Question: I’m writing because, at age 54, I’ve been given opportunity to get involved with horses. My husband adopted a 15 y/o paint gelding (El Nino) and a 17 y/o quarter horse mare (Sugar) from a friend with cancer, who could no longer keep her horses. The horse are healthy and of reasonable disposition.

We have a farm, with two large fenced pastures and a barn with two stalls, where the horses will eventually be moved to later this Spring. In the interim, they are boarded where my husband’s friend has had them boarded the past several years and where they receive good care.

My question to you is this: I’m 54. I’ve had little experience with horses except for the occasional nose-to-tail trail ride, maybe 6 of these rides in my life time. To me, horses are beautiful, but large and frightening. I enjoy them from a distance but am quite fearful up close.

Will I really, ever be able to get over my fear of horses?… to perhaps ride competently and comfortably one day?… or at the very least (but really most important), to be able to at least care for them on the ground competently and comfortably.

I read your book “The Man Who Listens to Horses” and have signed up for the Equus Online University. I have completed 32 of your lessons in 8 days. Yet, I’m still fearful. And on Saturday at the barn during a lesson, Sugar spooked at some very loud outdoor noises while an experienced rider was on her. Sugar started running sideways full steam until the experienced rider calmed and settled her. If I’d have been on her, I’d likely have fallen and been injured. Now I’m even more fearful. This was out-of-character for Sugar, but the noises from outdoors were very loud and unusual.

As I said above, really the most important thing is for me to be comfortable and competent with them on the ground, for their daily care and well-being. I’d be thrilled if I could at least do this. My husband will be the main caregiver, but I’d like to be able to help and support him. My husband is not fearful, just has the healthy respect for horses.

We live in Wisconsin, but I’m mulling over trying to attend your H101 course. It sounds like just the thing, but time and distance are a factor.

Monty’s Answer: Thank you very much for your question. Please understand that I believe every word of it was well founded and deserves congratulations to you as your comments were exactly as I would want them to be if you were my daughter or my best friend. There is absolutely no disgrace in being respectful of the size and the potential danger connected with the power of horses and their athleticism.

This is a healthy position for anyone to express and what would concern me is the amateur who expresses no fear or concern for potential dangers. Congratulations on your ability to express a healthy concern for your safety and well being while in the process of learning what and who horses are and the potential for danger if significant errors are made. Please do not for one minute hold the thought that I am discouraging you from dealing with horses. That is simply not the case.

As you probably know, horses have dominated my existence for almost 8 decades now. I am relatively free of any injuries significantly enough to list as major. In considering your question I suddenly realize that I have never been hospitalized for an injury caused by a horse. When you consider that I have dealt with about 70,000 horses, I believe that you will agree that this is a relatively amazing statistic.

Please consider that my activities have been as a “Stunt Kid” from the age of 4 and right through to my 60s. Also consider that i competed professionally in rodeos, cuttings and working cow horse competitions well into my 50s. One might tend to say “Well that was you and this is me.” Obviously I agree with that statement but the point is however that I have devoted the balance of my life to helping people understand the need for caution and education.

Thank you for mentioning that you have viewed a large number of lessons on my Online University. That is a good a start as I could recommend. Thank you also for considering the course Horsemanship 101 because that would, in a very significant way, increase your educational needs. At this point in my answer it is appropriate to remind you that selecting the right horse to be around is a critical issue. Is it full-proof or can there be unique exceptions where horses are concerned.

Your communication addresses that very issue with the horse that was otherwise quiet and trustworthy but on a given moment decided to cause trouble for the other rider. Those circumstances can occur with any horse at any given moment. The better the choice of horses, the less likely for this occurrence. My book From My Hands to Yours is a huge part of the education I would recommend. Virtually very segment required by you is covered on those pages.

In the final analysis, learning to be at one with your horse, confident in your ability to be in the right place at the right time is absolutely essential to the ultimate success of overcoming theses natural fears that are healthy for us to have until we are satisfied that we are in control of virtually all of the potential pit falls that can challenge us on any given day. I think the same thing could be said for learning to ride a motorcycle or even a bicycle.

I think its fair to even suggest that it is not unlike learning to roller skate or even negotiating the streets, on foot, of any given city we might traverse. Please remain in touch and do not hesitate to continue to ask questions of experienced, trustworthy people as to how you might acquire the appropriate education that I have discussed with you in answering your question.