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The Greenhorn Chronicles 7: Leann (Pitman) Manuel on Wisdom, Intuition, Disabilities, and Elitism (2)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2022/06/01


Leann (Pitman) Manuel’s bio states: “Leann was as good as born on a horse, and has been fortunate to work with them daily since her very early twenties. From Pony Club and 4H as a child, through national level competition and several World’s Show qualifications with her Quarter Horse as a teen, to some Dressage tests, a few Cowboy Challenge clinics, and the daily operations at Riding 4 Life today, Leann’s horsemanship practice continues to seek out anything and everything she may be able to learn or experience with horses. Leann is passionate about helping others realize the value of having horses in their lives – no matter the breed or creed – and she hopes to continue to grow and nurture the horsemanship community in her region well into the future.” She discusses: prospective employee interviews; intuitive sense; make a greenhorn not a greenhorn; developmental disabilities outside of the autism spectrum; narrative of trauma; elitism; and industry’s interactions with outsiders and with one another.

Keywords: developmental disabilities, elitism, employees, intuition, Leann Manuel, Riding 4 Life, wisdom.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 7: Leann (Pitman) Manuel on Wisdom, Intuition, Disabilities, and Elitism (2)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When you’re doing prospective employee interviews, how do you evaluate individuals knowing the difficulty of the job?

Leann (Pitman) Manuel[1],[2]: So, I have yet to hire somebody who I am not already familiar with. They have already been a client. I have been their foundation of horsemanship from the get-go. Or I’ve seen them with their horse or other horses and, at a distance, been able to see their horsemanship.

Jacobsen: Is it an intuitive sense when observing them over a long period of time?

Manuel: Some would say, “It is intuitive.” It is not as if I have this conscious thinking template. Every time, my eyes are on a horse. I’m with a student training. It is this mindful awareness. I don’t have to put words or language to understand everything. There are ways of knowing and being, and skills that I have; I don’t necessarily have them written down. I’m trying to write part of my curriculum down because there are opportunities to get some course credit for some of the teens.

Of course, I have to play nice with the school system and demonstrate on paper. It is not my favourite thing to do. I would much rather drag someone out to the riding arena and the round pen, and let’s do this thing. You are going to get better by doing. I can help you do that. So, yes, how do I really know? I don’t know if I have adequate words for that. I can give people words if they really need them. Like any other funder, if I need to prove outcomes, show me the funder requirements, I’ll get it done.

I don’t know if you are familiar with any of Malcolm Gladwell’s work. His book Blink offers something I appreciate. I appreciate many of his books. He talks about the thin, slicing look at something. Folks who become masters or professionals at what they do begin to trust their whole selves. That’s a big part of what I have done over the years. It is a skill and a competence, and teaching people to trust themselves. I am actively pursuing this here.

Jacobsen: It’s difficult translating wisdom and intuition based on experience to a formal curriculum. I could imagine the difficulty in that.

Manuel: Oh, man! Sometimes, staring at the screen, “How do I describe this in three well-written paragraphs?”

Jacobsen: What if someone doesn’t have a lot of experience, though they want to become a part of riding for life? How do you make a greenhorn not a greenhorn?

Manuel: That’s the bulk of what we do. I shouldn’t say everybody. But client-wise, the vast majority of our clients haven’t really ridden a horse before, maybe a pony ride. I almost do this on purpose. When I originally started in 2004, when I started Riding 4 Life formally, I made a point of not re-recruiting the same horse people. Those were not my clients. If you had already been a client at several other places, the ne hottest thing, I don’t want you.

I want beginners, pretty please, because there is a lot of unlearning that has to happen. A lot of habits, preconceived ideas, “cognitive bias” would be one of the academic terms for it. I have got to do battle with a lot of that first. I think I have it easy as far as clients because most of the clients are 8,9, or 10, years old. They are open, curious, in school, skilled in growth and learning. It is their number one job in life.

So, it is super easy to get them started. Our curriculum, some of the core skills, I put under the heading, “Leadership.” Four or five parts of that are abundantly important. One is lead by example. Courage is another one. Those are two things to go to in the curriculum. Never expect students to do things you are not willing to do; you can’t teach something you can’t do. We do it. I learn really well by seeing it, hearing it, and being in the environment, and letting it soak it, without having to focus on having to take the write notes, study, spit it out on the test.

I’ve been there, done that. Let’s get them near a horse, on a horse. One of the other important things, I think, which works well here, anyway. We have the curriculum written down in written form with skills and expectations. Our staff know what the skills look like and what they can get you with a horse. But we are not going to make you read a text about it. We are not going to make you memorize it. We might not even mention that vocabulary.

Somehow, we will get you going through the motions of the skills. We might tell you later what we did. I have a newcomer to our staff who is a parent of a client. They have experience. They own a couple of horses. She is starting to teach beginner teachers with us. She has been certified as a beginner instructor elsewhere. She’s like, “Leann, where is the book? What is the vocabulary? I need to teach them the right word for things.” I’m like, “No, you don’t.” Some of our clients are non-verbal.

I don’t care what it is called. I want them to learn it firs.t The way we encode, the way memory works, we memorize or learn things by hanging them on other experiences. It is useless to tell them what a billet is. “What is the point pocket on your saddle?” Is this useful to their horsemanship journey at this point? Well, no, honestly, the only time “point pocket” has been useful has been saddle fitting at a high-end competition with my fancy horse deciding if this saddle might be costing me a half-pointing on one point on my dressage test at medium level or in a Pony Club test.

Otherwise, I could go my life not knowing what the point pocket was, so we try to keep it down to earth that way. Also, remove those barriers of overwhelm, so many beginners hit them.

Jacobsen: What other developmental disabilities outside of the autism spectrum come forward for some of the clientele?

Manuel: Oh, gosh, a whole range, another thing, I should mention. Autism is such a high percentage of my clients because there is funding. As a social worker, in my past life, I am accustomed to dealing with government legislation, systems, and being able to do the language bit. So, I’ve been a service provider with the Ministry of Family and Children for a number of years. That’s the most available funding pocket, which is autism funding. We get a lot of requests.

We struggle to get those kids’ services paid for, sometimes. But I’d say, “If it weren’t for funding, the number one thing is mental health.” Kids and teens with, usually, anxiety disorders, depression, etc. There are all kinds of labels that come with this. Through my eyes, they come through trauma. They’re all trauma related. Trauma growing up in a family that isn’t the idyllic family, never need a therapist. There are so many people going through so many traumas in our culture.

Our society isn’t good at recognizing them and healing them. Trauma is common. We could normalize it in a lot of cases. We don’t, by and large. We fail at that. That’s one of the things that I’ve been successful at here. “Oh, you have trauma. Welcome to the club! [Laughing] Here’s how we incorporate that.”

Jacobsen: Do you incorporate your narrative of trauma when talking to clientele or staff to normalize the conversation?

Manuel: When it comes up, yes, definitely, I have a staffer who I am thinking of in this moment. They are having overwhelming anxiety attacks. It tends to happen as a new client is showing up. They have to meet the client and been the superhero instructor. All these expectations and intrusive thoughts come, ‘I am going to suck. I am like, “Yeah, you might. But that’s okay. You are just starting and learning. I am here for you. If you suck and somebody complains, then I will have a conversation with that parent. I will remind them what it is like.”

I want to normalize it and bring it back down to Earth. One of my criticisms for my own industry and my own colleagues in the horse industry. There is a certain measure of elitism running rampant.

Jacobsen: Is it worse in different sectors?

Manuel: No.

Jacobsen: It is a thread throughout everything?

Manuel: Yes. It doesn’t matter if you are on the $50,000 dressage horse. You’re hoping to compete in Kentucky. Or you’re on the shining spark show horse… it doesn’t matter at that level. You run into elitism in every discipline everywhere.

Jacobsen: How does this change the industry’s interactions with outsiders and with one another?

Manuel: I have a lot of thoughts about why that is. It would an entirely different interview on colonialism and all that jazz. It is everywhere. I’ve worked in a lot of different disciplines, worked with a lot of different breeds of horses, been to a lot of different horse shows. After a while, they all start to look the same. So, here I am, in my muck boots, with very few brand name pieces of clothing anymore, which you could find at a tack store, most of mine come from Value Village because it does the same job at this level.

Once upon a time, when I was qualifying for the World’s, it did matter that I had the particular piece of equipment for that horse doing that job. For the vast majority of people who want to compete in the industry, if it is, basically, safe, adequate, and not hurting anybody, I don’t want to hear about it. There are more important things to worry about.


[1] Instructor & Founder, Riding 4 Life Equine Enterprises.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 1, 2022:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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