By Steve Bauhr
Most every fall we make a ride with a group of friends into the old cabins at Cooper Meadow. Located in the Emigrant Wilderness of the Central Sierra, Cooper Meadow is a working high country cow camp during the summer months. Of all the years I’ve ridden in there, I’ve only run into summer cowboys once. On our fall rides, they and their cattle are usually gone with the cabins, and camp locked up and prepared for winter.
It’s not a difficult ride leaving from Coyote Meadow horse camp. It takes about 2 hours to get in, but it’s the beautiful scenery on the way that makes the ride so special. Once we’ve arrived at the cabins, we tie up and have lunch on the porch of the larger cabin. Over the years, we’ve taken many pictures of the group sitting on that porch. It’s a time to relax, tell a few stories, and visit about who’s hosting Thanksgiving.
This year, I filmed part of the ride and while sitting on the porch, put everybody on the spot by asking them, “What do horses give you that nothing else in life does?” Among the group I heard answers like, serenity, peace, and relaxation, but one answer by my best friend Harry set me back a bit. He said riding and working with horses made him a better person. I mulled over that answer the whole ride back to the trailers. Between the awesome scenery and crispness of the fall afternoon, his answer provoked deeper and deeper thought.
For those who know me and work with me, you know I’m miles away from the “cosmic” side of horsemanship. I find that when we start to look for something in the horse that’s not really there, it only leads to less understanding of this creature. Harry’s answer though wasn’t so much talking about the horse as it was more pointed toward us. He and I both love horses, but we do have some difference of opinion in regards to getting things done.
“It’s all good, ” as he says, and he’s right. We can come at an issue from different angles, yet we’re both still trying to help the horse. For Harry, horses are a hobby. He rehabs off the track thoroughbreds. He simply starts out by treating them with respect and dignity. Then good hoof care – most of these horses have no heal left when they leave the track. Instead of focusing on what they can’t do well because of their track time, he starts to build on what they can do well and rewards that. He rides them a lot in open country covering miles and miles of trails. Sometimes with another rider or group, but lots of hours alone, just him and the horse. For Harry, the horses are a bit “cosmic,” though he’d be reluctant to admit it. They give him a sense of freedom and a sense of accomplishment both during the rehab and once they start going well.
When we help another living creature, it most certainly helps us to be a more rounded person, placing our needs behind another’s if only for a moment. So many principles within the discipline of good horsemanship apply directly to how we interact with each other. Here are just a few ideas coined daily by practitioners:
“Always offer the best deal first.”
“Follow that offer with firmer direction.”
“If need be, be as firm as necessary but always be fair.”
“Learn to recognize and reward a try.”
“Don’t settle for mediocrity.”
“Get your good better and your better best.”
If we approached spouses, friends, coworkers, family members, even enemies with this same attitude, things might be different. Please don’t misread into what I’m saying. Under no circumstances do I believe just being nice and accepting is the answer to this countries issues- it’s not. That experiment has failed and done nothing but develop a class of folks expecting what they were never meant to receive.
Your horse is no different. Try basing your program around treats. You’ll only develop a horse that has learned tricks to simply get the treat instead of building on real effort and rewarding with a sense of accomplishment that eventually forms a relationship so strong that your horse will walk through fire for you!
Is my work with horses helping me to be a better person? I believe it’s my walk with God that’s helping me to recognize, “I need to be a better person.” Since He’s put me in a place where I’m with horses all day, I can only assume they’re there to help me. So yes, I’m still working on it!
See ya out there!
Steve Bauhr owns and operates Bauhr Ranch, a full horse training facility in Chinese Camp, Ca. For more info, go to bauhrranch.com Please send us a friend request on Facebook, and check out and subscribe to our new YouTube channel.