if, being educated, always trying to improve, but by no means a master of training, I do try to always use gentle methods.

    I stand accused of working bitless (or I just get a strange look).
    I stand accused of not riding enough, even doing liberty work.
    Yes, my horse sometimes stops to smell manure left in the arena, takes a different turn, or wanders off to visit the mares.
    What’s the issue with that? He comes back after a few minutes and waits for me to ask him something else.
    I request, I ask, he always gives.
    Yesterday he threw a frisbee, and picked up a stick, attempting to write in the sand — he made three straight marks in the sand, and we all praised him. Perhaps he was trying to tell me I am an idiot, but I think he was using a tool to write.
    I am trying to find new games to play, and often he teaches me.

    There are some very good men — let’s praise them too!
    Frederic Pignon is one of them. Aside from the higher show work (Cavalia, et al), there are some very good men in small barns and quiet places.

    And there are an overwhelming number of good women. Let’s praise them, too.

    Anna, great news about your new collaboration and we’ll all be watching and learning.

    Thank you for what you do for us all. You and Frederic Pignon have freed us to work with love, gentleness, laughter, affection, and to work alongside our horses in a new way that is fulfilling for all.

  15. This is lovely! I have to tell you though that for almost all of my 40 years of horseyness I’ve never felt judged for ‘being horsey’ and generally I couldn’t give the tiniest little shit what any other horse person thinks about how I ride or train or keep horses. I know I do my imperfect best and strive to learn from what the horses in my life tell me. Who else could possibly be a better judge? Certainly not a human lol.

    I am also shy, introverted, and happier in the barn than anywhere else. But I feel really strongly that the horses in my life have given me confidence I couldn’t get any other way. And that has carried over into the rest of my life. And I see my little girls developing the same self-confidence tempered with compassion as they spend time with the ponies.

    I can’t offer any advice on how to let go of the nagging insecurities alas. I guess just accept that you’re imperfect, strive to improve, listen to your horses, and tell all the humans to go suck an egg 😀

  16. Thanks Anna. Very timely for me as well. I am a horse keeper, well equine keeper. 6 horses, 3 donkeys and a mule. I ride two off the horses, though looking at “semi” retiring one of these as well.
    Just recently, when asking for advice on another board about supliments to help with a colic prone horse, I was abused for my lack of training progress with her. She finds it very hard to trust and meet new people so getting the vet near her is next to impossible. I am working on getting her to tolerate unknown people but it is a long slow road. In fact any training with her is a long slow road.
    But I am sticking to it and refusing to force her into submission. She trusts me to do most things with her, but she still trusts her own instincts more.
    She is a incredibly reactive wild born horse, and has taught me so much.
    I have had her 11 years now, and she will live with me the rest of her life. She will most likely never be ridden.
    I have another wild born horse, from the same muster, that is the complete opposite. Easily trusts people, easy to train, and she is one of the horses I ride.
    Both of these horses I trained without yards, races, or crushes.

    • Aren’t these two horses interesting… I have to wonder about pain in that reactive horse, not that a vet could test her… glad she is with you. The donkeys and a mule.. smiling because it takes a village. Best to you, Kirsten. Welcome.

  17. Wow! How is it you know me. Stalking my every move under the cover of darkness? Sending spies who video while stealthily hiding behind sagebrush? That is the only explanation for this article describing me right down to the whiskers on my chin. Except I’ve pretty much given up after 51 years of nothing but horses. Perhaps if I join your Barn, there would be hope. Thank you for this article, and all of your spot on writings.

    If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past 1/2 century, it is that there is much, much more to learn about our equine partners.

  18. Bravo!! I too believe that the world is changing, and it’s becoming a better world for not only our horses, but for us horse-lovers. Because right will always prevail in the end. In my lifetime of being with and around horses and others who share my passion, I have witnessed this miraculous change. And it is so good. And right.
    Carolyn Hunt once told us at a clinic that her husband once told her of his dream for the horse…imagine for a moment of a young girl working with her horse in a quiet and patient way, allowing the horse the time that it took to figure out what she was asking of him. They had a strong and trusting relationship, any onlooker could see that. A much older gentlemen approached her and asked where she had learned how to work with a horse like that? She tilted her head quizzically and asked him, is there any other way?
    That was his dream for the horse. And slowly, but surely it is becoming a reality. You have good reason for your optimism Anna. And whether you take credit for it or not, you are without a doubt, a part of this change. You are a lover of the horse. Thanks ever so much.

  19. Love this post. Agree we need to have more love for ourselves, but also for other women. The problem with feeling insecure is there is an unfortunate tendency to try to feel better by putting other women down in subtle ways. These are the rail birds; you are so right, Anna. But we need to not continue the cycle by putting them down back. Just stay focused on doing the right thing and supporting other women who are doing so. Eventually the rail birds will come around, especially if we haven’t made them enemies. This blog is a wonderful place to find other like-minded people when you start to feel a bit isolated. Thank you, Anna!!

  20. Impostor syndrome. I suffer from that as well. Even with the positive feedback from the horses I work and my students. I wonder if that is the universes’ way of keeping us forever a student of the horse; so we feel ‘less’ impostor-ish.

    • You would be a student of the horse even if horses didn’t exist. You have real skills and hard-won perception and a life of experience. And I don’t think the universe thinks we’re impostors. I think the universe is cheering us on. (Hi Vicki, hi to the barn.)

  21. Yes, I’m a crazy horse woman, I only have seven now, and I’m also disabled, so, yes, I often feel isolated. I have a very small circle of close friends, who mostly, don’t understand the horse attraction, but who all support me in my addiction. I know stuff about horses, I have specialized in learning about foals, and how to give them the best start in life, and set them up for interaction with people. I freely admit that I don’t know all there is to know, but the stuff I do know is solid, and, years after I started saying it, now backed by research, from other people who have lots of letters after their names in the field of equine science. Over the years I have been attempting to change attitudes and methods one person at a time. It has felt as though I have been shouting in the wilderness. However, over this last year some people have been taking notice, and wanting to ask more questions. I am beginning to feel affirmed. May I join your group, please?

  22. Thank you Anna… I’ve had “the disease” since birth.. at 63, I don’t think I’ll ever be “cured” but my family still hopes, ha. Never fancied myself a horse trainer, but I work with a group of equestrians (Back Country Horsemen) who help maintain the public land access for equestrians. Funny, in the years associated with this male dominated group, I’ve seen women stepping up & taking the reins more & more. And the shift is dynamic, working with Government agencies with collaboration rather than male ego centric methods has lead to more partnership! Great times!

  23. I was going to vacuum and do laundry after just reading this one email, but now I have to go outside and hang with Dodger. See how you are?

  24. Also, in one of your blogs about a woman who asked if she should get a horse, you finish with ‘don’t get a horse, get them all.’ I think we need to “get” all the horse people too, while we’re at it.

  25. Yay, just yay. It brings to mind a comment my father in law made some 20+ years ago as I was leading a weanling to a paddock. He was amazed that I had such a young fella accepting the halter and leading calmly. My FIL was an old farmer and I remember being so pleased that he was impressed with my handling of that little paint. All these years later I’m still proud that Clarence was impressed.

  26. Thank you, Anna. I have such total admiration of you and Bex Tasker and others who are out there travelling the world to help open others’ eyes to the lives we provide for horses in captivity. It is slow work, but each pebble sends out a ripple.

  27. There must be a universal thing going on, because I’m stepping out to be “seen” in my way of being with horses, in ways I haven’t before and with a whole new level of confidence. I don’t feel isolated though, I feel part of a glorious supportive community and I’d love nothing more than to expand that. Put me on the list please… <3

  28. If not now, then when? Obviously it must be NOW!
    Fingers and everything crossed for the safety of Rusty’s Riding Retreat as more fire danger looms.

    • Obviously now. Obviously us.

      I’ve been thinking of you, Annie. Hoping you have been safe, talking with Megan, they are fine so far but so much damage. Stay safe, my friend. We are all praying and sending good thought to our friends in Australia.

  29. I think I feel more optimistic than you do. I wonder why that is. Is it because our backgrounds are different? I’m an older woman, 66, and I trail ride.I am amazed by how many of us there are. And we have an enormous network. Worldwide, even. There are many Facebook groups that are just older women horse riders. Old cowgirls never die, they keep on riding, ageless in the saddle, old mule girls-are a few groups I’m in, and others I forget the names of. I have trouble remembering names. Anyway, you are right. We are mostly women, many of us older, with kids grown and gone, and now we have the time and money to ride. We aren’t interested in competition, we love our horses and our friends, and we love to ride. We meet at campgrounds all over the northeast, at least I know that for a fact, because that is where I’m from. But if my Facebook groups are right, we’re all over the world. We are mostly gentle and kind and want to use training methods that work and are the same. Many of us are fearful. There’s a group called, riding without fear. There’s a book titled that, also. Anyway, don’t despair. There are lots of us. And now that we are older, we are more confident in ourselves.
    By the way, I heard you have a 3 year old mule you are training. Is it true? I have 2 young mules of my own that I am working with. I want to connect with them, and train them in a way that makes them want to do what I ask them.

    • Beth, I’m so sorry if I wasn’t clear. I AM EXTREMELY OPTIMISTIC at 65. I am a clinician who travels and meets amazing people. I help with confidence issues for humans and horses, I also work with damaged horses as a big part of my job. I agree that the are many great groups, I have founded a couple myself, that bring us together. I’m thrilled that your experience is so positive, good for you.

      I’m home for a couple of months and am working with an 18 mo old mule. We work in 5 min sessions; she has fear questions and we are breathing our way along. She is too young for more. Good luck with your mules; so different than horses. Thanks for commenting, Beth.

  30. You have struck into my heart and soul (as with so many others here!) Horsewoman, horse keeper, horse trainer for over 50 years. I’m also one of the ones who was terribly shy, lost, and introverted. Horses have kept me alive, and safe, and stronger. I’m no longer capable of doing so many things I used to with horses due to some neck surgeries, but I still keep horses and they keep me going. Life has sent me four horses with very different issues, some physical, some emotional or both. One mare, with trust issues, has taught me what an incredible intelligence she is, and how misunderstood she had been. She has shown me all the subtle things I missed before her. She, and my own limitations, have enlightened me. I’m grateful for her and all the horses of my past for bringing me along on their incredible journey. I live in an area that I consider to be full of folks who are very behind the times in their thinking of how horses should be treated. I see some small changes here, but it’s slow-going. I truly appreciate your way of thinking and continue to dream along with you and all the like-minded people of how we are evolving with our horses. All of it, for the better.
    As I look backwards at my life with horses, I believe I need to change my status of horse trainer/horse keeper to “Student of Horses” and it’s taken quite a long time, but thankfully horses are patient with us. Maybe, if I’m worthy, I’ll win a lifetime achievement from all the horses I’ve loved and helped!

    • Thank you, Wendy, for this wonderful comment. I too live in a place not receptive to my approach, I know the feeling. All the best teacher are students, I think. A lifetime achievement award from horses? What a thought!!!

  31. “Over 90% of horse-keepers are women. For the handful of men who read this blog, I appreciate you’re faced with the same challenges and I have empathy, but just for today, I want to speak to women.”

    I am still pondering your post from last week – and the feeling I had after reading one particular comment. This blog, this online group, this community – is one of the safest places I’ve found, as a (horse)woman. I was shocked, and then defensive, at the intrusion of a patronizing and judgemental tone.

    Thank you for gently but firmly reclaiming our space. That is your job as the head mare after all. ❤️

    • Thanks, and I have to say, my clients are almost all women. Of course, I address their particular needs. I do believe the future is us, we pay for all of it. But men do come to clinics to learn a softer way. I have a profound respect for the men who attend, they are a minority here. My point in this blog is that women, as the vast majority, could claim our voice to support each other and wield our positive power in support of horses rather than being diminished for our girlish habits.

      (That comment has stuck with me, too. It’s the first time someone asked for my husband’s opinion. I can’t think of a situation where I have ever asked a professional that question.)

      • Like many of us, I’m sure, I struggled to find a proper reply to that particular comment, too. It did jog my memory of an incident I witnessed many, many years ago. As a court stenographer, I was recording the sworn testimony of a plaintiff whose attorney was a female. Truth be told, I cannot say that opposing counsel – who was questioning the plaintiff – was particularly chauvinistic, but he had definite ideas that he was the alpha and must be obeyed. During a legal argument between the two lawyers, the perfectly attired in feminine business clothes, female attorney rose from her chair, went to the side board to pour coffee into the fine china cup (saucer included) so elegantly provided by the law firm staff. She walked over to the seated male attorney and placed the cup on the table next to him. Being “served” by this guy’s female opponent caused him to become unglued! It took him several minutes to recover his wits. To this day, I don’t think this guy knew what she had done. I did. It was sheer perfection on her part!
        So for any future visitor of this kind , I suggest we thank them for stopping by and offer them a cup of coffee, or maybe tea if that is preferred.

  32. Wow, your timing is perfect. I was thinking about playing small all morning until I read this. It would be great if after the group you are starting for trainers could make yourselves known to us. It is so difficult to find intelligent, patient trainers in our area. Thank you Anna!

  33. Thank you again Anna. It feels so warm and cozy to not be alone. And to know the storm is rumbling out there.

    Hugs from the Pacific NorthWET.

  34. So inspiring! I’ve read this three times. It comes as I go through a huge change in my life. My horses are still with me and will lead me forward. I’ve had the “trainers” who chased me and my horse with a whip insisting that he pick up a left lead. Now, as I walk behind my elderly horse I see the very slight drop in his right hind hip, and understand why he never wanted to go to a left lead. You truly taught to me to slow down. To “observer, remember, and compare”. Thank you for all your wisdom and all your words. Calming signals are good for humans and horses. 🙂

  35. I love your writing. The rail birds, farriers, trainers, vets, who-the-*-ever can suck it in my humble opinion. I don’t and we don’t always know the right thing in every situation. But guess what: if your farrier smacks your horse with the rasp for being nervous? Fire his ass! You’re the boss. If your vet insists on a twitch before giving your horse a chance? Fire his ass. It’s your money. If your trainer belittles you or makes you feel ashamed? Down the road they go! Vote for what you want, what you feel in your heart is right, and the crap will eventually evaporate from lack of funding. WE CAN DO IT!


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