• Shannon Stambaugh

Life Lessons from the Equestrian World

The equestrian world has provided me with so many life lessons along the years and gotten me through situations that were incredibly trying. Though this world can be mean and gruesome, if you find the right mix of people and horses, you're in for the ride of your life.

Sitting down to write this post, I couldn't even begin to number all the lessons I've learned over the years. Here are a few of them.


Unless you’re a parent or a guardian, there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t required to put someone else’s needs completely before your own. Owning a horse has taught me to put others before myself. My horse has always come first in my life- whether she needs shoes, a new supplement, or a new blanket, it’s always more important than my new shoes. When we’re at show, my students’ success comes before mine. I always want to make sure they’re prepared for their classes, know their courses, and feel confident about their ride. Being selfless has reformed the way I live in all aspects of my life.

Money Management

Owning a horse has taught me to be responsible in ways I never imagined. I was always a responsible child, but once I bought a horse, it changed the game completely. I began working at the age of 14 to help pay for his expenses. I wasn’t old enough to have a real job, so I cleaned stalls and fed the horses every Saturday afternoon to work a measly $75 off my board. I was dedicated to that horse and did whatever I could to help with his expenses. Once I was old enough to get a real job, I took on the expense of his board by myself. Because I was still in school and not working very much, my parents still paid his vet and farrier bills. Now, being 20 years old and working almost full time, I pay for every aspect of my horse’s life. Money management has become a huge strength in my life because I learned it from such a young age.


Owning a horse has taught me to be responsible for people – and animals – other than myself. When I am getting ready to ride, I have to be mindful of what others are doing in the arena to be sure no one gets hurt. When I’m riding I have to be careful that I don’t push my horse too hard, too fast and cause an injury. When I’m teaching lessons I have to be sure I put my girls on horses that fit their skill level so they don’t get frustrated, overwhelmed, or hurt. I have to make important decisions regarding my horse’s health, like which supplements she needs and whether or not we are going to keep shoes on all her feet. Every one of these lessons have carried over into my adult life.


This is by far, one of the hardest lessons to learn. People judge. They judge everything. In the horse world it was especially hard for me to accept because I just loved my first horse so much and thought he was perfect. Well, I knew he wasn’t perfect, but I was the only one allowed to say that. Hearing it from other people wasn’t easy and I didn’t like it. Through the years, I learned to let it go and move on with my life, not caring what they thought or said. This lesson got me through high school in one piece.

How to accept criticism

Taking criticism was always extremely hard for me. The endless lessons with different trainers helped me to overcome this. Taking constructive criticism became easier as I learned that applying their corrections only helped better me as a rider and a horse-woman. I apply this in my everyday life the best I can. I’m not saying that I love when people criticize me, but I’m able to make the most of it by trying to apply it to how I live. You never know, sometime the criticism can be a breakthrough for you in a way you never could have imagined.

How to fall down and get back up

No question that horseback riding is one of the most dangerous sports- ranked number one most dangerous by, number two by, and number ten by  I couldn’t count the number of falls I’ve taken if I tried. The equestrian world has taught me that it’s okay to fall. It’s taught me how to stand back up and keep going. “If you aren’t going to the hospital, you’re getting back on!” Is the rule of thumb in the horse world. I intend to stick to it in everything I do. Falling down builds character, makes you tough, and keeps you on your toes. Every fall has taught me something- whether it’s something to do with riding or something regarding my horse, I’ve learned from every fall. Falling down keeps you aware of your surroundings the next time around- It make you think of ways to prevent it from happening again.

Hard work and determination

I remember when I first got my horse, we couldn’t make it through a cross rail course without mistakes, we couldn’t find a steady rhythm in the trot, and we had no concept of collection and impulsion. Now, less than a year later, we’re placing second and third in our 2’6” classes, we’re preparing for our first dressage show, and we have a good foundation of collection. It hasn’t been easy getting to this point. It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.  I’ve learned so much from this horse and our process of growing together.

How to love

Owning a horse has shown me a love that I didn’t think existed. I guess it’s kind of how parents feel about their children, but my mare is the closest thing I have to a child so I suppose it’s fitting.  The unconditional love, the endless hugs and kisses, and growing together as a team are just some of the best feelings I’ve experienced with horses. I didn’t know I would ever love my first horse the way I did. He was my best friend and there are still days that I break down and cry because I miss him so much.  After he was gone, I didn’t think I would ever love another horse. Silly me. Last summer I purchased another horse, and let me tell you, it was the best decision of my life. I loved her instantly. I didn’t know if I would ever love her the way I loved my last, or even nearly as much as I loved my last, but I do.  She taught me that it’s okay to love again, even after you’ve made mistakes in previous loves. She is my best friend and will forever hold a special place in my heart.

The equestrian world has given me life-long friends and life-long love.  I’ve learned what it’s like to accept and be accepted, love and be loved, and so much more.  Having a passion like this is one of the best things in the world. By doing what you love and learning about life, love, and happiness along the way is truly a blessing.


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