Ainslie Wilson

This Australian cowgirl traded life in the Outback for training horses in the Nebraska Sandhills.

ImageAinslie Wilson has a diverse ranching background. Her father raised her and her two sisters on a ranch, or “station,” in Euroa, Victoria, Australia. After graduating from high school, the cowgirl worked for a few cattle drovers before pursuing a photography degree in Melbourne. She continued her education in the Northern Territory, where she worked on the Alexandria Station, the Outback’s largest cattle operation. Wilson came to the United States in 1996 and worked for a horse trader in Nebraska, rode cutting horses in Texas and started Thoroughbreds for Calumet Farms in Kentucky. In 1998, she went to work for Brad Wilson, an Arthur, Nebraska, rancher and horseman whom she married in 2006.

SOME PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED to find out I can rope and ride colts, but they’re never disbelieving.

SPRING IS MY FAVORITE TIME of year, with baby calves and colts running around, the grass greening up, the birds singing, the sun warming your skin for the first time in months.

BEING A WOMAN certainly has its fair share of challenges when it comes to strength. Sometimes I have to ask for help, and that’s okay. But there are also times I have to stand up and remind people that I can do whatever needs to be done.

WHEN IT COMES TO HORSES, my husband has been my biggest influence. I thought I knew horses when I came to work for him. Ha! He taught me everything I know.

THE WESTERN LIFESTYLE enables me to be outside and active all day. I don’t like sitting around the house watching TV—that’s not me. At the end of the day, it’s satisfying to come inside tired, knowing I got a lot done.

TO LIVE THE RANCH LIFE, you must be confident in your own abilities, know your limitations and be able to make decisions. You also need to know how to read your husband’s sign language from a distance.

BEING A COWGIRL or a ranch wife isn’t a job you go to in the morning and leave in the afternoon. It has to be who you are. It’s about getting up early, staying up late, having cold hands and feet in the winter, and being hot and sweaty in the summer. It’s not getting enough sleep during calving, but having a beautiful baby calf alive because of it. It’s throwing as many loops as it takes to doctor a sick calf, or hoisting a saddle onto a colt for the first time, only to have to do it all again because the colt isn’t there anymore.

I FIND MYSELF WONDERING if all the clinicians out there are in the business for the horse, or for money and fame. I don’t believe they’re doing the right thing by the horses when they desensitize them to everything. When you take away a horse’s instinctive behavior, he’s no longer a horse. I wouldn’t want to ride a horse that has no inclination to save his own life; it’d be like riding a fencepost.

IT HELPS TO HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR [during calving season] when you drop the spotlight in the tank at 2 a.m., and the calving cow doesn’t want to go into the barn. It also helps if your husband has a sense of humor when you have to wake him up because you need help pulling the calf.

MY HUSBAND HAS TAUGHT ME that you can deal with both people and horses in much the same way. If you want something, set it up so it’s the individual’s idea, be patient, reward the right thing and make the wrong thing difficult.

I’M AFRAID THAT if ORDINARY PEOPLE like you and me don’t realize there’s a limit to everything we take for granted—water, clean air, land—that we could lose it all.

THE BEST ADVICE I’ve ever received is the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.