After bringing my horses home a few months ago, I found myself overwhelmed with the many different points of view regarding horsemanship and stable management. I was struggling with forming my own beliefs on what practices were “proper” when I received my copy of professional event rider Tik Maynard‘s autobiography, In The Middle Are The Horsemen. As I followed along with the ups and downs of Tik’s career as a working student, I found myself inspired by to think outside of the box when working with my horses.
This captivating book chronicles Tik’s journey over the course of several years as he fulfills the duties of a working student for some very recognizable names in the multiple disciplines. From a one-day stint with Canadian show jumping legend Ian Miller, to riding on the range herding cattle, to working for one of the most prestigious names in the hunter jumper community, Tik takes his readers on an emotional roller coaster of a journey that leads to the question: what do you consider the true sign of a horseman?
As Tik bounces from trainer to trainer, he struggles with deciding which training methods he 100% agrees with. He encounters many differing schools of thought throughout his time as a working student, such as natural horsemanship, but as he grows which each experience he adopts the mentality of “cafeteria riding.” The following excerpt from his book explains his mindset behind his worldly travels and thirst for a well-rounded education:
But then Lauren, who was standing in the middle of the sandy ring, said something that really struck me.
“All good trainers are trying to achieve the same thing. There are different paths to that goal. there are many ways to accomplish it. My advice to you is not to forget what you learned before but instead to throw yourself wholeheartedly into the system in which you find yourself. Only with that total immersion can you hope to really figure out what someone is trying to teach you. And then, when you are home again, you can pick and choose what you liked about each trainer’s methods.”
She was right. I had come to learn, and if I was holding on to another system, then there was no point in my being here. I had to, at least while I was with the O’Connors, learn to let go and just have faith in this new system… just as I had come to have faith in the old one. Like Lauren said, I should take what appealed to me from each system.
I called it Cafeteria Riding.”
Tik used this idea of cafeteria riding to his advantage and began to put together his own ideology about horsemanship and after finishing his book, I was able to apply this same principle to my own ideas on horsemanship. I have always felt as if my understanding of some of the more technical details of our sport were lacking and Tik’s book inspired me to think outside the norm in regards to my horsemanship practices and ask the question “why?”
For example, prior trainers taught me that lunging was an opportunity to “wear out” a fresh horse and to encourage the horse to gallop forward. Imagine my surprise when another trainer explained to me that lunging should be controlled and allow the horse a chance to settle in at a moderate pace. Prior to reading Tik’s passage about cafeteria riding, I was nervous to adopt theories from different schools of thought, but I think Tik sums up my realization best in this quote:
“Last year I thought I knew horses, but I had learned so much at the O’Conners’ I had been tempted to say upon leaving, ‘I did not know much before, but now I truly understand horses.’ Then I had come to this place, seen this herd, observed these horses. And now, I caught myself again thinking, ‘I must surely know horses now.’
I laughed at myself.”
As the book unfolds, we follow along while Tik blossoms from a shy, struggling working student in Germany to a young professional who is able to admit his own shortcomings and grow from them. His story is one of love and laughter, with plenty of life lessons learned along the way. It is apparent that Tik is not only a skilled horseman, but a talented writer and story-teller as well. Whether you are looking for an entertaining read or you hope to find your own niche in regards to horsemanship, In the Middle Are the Horsemen is a must-read.
Pick up your copy of In the Middle Are the Horsemen HERE.