The man who first taught me to ride passed away yesterday. Dan Ramberg was truly one of the greats. His accolades were many – from being named the Minnesota Horse Council’s Horseperson of the Year, to his nationally-recognized Roman riding show in the 1950s. You can watch some clips of that here:
To me, I most remember that he was generous with knowledge.
Dan knew everything, or at least it seemed that way. He taught me that horsemanship goes far beyond the saddle. He taught, not just what to do, but how and why to do it. He first taught me the concept of pressure and release, how to train a horse walk a horse over a tarp, or bridge, or into a creek. He was known to stop and watch you ride, and he would often walk over and give an impromptu lesson. He taught me how to load an unwilling horse. He taught me how to tie a quick-release knot. He taught me that the horse comes first, always.
But beyond the practical things he taught me, Dan also taught me less tangible things. Grit and determination. A thirst for knowledge. Confidence in my own abilities. And even though I grew up and moved to a new city, all these lessons have stayed with me and shaped me as a person in a very real way.
Dan created a barn that welcomed people. No matter your age or ability, if you had the desire to learn and the perseverance to keep going, you were welcome. As a kid, I think I took it for granted that that was just how it was supposed to be – that all barns were welcoming and encouraging, and that all barn owners had expansive knowledge to freely share. Now, as an adult, I know how lucky I was to grow up in that barn.
Since I heard the news of his passing, memories have been surfacing. Trail riding in South Dakota. Being so pleased when Dan would ask me to help take the school horses out to the far pasture and hanging onto their lead ropes while sitting in the bed of his truck. How he once fixed my broken boot lace with a pocket knife and a lighter. My first summer of camp, when we got to go on a trail ride at the end of the week, and he built a fire in the woods so we could roast hot dogs after learning how to tie our horses safely to the trees. How he once said my heart horse was, “a good horse” and I knew that the highest praise.
As I have reflected, I think Dan’s greatest lesson was about generosity. Being free with sharing knowledge, being free with giving your time and attention to others. These are things that Dan did – sometimes more gruffly than others – and I think they are some of the greatest gifts we can give to one another.
So if there’s a big pasture in the sky, somewhere over the Rainbow Bridge, I think Dan is there now, with the horses that have gone before us. Happy trails, Dan.