Considering Humanship

Maddy Butcher

Maddy Butcher is the author of Horse Head and the founder of Cayuse Communications and the Best Horse Practices Summit.

She writes:

I can be pretty transparent when it comes to personal opportunities for growth, life lessons, and horsemanship travails.

  • When I was regrettably finding a new home for my beloved mule, Jolene, you read about it.
  • When I was writing about fears and tragedies in life and how they intersect with horse time, you heard about them.
  • When I learned about my scoliosis, you read about how it affected my riding and about the arduous, long-term rehabilitation.

I share because I know readers have similar stuff going on. We’re all works in progress, facing difficulties and opportunities. The choices we make forge our individual characters and paths, but there are universal connections in our specificities.

We are not the same riders or people we were a decade ago. Surely, we hope we’re better, but sometimes we can be oblivious to our shortcomings: Whaddya mean I’m riding crooked? Whaddya mean I raised my voice?

If you’re like me, you notice more and more that in order to be good with horses, you need to be good with yourself. You need to work at your humanship along with your horsemanship.

  • Will we take a longer, more challenging path that involves unlearning bad habits before laying down better ones?
  • Will we be honest with ourselves about fears and weaknesses in the saddle, in relationships, at work?
  • Will we lift up our horses, our co-workers, our partners, and friends as we make our journeys?
  • What does empathy feel like for us and how does it play out in our lives and our lives with horses?

I feel lucky and privileged to put these questions before you. We horse owners are lucky and privileged to have these “First World” problems and to have horses in our lives.

And, yet, being human is hard no matter your socio-economic standing. Heck, most of us even struggle with the “indulgence” of horse ownership. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to horse-owning angsts.

Kyla Strange and Maddy Butcher relax during the 2019 Best Horse Practices Summit

This week, I heard my friend and accomplished horsewoman, Kyla Strange, talk about the “long heal” of working through life’s challenges. For me, the idea of the long heal nicely replaced long haul as a more thoughtful and positive expression of how we move through our adult years.

Since my three sons have flown the coop, I have earned a reputation for caring very little about my diet. It’s like the 20 years of shopping and cooking and putting three squares on the table had completely sapped me of any culinary motivation. An empty fridge is the new normal.

I’m trying to do better. Yesterday, I texted my son about my lunchtime sandwich: spinach, leftover steak, blueberries and Gorganzola cheese all broiled to perfection between slices of bread.

“Self-care in a sandwich,” he messaged back.

What’s this all about?

Call it a passion project, like writing Horse Head or founding the Best Horse Practices Summit: I’m working with talented colleagues (riders, therapists, photographers) to create a program that will address and embrace the intersection of horsemanship and humanship. Call it Camp Cayuse. It’ll be a gathering of engaged riders to consider this idea: In order to have happy, responsive horses, we need to be well and aware. In other words, can we work at being happy and responsive humans?

Stay tuned.

Posted in Horsemen & Women, Reflections and tagged , , , , .


  1. Great idea!! I am looking forward to seeing how this passion develops,… and perhaps being able to participate. Thank you for all your good work (for horses and people)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *