Tik Maynard: “Does The Horse Really Come First?”

Tik Maynard is an advanced-level eventer and firm believer in natural horsemanship. He’s rarely found without a rope halter in hand. Tik is a professional trainer at Copperline Farm, which he runs with his four-star eventing wife, Sinead Halpin, in Citra, Fla.


By Tik Maynard

I grew up riding through Pony Club in Canada. In Canada and the U.S., those who competed in the Pony Club sport of Tetrathlon were encouraged to try Modern Pentathlon, one of the oldest Olympic sports, (which involves five phases: show jumping, shooting, swimming, fencing and running) which I did for 10 years or so. I just missed qualifying for the 2008 Olympics and I began to get discouraged.

In pentathlon, you’re essentially catch riding. There’s very little relationship building with the horse. But the part of riding I enjoy the most is building that relationship, which is what drew me to learn more about horsemanship practices.

We hear so many riders talk about how the horse comes first. It’s what we’re taught as young riders. But all too often riders aren’t willing to sacrifice their own goals, so it’s the horse that is retired or sold when those goals no longer align. So does the horse really come first, or the goals? I don’t think that is wrong, just something we should be aware of.

Through my own journey with horses, I’ve learned that it’s easy to judge what’s different than what we are used to. We don’t learn enough from each other. The horse world is bigger than we think. It crosses all these amazing and different disciplines. Just because one rider does something differently than what we know doesn’t make it wrong. That is their decision to use draw reins or a carrot stick and rope halter. We are all on different paths, and that is OK.

Read this next: Natural Horsemanship Isn’t a Dirty Word

What I’ve learned from riding with renowned figures in the horse world, from Ingrid Klimke, David and Karen O’Connor, Bruce Logan and Ian Millar, is that no matter how good you are, you can always get better.

Just because one rider does something differently than what we know doesn’t make it wrong.


Even through the best relationships I’ve had with a horse, I believe I’ve only experienced maybe 10 percent of what that relationship could be, at its fullest. I think our partnership can be taken to a whole other level, if we take the time to listen and understand our horses. That takes time, years or decades, of investment.

Like this article? Try: Sinead Halpin: “You Never Know Who Is Watching”

A lot of competitive riders have never been around horses outside of an arena or stable setting. They’ve never seen how horses interact in the wild or in a real herd. They’ve only interacted with trained, tame horses. That means their understanding of the animal is limited.

In this sport, we learn by making a lot of mistakes with horses. We make plenty of mistakes along the way, and we learn from them.

I still compete and I consider myself a competitive person. But I’d be just as happy to only work with horses only on the ground. Luckily I get to do both right now.

Tik Maynard’s new book, “In The Middle Are The Horsemen”, which studies the horse, human nature and how the two can find balance, is available for purchase through Trafalgar Square Books.

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