Strength; A Letter To My Fellow Horsemen

When I reflect on the events of the past several months and I look to the industry I am so blessed to serve only one word, with several definitions, comes to mind; strength. Strength, as defined by the oxford dictionary, includes the following definitions;


  • The influence or power possessed by a person, organization or a country.
  • The degree of intensity of a feeling or belief.
  • The capacity of an object to withstand great pressure or force.
  • The emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult.

Keen’s brother Jon and his oldest son helping on the tractor on Keen’s wedding day, Photo Credit Tana Meyer

When I decided to publicly share my writing and art I had spent time dwelling upon the fact that Saddle Seat trainers, as a vast generalization did not often share literature or writing about their craft. Yes, there have been a couple of wonderful books produced in the past 50 years including Helen Crabtree’s 1970 book ‘Saddle Seat Equitation’ and more recently Smith Lilly’s 2012 book ‘Saddle Seat Horsemanship.’ However if you’re looking for literature from the dressage world, for example, on classical horsemanship you can find volumes of books and reading to dive into starting with Xenophon’s 2300 year old text ‘The art of Horsemanship.’

It isn’t that I have a lack of things to do as I have a farm and business to run and a family to tend to. I felt strongly that it was important that we as Saddlebred trainers have a voice in the horse industry and share our knowledge. I felt strongly that sharing my writing could be a unifying cause that would assist in breaking misconceptions. I hoped it would help other disciplines realize that we use the same tactics and techniques because at the end of the day we are all practicing horsemanship rather than a particular discipline. I figured, some would appreciate my efforts to discuss mental strength and horsemanship, and some would find it silly. I humbled myself with that fact and decided to go forward with the project.

When I started this literary journey I imagined producing an inspiring body of work to help, my own riders as well as others, stay motivated. Never did I imagine that after producing just six articles I would be shuttering the doors of my lesson program and keeping everyone at home and away from their horses due to an invisible killer, Covid-19. Never did I imagine that what people need most, equine therapy, would be unaccessible to a vast majority of riders. Never did I imagine the level of darkness our country would see.

Two horse trainers’ babies, enjoying a ride at Hanrahan Stables 2016 in a more certain time

I, as everyone, have faced the uncertainty of this time. I have faced the sudden loss of income. I have faced the government’s inability to deliver assistance and fulfill promises in real time. I have faced my own negativity and the negativity of my loved ones. I have faced my demons. Then, I faced the strength of my piers.

I faced the influence and power that my industry has while we are all standing on the same sinking ship. I have watched us all start to row together headed towards the shore. I have faced the degree of intensity that my fellow horse trainers have in the belief that everything is going to be okay. I have watched the capacity of my industry to withstand this storm.

It’s funny really, this blog was created to be all about mental strength but I really never even researched what strength really means until today.


“The emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult.”

“Strength,” 2.1, Oxford English Dictionary Online

Read that again… And again…

Strength is buying someone lunch when you really don’t have the income. You know that one simple act is enough to keep that person going for at least one more day.

Strength is knowing that a friend or pier is too prideful to be able to bring themselves to ask for help. There is strength in deciding not to actually ask if a person is okay, but just taking action instead. Strength is taking the physical steps to investigate into a person’s needs. It is bypassing that person and finding out what you can do to help and then implementing it.

Forging friendships with fellow horseman

Strength is collaboration, strength is encouragement, strength is the camaraderie of silly antics when all things point to desperation. Strength is not letting even one barn close. Strength is worrying about all of us as one team instead of just your solitary self interests.

I’ve never been more proud of this industry. I’ve seen us come together before but never on such a grand scale as this. I have also been there plenty of times to help my fellow horseman up however, never have I been so much on the receiving end of this kindness as I have been in the past few weeks.

When this phase passes whenever that may be, one thing I know for sure is that more than ever I will be able to comfortably encourage people to get their children involved in horses. They say it takes a village to raise a child. As a mother I know this is true. I look at the men and women who make up my village and I don’t know a group with more passion, more dedication, and more strength than the group I walk among.

So mommas, if you want your kids to be strong adults of great character, let them ride. When they ask for a pony for Christmas, let them ride. And if you don’t know how to get them started no matter where you’re from, you have a friend in me. Don’t hesitate to ask about riding programs in your area because I have a whole lot of paying it forward to do!

Fellow horse trainers and long time friends enjoy a baby shower many moons ago

Published by Keenbehringer

Keen is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor seeking to motivate and inspire people to be the best version of themselves through their interactions with horses and equestrian sports.

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