“My goal has always been to educate our readers, to remind readers to think objectively or see another point of view, and of course, to make our readers laugh long and laugh often. Of course, I learned, broadened my view and laughed as much myself along the way.”
I was teaching professionally at the time, midway through the winter of my second year as the western teacher, trainer and coach at Alfred University, when two of my students came bounding out of the equestrian center common room to flag me down.
“There’s this new website you should write for! It’s called Horse Nation!”
A few weeks later, my inaugural column was launched. Leslie Wylie, the head editor at the time, seemed thrilled to — in her words — have wrangled herself a real, live cowgirl, and my writing career with Nation Media was launched.
I flung myself into the great land of Horse Nation with one guiding thesis: if I was thinking it about horses and horse life, surely someone else was too. And that proved to be our great common ground here, no matter what disciplines or breeds we ride or drive, or if we just like to watch our horses grazing out in the pasture on a summer evening, having never thrown a leg over them at all. If I was thinking it — and it came to refer to so many things, from which house of Westeros our horses would be in to how we as a people jump the gun on false spring every single year — someone else was thinking it. I had found my tribe.
I applied my patchwork equestrian background to Horse Nation because, after all, it takes all kinds of kinds: in my horse life, I started out in equitation/hunter/jumper, ridden enough dressage for a solid foundation, gone to intercollegiate nationals in western horsemanship, chased cattle through the mountains of Wyoming on a homebred Arabian and showed Percherons at the county fair. A lifetime of chronic dabbling let me dip my toe into many facets of the horse industry, and built a lifelong appreciation for the various details and intricacies of individual disciplines while realizing that at our core we all have so much in common.
And at the end of 2017, I took a leap of faith and got myself a horse of my own for the first time in four years: a scruffy off-track Thoroughbred named Jobber Bill. We enrolled in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and got to work.
Participating in that Thoroughbred Makeover left me with the surprising yet comforting sensation of coming home; I felt united with so many other individuals with the goal of making the world a better place for the off-track Thoroughbred. When the Retired Racehorse Project offered me the opportunity to take that goal and make it the next step in my career, I knew I had to answer the call. I’ve taken the position of Program Manager for the Retired Racehorse Project, transitioning out of my role at Horse Nation.
I think back to a moment at the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover: we were walking through the ranch pattern with the judges and were gathered at the ground-tying obstacle. A voice piped up behind me in the crowd of competitors with a question for the judges.
“So, we’re going to ground tie… and let’s just, you know, for the sake of argument, assume that it actually goes well…”
I smiled, though this person behind me couldn’t see me. This was my kind of girl: a brand of self-deprecating humor I could get behind, a sense that while she knew she was as prepared as she could be she also knew that horses would be horses, and unafraid to share both of these convictions with the judges. That person turned out to be DeAnn Sloan, and we struck up a friendship after the Makeover. (As it was, she had a beautiful ground-tie with her mare Rightful Goddess, aka Mac, who then decided that when it was time for DeAnn to step back on that she no longer wished to participate in the day’s festivities. Horses, man.)
This interaction is exactly why I’m so pleased to introduce DeAnn as the next managing editor of Horse Nation: she is diffident, she is realistic, she is open-minded and she is just funny as hell. She’s a brilliant horsewoman and a talented writer, and I could not be happier to turn the reins of Horse Nation over to her capable hands.
While my tenure as managing editor has come to a close, it’s my wish that these tenets of Horse Nation will continue on: cherish the lifestyle. Be kind to one another. And never stop loving your horse. Go riding.
Kristen Kovatch, editor emeritus