As 2021 comes to a close, it's that time of year to re-evaluate. To reflect on how things are going, what's worked this year, what's not worked...what learning opportunities are available that can help us start off 2022 on the right foot, headed in the right direction for our goals.
We should all have goals- hope's and dream's are something everyone needs in these challenging, uncertain times. In our odd COVID world, with a resurgence inevitably upon us, hope gives us the coping mechanism and a little glimmer of light to work towards to help get us through challenges.
Horse barn operations from the inside-out, do have many challenges- despite looking from the outside as a "fun" easy job. Keeping track of each horse's complex and different needs, along with managing multiple bodies on different days, add in owner "simple" requests at the last moment or changes in turnout, feed, supplements, blanketing, leaving in or out for whatever reason may seem easy....but doing it on top of managing life and other responsibilities can quickly begin to feel like living in a three-ring circus! There isn't often much gratitude for the majority of effort, but let something slide and you sometimes find yourself getting yelled at....a post for another day.
Horses don't know if it's a holiday. They don't care about social plans, they have the same routine day in and out. They rely on us to keep them on point...meaning at the expense of living life sometimes to those responsible for their care. Never mind the surprise injuries or illnesses that seem to mostly happen after hours, weekends, or during emergency hour times. Regardless, it is a passion for me to do that is just in my blood and what I enjoy.
What I am intent on focusing on in this upcoming year at Meadowthorpe Farm, however is education. Giving back and collaboration with community horse endeavors that are aligned to our vision, and promote learning above all else. I have been disappointed in seeing a dwindling dedication and passion in some of our endeavors this year, and a lack of true alignment to what we promote here. I have been observing and taking note, and what I have noticed in response to opportunities I have presented, is a lack of enthusiasm for our core values and an interest in traditional showing and competition that to be frank, does not align with why we are here and what we are trying to do.
Going to horse shows, and winning top ribbons is something that can be achieved anywhere at any barn. We are not interested in that here in 2022. What we are here to do is expand your knowledge and education about horses, horsemanship, and all things such. If you can go to a horse show, win a top ribbon out of many of your friends, have the latest and greatest equipment, look the part, ride the part, pay for the part....BUT you have NO IDEA WHY you won...you can't explain what you are doing, how it applies to the horse, or to you, what is the point? If you aren't sure how to care for your horse, what to feed them, what they are eating, why they are eating it, and spending as much time on the before and after care of your horse as you do showing up and riding the horse, that blue ribbon doesn't mean very much.
One benefit I have seen this year from offering and running several of our students through our Global Equestrian Level 1 Horsemanship and Riding curriculum is that our youth need more education! As a coach of an IEA team having students participating from barns from all across our area, one thing rang true....top riders and competitors didn't know as much as I assumed about basic horse care. The kids who went through any of these lessons admitted they learned a lot more than they thought they would and were shocked as I was at the lack of basic knowledge that is often just "assumed" top riders have because they win "blue ribbons"
Blue ribbons are a misconception of actual knowledge. Riding skill is just one piece of the pie that makes up a well-rounded horsewoman or horseman! Honestly, it's a small piece of the pie, unless you have the funds and money to "cheat" in my opinion and buy the whole pie. Paying to play does cheat learning the whole story and having a complete toolkit and skillset to help you truly stand out- on your own. So that you can make the pie yourself, from scratch!
This year, I discovered a bad spot in the pie. I discovered a spot that isn't aligned to our vision of well-rounded horsemanship here at Meadowthorpe or for the Memphis Youth Equestrian Team. I discovered that my passion had back-fired. My attempt to give kids an opportunity to horse show through IEA was still catering mostly to those who can afford to "pay to play". Because of the format with so many newbies coming into the sport through this entry point, many of my team members are getting more focused on competition and developing and unrealistic expectation of what good horsemanship really is. Even worse, the format so grossly skews the amount of work and preparation that REALLY goes into getting a horse to a show....and the work afterwards. Kids can just show up, dress up, get on the horse, ride, dismount, and boom, done.....
EXCEPT FOR THE HORSE OWNERS AND THOSE PROVIDING HORSES FOR USE AT THIS FORMAT......
Parents and kids get to pack it up, leave, and skip on out, leaving the "horsemanship" and horse care up to others.....
Hum....this is a misrepresentation of priorities that we want our clients to learn and isn't serving horses in the manner we prefer....
Horses are NOT machines to be used, used, and used again for benefit of a blue ribbon pursuit. At least, not here. Not with my team, and not on my horses! Parents and kids are wanting to put the cart before the horse and insisting on jumping more, jumping higher, riding longer, cantering sooner, skipping to higher divisions because they want to keep up with their friends, or because other barns they ride at don't have the strict safety guidelines we do and are letting riders do things that quite frankly, are unsafe! If you can't stay on a horse without stirrups at a trot, insisting on cantering and even jumping on MY horses will quickly and consistently get you a "NO". Here's why"
Events we offer will be merit-based. You do the work, you perform the required milestones, you get the privilege of next steps on horses owned and provided by us in our program and at this farm. Pay to play doesn't work here without the work and effort and milestones put in too.
Participation and use of our time will be offered to those who give back to horses and our community by participation in the new BridgeUpGiddyUp program with our partner Global Equestrian counterparts. This program offers diversity and inclusion in our local community by providing 48 deserving students from the Whitehaven community access to equestrian education and riding. Collaboration is the real world. Our group will experience how to collaborate with the many different faces and backgrounds from our community gathered together because of our passion for horses. Diversity makes us better and more enlightened....real world lesson #3.
More to come. This is just the tip of the iceberg for us in 2022. But seems a fitting close for this post. Hope to see many of you stick around for the ride...AND the ground lesson!