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It's All about Me!

It must be nice, arriving at the stables in your spotless brand-new ultra-luxury vehicle. Dressed in designer britches and boots that cost more than my horse, cell phone to your ear, and at least 15 minutes late for your "lesson." You aren’t worried about the barn dust getting on your ‘ride’ as the ‘car cleaning' service is on-site and your vehicle will be dust free, rinsed with de-ionized water and detailed as befits someone of your social and financial status. Your only real concern is that the down cycle in the markets might affect your husband’s ability to buy you a new ultra-luxury vehicle next year. You have noticed that the combined weight of your cell phone and diamond ring has started putting muscle definition in your left arm and you will have to talk to you personal trainer as this must be rectified.

It is comforting to know that your $175,000 imported horse will be warmed up, turned out, bathed, vacuumed, tacked and waiting for you, even though you still have to spend time chatting with your friends. You are very pleased that your trainer has done such a good job of teaching the horse just “who is the boss.” The trainer, wishing to avoid the castigation of last week, has already “aced” your horse, so there will be no repeat of the horse’s bad behavior as you ride. Besides, isn’t it "all about you” anyway? The horse is just an accouterment, just like the car, the diamond, the jewelry, the designer clothing, and everything else in your life. It’s all about me!

After your impressively expensive, 45 minute, “lesson” you sip designer water, and leave this place full of ‘lower class’ riders and those horrible western riders who don’t even wear designer jeans and who race around YOUR arena with impunity. It never occurs to you that the moment you leave the stable, a sigh of relief is heard from your trainer, the grooms, other riders, AND your horse. Nor does it occur to you that your $175,000 Grand-Prix horse is now worth about $30,000 in that it can barely manage lower level performance since you’ve owned him.

The trainer mounts your horse and reassures him that he does not have to worry about sharp spurs and heavy hands until next week’s lesson. The horse likes the trainer who cares for him, rides him softly, and knows that the trainer is his friend. No, the above it NOT fiction. Our stable has almost 500 horses and is 90% English riders and we see this behavior and horse abuse every day.

So, here I am showing up in my truck wearing faded Wrangler jeans and off-the-shelf Ariat boots (yeah, gotta plug Sharon’s sponsors). I lunge, turnout, groom and tack Cowboy all by myself and hop on for a trail ride or a workout in the arena, or both. No, I do not shampoo my horse more than once or twice a year and vacuums are for carpets not horses! And yes, he gets brushed a lot, rinsed off when he needs it, and his coat is soft and healthy. Cowboy is a tri-colored-bay-overo and his white shines! People always ask me what I use on my horses coat and don’t believe me when I say, “nothing but a brush!” (Apologies to any of Sharon’s sponsors who market grooming products.)

Cowboy is happy to see me when I show up and lets me know when I miss a day. I have a relationship with my horse. We work together, he knows his job and I try very hard to do mine. What is that job? Being Cowboy’s herd-mate! We look after each other. I try not to yank on his mouth and he tries not to let me fall off. When we compete, it is together. I don’t expect my trainer to ‘fix’ my horse. I ask my trainer to teach me how to properly and effectively train my own horse and how to ride him with balance and respect. When things go wrong, sometimes it is the horse’s fault, mostly it’s mine.

Now I’m NOT putting down wealth. I am a devout capitalist and believe if you have money you should spend it and help the economy. My issue is with the respect for your horse and for yourself, and for your friends and neighbors. And don’t think I don’t spend a few dollars more on my show clothes and pine after those Ariat Full Quill Ostrich Cobalt XR Pro boots! But it’s about the horse AND the rider, not about the clothes. It’s about a relationship between horse and rider.

When Gerald rides Cowboy Up to the Bar into the arena, we do it together. Cowboy loves to run and I love the rush of knowing we did it together, did our best and took care of each other. Hey, maybe we should apply this theory to human relationships also, eh? Please note: Apologies to anyone and everyone I’ve offended in this column. And YES, some of my best friends are English Riders!