Ovation Riding 2017 Essay of the Year

The 2017 Horse Nation Readers’ Choice Awards continue! Today voting opens for the best essay of the year — which of these pieces inspired you, provoked thought or evoked emotion in 2017?

Welcome to the 2017 Horse Nation Readers’ Choice Awards! For 2017, we’re giving readers the opportunity to look back at some of your favorite posts and articles from the past year and decide which of them deserves to win the ultimate year-end title.

In the age of social media and endless scrolling, quick-reading lists and viral videos are king — but that doesn’t mean that there still isn’t a place for the essay to discuss a critical topic in the horse world, and our readers agree. Here are some of our most-read essays of 2017: check them out one more time and then vote in the poll below! Our Readers’ Choice Award winners will be announced on Friday, December 29.

The nominees are…

Here’s How to Actually Make a Unicorn Frappe

The author’s unicorn. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

“Our unicorns come in many shapes and sizes, any breed or color or height or age or level of beauty. Our unicorns might not have come with a very big price tag — if any price tag — but they are worth their weight in gold. Our unicorns have taught our newest lifelong equestrians how to ride; they’ve helped us recover our confidence after a bad fall. They do not have horns, but the biggest hearts.”

On the heels of the Starbucks phenomenon of 2017, Kristen Kovatch describes a very different recipe for a very real kind of unicorn — one that doesn’t come in a plastic cup or glitter, but still possesses a unique brand of magic. Published on April 19, 2017: read the full essay here.

Here’s to the Barn Moms

Photo by Alex Pigg.

“No matter the discipline you ride, no matter whether you compete or ride for fun, there is one thing that most of us have in common — the barn mom that supported our crazy horse passion. Whether this is your own mother or a kind mother figure at the barn who took you under your wing, Mother’s Day is a day of recognition to all mothers.”

In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, Meagan DeLisle pens an open thank-you letter to barn moms in all forms, from the mother who supports us in all of our passions to the adopted mom who makes sure your boots are polished and your number is straight at every in-gate at every horse show. Published on May 12, 2017: read the full essay here.

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

Dressed up in Dots (Dotty) taking her new fake tail for a spin. Photo by Dannette Landes.

“Initially I joined in on poking fun at her appearance, but the more I got to know her, the more I came to love her. Dotty was a doer, always excited to take on whatever task I set in front of her. She took on these tasks with such gusto, and even things she didn’t get perfectly the first time around, she kept the same enthusiastic attitude while navigating her way through foreign maneuvers. Soon I began to respond to comments about Dotty’s appearance with the retort ‘pretty is as pretty does,’ and using that metric, Dotty was one of the most beautiful horses in the world.”

Biz Stamm tells the story of Dotty, an unconventional Appaloosa/Friesian cross who taught her that self-worth didn’t have to be attached to physical appearance, and how she learned to apply the truth of “pretty is as pretty does.” Published on July 14, 2017: read the full essay here.

Body Shaming in the Show Ring: Enough Is Enough

Photo courtesy of KBK Photography

“I can remember a time, so distant and long ago that it almost feels like a dream, when I had not yet ‘learned’ to feel ashamed of my body or my appearance. Kids deserve to spend as much time as possible in this stage, before our sport (and society in general) tells them they’re too short, too curvy, too thin, too young, or too old to win a blue ribbon.”

After collecting real riders’ stories about being told they were either overweight or underweight — not only by their peers but by trainers, coaches and judges — Kate Kosnoff calls for change in the equestrian world. Published August 3, 2017: read the full essay here.

Your Turn: Learning to Let Go

Day one: Runkle. Photo by Megan Kiessling.

“I admire the people who are strong enough to let go of horses. I didn’t have the strength to admit that I wasn’t having fun anymore and that maybe I should give up. Even typing that makes my blood curl. I hate giving up. But sometimes I wish I would. Giving up doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds, because an ending allows for the beginning of something new. Something better.”

Megan Kiessling experienced the devastating loss of a young horse in training, but discovers in her healing process with a new horse that perhaps letting go doesn’t mean giving up. Published September 26, 2017: read the full essay here.

Editorial: The Sublime vs. The Ridiculous

The horses of Odysseo, by Ilona Gerou

“Little knowledge of horses is required to compare the jacked-up look of the ‘big lick’ horses as they enter the arena to the relaxed, engaged look of the Odysseo horses. I have seen the wary-eyed demeanor of the big licks in their stalls. In contrast, I was summoned and nuzzled by the soft-eyed Odysseo horses as I strolled past.”

With both the traveling equine show Odysseo and the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration taking place in Tennessee this summer, Candace Wade was well-placed to compare the two — and the likely individual experiences of the horses that make both possible. Published October 12, 2017: read the full essay here.

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