It’s true: You really can’t beat the life we get to lead with our horses. Every day we count various blessings that come along with horse ownership—sometimes even while cursing things like vet bills and downed fences.
Here we’ve gathered 57 things that we think make Western Horse Life the best life. While that’s a healthy number, we’re sure we missed a few. Share your favorite parts of horse ownership by emailing HorseandRider@aimmedia.com.
Western Horse Life Welcomes Any Life Stage
Many of us rode as kids but then had to check our equestrian ambitions at the door to young adulthood, parenthood, or our careers. No matter. You’re welcomed back into the community. You’ll quickly remember how happy horses made you and be roped back in before you can say, “I’m going to buy that horse.”
And if horses didn’t come into your heart until later in life? Grab your helmet and jump in the saddle. Someone is just waiting to introduce you to one of the best life choices you’ve made.
So your coworker speaks Mandarin or Italian? That’s cool. You speak horse. Horse life teaches you an entire new language to communicate with your 1,000-pound partner that goes beyond words. Bonus: It helps us communicate better with humans.
The Freedom to Explore!
Whether you’re a bona fide trail-riding master or someone who ventures out into the ungroomed wild only on occasion, opportunities to get outside are always available with our horses. If you’re lucky, they lie just beyond your pasture fence. But sometimes the sights and sounds of nature—and experiencing them with your trusty steed—are worth loading up in the trailer and hauling to a bucket-list destination.
If there’s a group of folks who can be relied upon to come together in the wake of tragedy, it’s the Western community. This year, we’ve faced numerous natural disasters that affected horse owners and their stock. From wildfires to hurricanes, horse owners came together to offer money, labor, feed, boarding facilities, and emotional support to their fellow equestrians. Be proud of the hands lent, charities supported, and awareness raised of the value of the Western community.
Best Sounds of Horse Life• Footfalls in a freshly dragged arena.
• Tails swishing on summer evenings.
• Quiet whinnies for early-morning feedings.
• An elk bugle on a secluded trail ride.
• Horses snuffling at night in their enclosure near your tent.
• The steady rhythm of a cadenced lope.
• A child’s giggle the first time she trots horseback.
• Your horse loudly chewing grain.
• A riding friend’s truck pulling up to the arena or trailhead.
• Spurs jangling.
Muscle Soreness Never Felt So Good
Yes, we can prevent those aches and pains that come from a day spent in the saddle by maintaining fitness. But admit it: When you’re sore the day after working your tail off at a horse show or riding a tough trail, you’re a little proud of what you accomplished and the hard work you put into the effort. Your aches and pains were gained while working with your horse and caring for him, and that makes for a good kind of tired. Besides, it beats hitting the treadmill any day.
Whether he has a job on your place or is just a companion, horse life almost always comes with dogs. Not all are suited for the barn or trail (safety first, for horse, dog, and rider), but they can keep you warm in a tent or living-quarters trailer on a cold night.
Mornings and Evenings, Viewed From the Saddle
A sunrise or sunset over a wide-open range is something to behold, especially when you can feel your equine partner beneath you and see his ears pricked toward the spectacular view.
Horses Are the Best Conversation-Starter
Attending an awkward cocktail party? Start talking about your horses. People are full of questions about horse life and all it entails. And our horse lives allow us to strike up conversation with people we meet who own horses.
Best Smells of Western Horse Life• Freshly cleaned leather on saddles and bridles.
• Coat conditioner that can double as perfume.
• Peppermint treats.
• Wet fleece.
• Hot bran mash with molasses.
• Just-cut hay.
• Your horse’s muzzle—they’re all different!
• Horse smell in your car—or anywhere, for that matter.
• Arena dirt after it’s been worked.
• Fresh apples, fed by hand to your horse.
Horse Life Is Therapeutic
Whether it’s a child with a disability, a veteran overcoming PTSD, or just a gal having a blue day, horse life provides therapy. Grooming, saddling, leading, riding—even just burying your face in a mane—horses have an amazing gift to help humans.
Challenging Our Mettle
Think you’re an expert horseman? Your horse will show you otherwise. While opportunities for accomplishment are many and varied (see “Best Accomplishments of Horse Life”), horses test our fortitude, stamina (more leg!), and problem-solving skills.
You’re an honorary participant in the boldest, most adventurous part of our nation’s heritage—The West.
Something for Everyone
From beginner to advanced, gritty to glamorous, Western horse life offers something for everyone. You want cattle? Try team penning, sorting, working cow horse, cutting, roping. Fan of riding outside the arena? Try an easy day-ride or attempt an extreme trail course. Fan of precision? Reining, Western riding, trail, and horsemanship classes might be just right for you.
Living a Dream
No matter when horses came into your life, your lifestyle is something most people only dream about.
No matter if you’re traveling to a luxurious guest ranch with gourmet food or simply heading to a friend’s house to ride, you can expect a level of genuine hospitality unlike what you’d experience anywhere else in the world.
Best Accomplishments of Horse Life• Getting all the stalls stripped, cleaned, and freshly bedded.
• Dragging an arena with just-perfect harrow marks.
• Unloading and stacking hay bales.
• Hearing your name called on an announcer’s PA.
• Winning your first trophy buckle.
• Crossing your first river on the trail.
• Nailing that vexing lead change!
• Being told, “You’ve done a good job with that horse.”
• When your kids ride alone the first time.
• Learning to win humbly and lose gracefully.
Whether it’s framed on your wall or you throw a leg over it for every ride, the craftsmanship of Western art—including gear—is unsurpassed. Custom hats, boots, and chaps; handmade saddles, headstalls, and romals; paintings, sculptures, and photography; countless items made of braided horse hair. Western artisans allow us to bring our horse life into every space in which we spend time.
You learn how to ride by the seat of your pants. A great Western rider has something you might call backbone—not wishbone.
Pride Taken in Care
We take pride in the care we provide. We seek out the best care providers—vets, farriers, dentists, and other experts. We learn how to read feed labels so we can be sure each horse gets the right concentrates and supplements. Heck, we even haul water with us to ensure that our horses will drink on the road!
Extended (Animal) Family
Though some people might not understand it, our horses are part of our families. We’ll go without new shoes to pay the farrier bill. We skip dinners out to buy supplements. We sacrifice just about anything for our hooved family members.
Sipping piping-hot coffee while watching your horse eat his breakfast before embarking on a new trail.
A Way to Decompress
Whether it’s in the barn or in the saddle, there’s nothing like spending time with your horse after a tough day. The peace and quiet lets you take a deep breath (of some great smells, as noted in “Best Smells of Western Horse Life”) and exhale the day’s stress.
It’s a terrific way to raise kids, with the most fundamental American values—honesty, courage, hard work—bred in and lived daily.
Horse Life at Home
Your Western horse life provides a stylish, comfortable, iconic template for decorating your home.
It’s a Direct Connection to the Earth
You’re a genuine environmentalist, because you know firsthand if you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.
Learning the Value of Healthy Competition
Some of the toughest competitors you’ll ever encounter come from the Western horse industry, whether it’s rodeo or performance events. These riders start their days before dawn and have no problem working, riding, and competing in the wee hours of the morning or in 100-degree heat only to do it all over again the next day with smiles on their faces.
A Western horse life is lived by the Cowboy Code of Conduct.
We Dress the Part, Every Day
From working fabrics such as hard denim and heavy cottons to luxurious leathers and fringe, we can dress the part to represent our Western Horse Life every day. (Even if it’s only after we change into our dirty barn clothes after work.)
Special thanks to Abigail Boatwright, Kent and Charlene Krone, Katie Navarra, and Paula Zdnek for contributing their Western Horse Life insights to this list.