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COWBOY or TRUE HORSEMAN by Craig Cameron



As a young man I had a strong desire to be a cowboy. I think many young men do. In the beginning, they want to dress, walk, talk and act like a cowboy. Most young cowboys want to prove themselves and show the rest of the world just how tough, rugged and cowboy they are. However, nothing makes a cowboy a cowboy more than the horse.


Riding with a good horseman can teach you and your horse so much.

Unfortunately for the horse, he must deal with the cowboy who is out to prove himself. In the proving period, I think many horses are sacrificed because a cowboy or rider at this stage is thinking mostly, or only, about himself. This is an egotistical rider. It’s all about him and not about the horse. The person comes first and the horse comes second The horse is a vehicle the person uses to achieve his goals; the horse is not a living, breathing, feeling animal that shares the world with the rider. No, to this egotistical cowboy the horse is just a “thing,” like his truck, saddle, boots, spurs or any inanimate object he owns that shows he is a real cowboy.

A rider of this caliber can never be true horseman because he puts himself first instead of the horse. This type of rider is not a student because he always knows what to do. His hands are fast and unforgiving. He gets a bigger bit when the horse does not perform as he wants. He ties down a horse’s head to achieve position because this is the quick fix and the way everyone else does it. The rider jabs his spurs into his horse’s sides and never ever thinks about the important component called feel.

On the other hand, there is the man or woman who takes a different trail. That person’s way is a slower, more methodical path that takes time, and it is not about the human as much as it is about the horse. That person is willing to learn, to put his ego aside and develop respect for the horse, himself, and the art of horsemanship. This is the rider who is willing to listen, work and develop the essential component of experience. He has empathy and sympathy and feel for the horse.

This person knows that developing horsemanship skills is time-consuming, but when finally done right, is truly an art form. This person works on himself more than he works on his horse. The person knows the horse is actually a reflection of his rider—good or bad But this rider knows the trail of horsemanship has good and bad days, and that both are part of the process. This person eventually becomes what many would call a horseman, even though he calls himself a student.

He knows no man stands taller than when he is on the back of a horse. The horse is not a thing; the horse becomes his partner and friend. This person doesn’t do his work for fame, admiration or ego. He does it for the love of the horse.

Learn From a
Great Horseman

The slowest way to learn horsemanship is to try to teach yourself. You’re going to make every mistake, and not even know when you’re making them! The fastest way to learn is to find somebody knowledgeable and experienced. Ask questions, because that’s how you’re going to learn. Horsemanship is the same as learning anything else. You must be willing to be a student. Be willing to admit when you don’t know something. That’s showing a true love of the horse and horsemanship.

To find a great horseman, you have to ask around. You don’t want to find a pretender; you want to find a contender. You don’t want a fly-by-night guy, or someone who is abusive. You want a true horseman. He can help you because he’s in it for the horse. Tell him you want to learn, and be humble.

Make notes as you learn because you’re not going to remember everything. Write down things, and then go back and read your notes. Have your own horse journal where you can draw pictures or diagrams, make notes, even add quotations—whatever it takes for you to learn and improve.

Practice your horsemanship, work at it, apply it, but go slowly enough for you and your horse to learn. If you’re an impatient person, you’re not going to do well with horses.

Horsemanship doesn’t come overnight. Allow yourself the time to learn, first from the ground, then in the saddle. Make sure you can do maneuvers at a walk before you do them at a trot, and make sure you can do them at a trot before you attempt them at a canter. Allow yourself to get better physically, emotionally and mentally—mind, body and spirit.


A Native Texan Craig Cameron, one of the original clinicians, is on the road more than 44 weeks a year covering 80,000 miles demonstrating the style of horsemanship he has perfected in the last 23 years. Called the “public defender of the horse,” Craig dedicates himself to those who educate their horses by first educating themselves. At an age where most have long since retired the thought of starting colts, Craig Cameron known as “The Cowboy’s Clinician,” starts hundreds of horses each year.  Learn more about Craig Cameron at


This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 2


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