Tank, the school horse that I ride most of the time

Tank, the school horse that I ride most of the time

We’re amateurs.  Horses are our passion, not our profession.  As much as we would like to get paid to ride our horses all day long, we have necessary day jobs that provide the income to support our life with horses.

We go to our barn, and we see people there, and we ride with them.  We know their names, and their horse’s names, and what disciplines they participate in, and who their trainers are.  But do we know them?  Do we know what they do from 9 to 5?

When Anne Heyman died in a riding accident at Wellington earlier this season, it dawned on me that my answer was a sad and resounding, “no.”  And it made me think…

I live in Washington, DC — arguably one of the most powerful cities in the world.  So there are bound to be others like Anne in my world, and my barn.  What a waste it would be for me to miss the wonderful people in my barn.  People like Anne are a gift.  We should realize and appreciate all the Annes in our own lives, and not pass them by out of ignorance.  

So I started listening to the people I ride with.  What they do.  Their charitable works.  Their other passions.  And the people they know.  And I discovered that I know some really cool people.  

Just by paying attention to the wonderful people who are already around me, my friends from the barn include a two time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, an EPA scientist who works to keep dangerous pesticides under control, a former-CNN librarian who now works for the UN documenting the Rwandan genocide (she’s living in Tanzania, so I’m trying to figure out how to go for a visit), a later-in-life college graduate now living and working abroad, a phenomenal young chef and budding college student, a great vegan chef who has a passion for his home country’s cuisine and marries the two like nothing I’ve ever seen, a competitive canine agility trainer and foreign service officer, and a woman who represents workers in a labor union.

Then I went to the Maryland Horse Expo with friends, and got to meet even more amazing people.  I met one of the first African-American jockeys in the state of Maryland, her sister, and her granddaughter.  Even cooler — I got to ride one of her horses, and hopefully will be going out to her farm to take lessons once the weather warms.  Not to mention the variety of trainers, equine specialists, breeders, and competitors with whom I now have conversations thanks to the miracle of technology.

Yes, there are also amazing riders:  the older husband and wife foxhunting pair, the younger couple where the husband took up riding so he could spend more time with this equestrian wife, the budding show circuit jumpers, the impressive endurance competitors, and the woman who rides through her arthritis, always with a smile on her face.  There are those who care for older horses who are beyond their prime:  the crazy old mare whose outbursts simultaneously scare and anger her riders and instructors, the older mare with Cushings Disease who really does take a village to keep her well, the prize winning show pony who thinks she knows everything, the retired eventer who knows he knows more than his rider, no matter who it is — even the school horse with rotten ground manners.

There are incredible people all around us — in their equestrian endeavors, in their professions, and in their personal lives.  We should never take them for granted.  Nor should we let them drift past us because we didn’t take the time to get to know them beyond the barn.

For the record, I never met Anne.  But I would have liked to.  She took her legal career from Manhattan to Rwanda, representing the needs of those orphaned by the war there.  And she followed her passion to the A Circuit at Wellington. Wow!

So who do you ride with?