Is horse training an art? What drives an artist to excel?

I often compare getting an education to going to ‘art’ school.

You might learn how to combine the colors, or what brushes accomplish certain things, but ultimately each of us contains our own story, our own song.

Schooling taught me the mechanics of horse training.

Here is the bigger, more elusive problem that people run into;


“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Henry David Thoreau

When I see someone leading a life of ‘quiet desperation’ they generally seem frustrated, unsatisfied and stuck. And I would bet most of it is based on fear. Fear is real.

Vincent Van Gogh didn’t go to art school. But he only sold one painting in his life. Still he painted.

Everyone has a song in them. Not everyone  get past their fear.

The tough part is that everyone’s path is different. It is what makes us truly unique and impossible to recreate the same route.

Make your own path.


  1. […] Is horse training an art? What drives an artist to excel? […]

  2. marla2008 on March 5, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Stacy, this is a *wonderful* blogpost, and many of yours are. What makes you so different as a horse(wo)man and clinician, is that you treat this whole affair as life matter, and not only restricted to… well, horses.
    To me, YES, horsemanship is definitely an art. As a side note, and as opposed to bullfighting as one may be, in Spain bullfighting reports are not in the sports pages of the newspaper, but in the art section, which is thought provocking (although I am *not* promoting bullfighting here).
    Anyway, art is part “savoir-faire”, part talent/gift/eye/feel, or whatever you want to call it. To me, personally, it goes a little beyond that, and actually in a slightly different direction. To me, horsemanship comes as close to a religious feeling as I ever get. I am not a religious person, I don’t have faith in a god (not a choice on my part, I would love to believe, I just don’t). But I have faith in the horse, and in the relationship we can build with him being a very sacred, very holy thing when done with love and respect (which of course involve a lot of guidance, and leadership). To me you fully are a artist in the way you not only ride and train horses, but also articulate your life as to be able to pursue this passion in the most intense manner, and bring your gift to a maximum of horses and humans. And I think all of us are very grateful for that. Trying to do right by horses and becoming the best horsewoman I can is tremendously important for me, it is the quest of my life, as overall I think it also makes me a better mom, spouse, friend, and just a better inhabitant of this planet we’ve been given, and that we treat so badly.

  3. Karen bockus on March 5, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I am an artist. I have a natural God given talent with art, I just see the world differently. That being said you are every bit the artist in your field, because you have a natural ability to see something in a horse that 99% of us would never see no matter how long we looked. Just like you can’t learn to paint from a book, you can’t learn to train a horse a horse from one either. You only get a superficial idea but none of the nuance
    that talent gives you.

  4. Valerie on January 13, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I have been riding all of my life. As I have gotten older I have found that fear rears it’s ugly head from time to time. I was fearless as a young girl and a young woman. I would ride anything and everything, I was never once hurt badly. The interesting thing I see in the horse world now are “dangerous” horses. I never laid eyes on a “dangerous” horse back in my younger day. But back then everyone who owned horses did so because the needed them for work and a lot of them were shown as well. The owners were trainers and good hands. In the last 25 years horses have become a big hobby business and there are many who dabble in horsemanship just enough to spoil a horse or to frighten and confuse one to the point of danger. That being said absolutely horsemanship/ training is an art and a good horseman is an artist. Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there “sellin and buying” bad art!

  5. Kyle on January 13, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Interesting fact, the one painting that Vincent Van Gogh sold was to his brother Theo. Theo did not let Vincent know that he bought it, because he wanted Vincent to feel his work had worth.
    I feel living is an art. Some people live life with all the colors and others may only choice one color.

  6. Sharon Hill on January 13, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Truly at the end of the training, the result is a work of art. Your performance on Roxy testifies to that. The quality of the art depends on the artist and the expectation of the observer.

  7. Janette on January 12, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    I can only start one colt at a time, because I fell like an artist that can only focus on one painting at a time. I put my heart and soul into every horse, which can be very taxing on me. I do believe horse training is like a fine art. There is no “art” in bullying a horse into submission, the “art” is making everything the horses idea while keeping the horses mind healthy. Unfortunately, just like a lot of art, the hard work is not always appreciated. Watching you (Stacy) ride is definitely like watching an art form (poetry in motion).

    • Janette on January 12, 2014 at 8:01 pm

      Thanks Stacy for promoting me to read the dictionary definitions of art. I think they are all applicable to good horse training.
      ART: 1 (uncountable) Human effort to imitate,supplement,alter,or counteract the work of nature. 2. (uncountable) The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colours, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.

      There is a debate as to whether graffiti is art or vandalism.

      3. (uncountable) Activity intended to make something special. 4. (uncountable) A re-creation of reality according to the artist’s metaphysical value judgments. 5. (uncountable) The study and the product of these processes. 6. (uncountable) Aesthetic value. 7. (uncountable) Artwork. 8. (countable) A field or category of art, such as painting,sculpture,music, ballet,or literature. 9. (countable) A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts. 10. (countable) Skill that is attained by study,practice,or observation.

  8. Stephanie Hobson on January 12, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I love this comparison. At 69 years old my husband closed his business and began painting portraits without any training, something he had wanted to do from childhood. I was (and still am) amazed by them. I actually made him a Facebook fan page if anyone is interested in seeing them.

    I tell him “See, you can teach an old dog new tricks”. For some reason he doesn’t think that’s very funny… tells me he isn’t a dog! lol

  9. mswomanoffire on January 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    I can relate to Bridget’s post. I grew up takin riding english lessons, saved babysitting money for trails at the Ponderosa Stables in North Lake Tahoe each summer, worked as a trail guide in my early twenties in Yosemite then as a Wilderness Ranger on Horseback packing mules with the Forest Service but never owned my own horse.
    I finally made the leap to horse owner at 34 but it only lasted for 3 months with my city life work schedule. I couldn’t afford the cost, nor the time.
    I’ve been blessed with amazing adventures in my life time. Bridget’s post gives me hope for rekindling a childhood dream to own my horse, when the time is right, in my later years! 🙂

  10. Nikki Hale on January 12, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    I find Bridget’s comment interesting because I seem to have the opposite problem with horses, a complete lack of fear. Now don’t mistake that with a lack of respect for them as large powerful animals. I absolutely respect them as such. In 2005 I had a horrific accident on a mare that I had ridden for nearly year. She flipped over backwards on me and I was laying on my back in the dirt still sitting in the saddle. I was airlifted to the nearest trauma hospital and had broken my pelvis in 4 places. But having the knowledge that everything that led to that accident was my own fault kept me from being fearful and I was back riding after 3 months. I still have an undying passion, love and full respect for horses. I now have 3, including a new project in an 8 month old colt that we foaled at our home. Horses will always be a huge aspect of my life.

  11. Bridget Goldsmith on January 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    When I remarried again in 2012 after loosing two husbands I was taking a chance. My new husband lives in a smallish town and on the very edge. We are blessed with fields around us and a quick way to the stable.
    I rode as a girl and always wanted my own horse. My husband gave me trail ride gift certificates for the stables near us. One thing led to another and after 42 years of not riding, at the age of 66 I decided to “Go for it” and ended up with my life’s dream, owning my own horse. Fear was very real. Could I still do it? What if I fell of? But oh the joy of the possibility. I only fell twice, once dismounting (sprained ankle) and once mounting ( huge bruise) no broken bones.
    It took me six months to canter but I have done it. What a sense of accomplishment.
    Believe me when I say that you are never to old to realize your dreams.
    Thank you Stacy for that wonderful quote from Thoreau. My song is in the stable, the arena and the fields it is being sung loudly and with pride.


  12. Mary Craig on January 12, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Everything that’s worthwhile or important is on the other side of fear, isn’t it?

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