When I was kid, it was easy to define what it means to be a man. All I had to do was watch a closing scene from The Right Stuff during which Sam Shepard playing Chuck Yeager stoically walks away from a plane crash scene. The driver of an oncoming ambulance sees his shape in the distance and asks, “Sir? Over there. Is that a man?” The fighter pilot in the passenger seat responds, “Yeah, your damn right it is!” Over the years, for ego-preservation, I’ve had to adjust my definition of manhood to highlight alternate virile traits like coming up with killer puns, yelling at commentators while watching televised sports, immediately coming down with symptoms of any ailment one learns about, complaining about the weather (even when it’s perfect), and knowing just who to call when something around the house needs fixing.

It’s particularly difficult to define manhood in these fraught modern times. In GQ, the excellent Rosecrans Baldwin rode into the sunset to find some answers about American manhood; ours in general, and his in particular. Do You Need a Visit to the Confident Man Ranch? “Equine-assisted coaching was integral to their system primarily because horses are extraordinary readers of humans. The animals, they explained, exist in one of two states—afraid or not afraid—and when a person comes near, they immediately sense whatever is being projected: confidence or insecurity, intention or confusion. Maybe we didn’t know what was going on inside our minds and bodies, but the horses did and would respond in kind.” (I have a similar relationship with my beagles, who have come to understand me better than anyone. The second I get home and walk through the door, they immediately run to the couch and wait for me.)