Horseman in general are the most congenial, the most helpful group in the world, but don’t like and won’t accept phonies. Everyone wants to have the feeling of belonging whenever they join a horse group. A rider may become obnoxious, without meaning to, by the manners he displays and the way he manages his horse around others. To get “off on the right foot” is important. More than likely they have observed the ability of the new horseman and made up their minds as to the type of person he is.
An experienced horseman can tell a true horseman by his actions around a horse, the way he approaches it to mount, the manner in which he picks up the reins. A good horseman proves his ability by action, not by word. An unpardonable sin is to tell anyone what a good horseman you are.
When you first approach a group, introduce yourself, explain where you come from, and that you would like to get acquainted. The conversation will almost immediately lead to your horse. Someone is sure to say, “Pretty nice animal you have there.” This is the icebreaker. You can give the group an idea about yourself by explaining the breeding, where you bought him, and what you think he can do, being modest on the latter.
In this first conversation your new acquaintances will know what knowledge of horsemanship you have. “Horse talk” is like any other “trade talk.” An engineer can tell another engineer; a plumber, by jargon, knows another plumber, and so on. You can’t fool experience. There are definite patterns of behavior you follow with horse people.
You never ask to ride another person’s horse, you wait to be invited. It is poor taste ever to ask for anything personal, and a horse is most personal. The fact that an animal can be ruined by poor handling makes an owner cautious about who is allowed astride his horse. If you are in need of an extra horse, rent him from a stable. If you are well known by your crowd, you may be invited to use a friend’s horse. But your ability and your respect for the animal will come first. By the same token, don’t borrow tack. This includes lead and tie ropes that some owner may have left at the rail while riding. He will expect to find them there when he returns. If you are offered equipment to use, be sure to return it in the good shape in which it was loaned. Defective tack is dangerous, and keeping it in repair is necessary not only for the condition of the equipment but for safety also. Always tie your horse securely when you leave him, and ask permission about where to tie him. If your horse has droppings, when you return you should clean them up. Even if you are astride, perhaps talking to a group, the droppings should be cleaned before you leave. This is a matter of courtesy.
The stable owner has his own work to do, and horsemen, casually dropping in, can make a lot of work. If you clean up after your horse when visiting, you will always be welcome. Don’t be afraid to ask permission about everything you do.
Even on neighborhood trail rides ask permission to accompany a group. Should you have an ill-mannered horse, stay well away from other horses. Don’t come to meet new friends “duded up.”
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