Kristen Kovatch makes a resolution for all equestrians.
Happy January, Horse Nation: here’s to another year full of horses, good friends and on our end, plenty of horse news and ridiculousness. By now, we’ve made our resolutions (horsey or otherwise) — those of us on the Horse Nation staff have plenty of goals to be met in 2017, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to not only share our journeys with you but help you along your equestrian way as well with plenty of news, articles, humor and commiseration.
I have a resolution for all of us across Horse Nation, from writers and contributors to readers, both dedicated and casual. Let’s make 2017 the year of “ambassadorhood,” 365 days of opportunity to introduce our world to the uninitiated, the curious and the beginner. Let us all assume the role of ambassador for our sport in all its incarnations, from the competitive rider to the recreational hobbyist, from English to western, from rider to driver and everything in between.
Now, I admit that we haven’t always done a good job doing that — we all get tired of the endless questions of “can I ride your horse?” and it’s certainly an easy gag to giggle about some of the other things that non-equestrians might say or do. After all, it’s fun to be part of this secret society of horse people, bound by our love for the animal and the awareness that we possess an extraordinarily unique skill set. But we can definitely do better — all of us.
Over the weekend, I gave wagon rides around a historical neighborhood in our community with my draft team Rocky and Randy — between my father-in-law’s wagon and my own, we shuttled 205 people around the grounds! Each trip around was a bit of a performance: we smiled, we pointed out the historical sights, and we introduced 205 people to our horses. We answered lots of similar questions: how old are they? (And the related question — how long do they live?) How much do they weigh? Where do we keep them? How much can they pull?
At risk of anthropomorphizing my team, it did seem like Rocky and Randy understood that they were ambassadors themselves — they gently snuggled on children who walked cautiously forward to pet their noses; they pricked their ears for photos; they stood quietly while a wave of humanity swarmed around them, curious and eager. I’d like to think that perhaps a tiny seed might have been planted this weekend in some of our passengers, something that could grow — if not to full-on love for horses, then at least an appreciation for the various gifts they can provide.
I reflect on a trail ride I took over Christmas while visiting family out of town: reaching a broad, well-groomed section of public trail way, we opened our little group up into a great rolling ground-covering canter, thundering down the trail in a posse, enjoying our time on horseback and together. Across the valley, we heard someone off in the distance holler “yee haw!” Each time we flashed out of the trees and into the open, we heard the cry again. We never saw the person, but we all laughed, knowing that the moment in time that gave us so much pleasure also cheered someone else’s day, and we carried that attitude for the rest of the ride, greeting each pedestrian we met along the trail with a smile.
That’s the spirit we all should aspire to carry through 2017 — because if we don’t serve as our own ambassadors for our hobby, our sport and our passion, who will? It’s not up to our breed associations, our horse clubs, our equestrian governing bodies or our ag extension programs — it’s up to us, those of us who have devoted large chunks of our free time (and perhaps even our professional lives) to horses and everything that goes with them. For 2017, let’s resolve to better share our industry, to welcome newcomers into the equestrian world and to help nurture and foster a love of horses in anyone who wants to open their hearts.
Let a stranger pet your horse. Let your neighbor ask some questions. Let your friend come and take a pony ride on your horse (if it’s safe to do so!) And remember that we’re all ambassadors for equestrians everywhere.