Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vive La Difference!!

Have you ever been in a conversation with another horse person, possibly someone you just met, and inevitably, they ask you what kind of horses you have, and when you reply, they instantly get a look in their eye that tells you that they have catagorized you?  That they seem to think they know all about you based simply on the breed of the horses in your barn?  I have been musing about this phenomenon this morning, and would like to share my thoughts.

My first horse was a Half Arabian, and my second horse was a purebred Arabian.  We started out showing 4-H and at local open shows, where stock breeds were king.  I was undaunted though, and had enough pride in my horse that I bravely showed against Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas in the western classes, knowing that typically, the judges chosen by the local horse show association were stock breed judges.  Sometimes we did very well, perhaps because my Arab was an excellent western horse (most of the time!) and occasionally, because we got a judge with an open mind, and an appreciation for a good horse regardless of breed.  And unlike some of the stock horses I competed against, my horse was able to do everything - halter/showmanship, english, and western, and even the occasional trail or games class.  (Yes, I still am proud of that fact!  :)

Throughout that period, I felt like the 'in' crowd were the kids who rode stock breeds.  There was frequently comments made by uncouth people who would say things like,"you do pretty well, for someone who rides one of them A-rabs."  It is amazing to me now how many adults were willing to insult my horse, based on breed, while I was really just a young, impressionable kid.  I loved my horse, and loved the heritage of the breed, so to me, the words stung.  We kept our horses, at the time, at a multi-breed stable, so I got to ride lots of different kinds of animals - which was both exciting and educational.  I sincerely loved all breeds - all horses, really - I just happen to love Arabians the most.  It wasn't until I started showing on the Arab circuit that I realized that Arab people didn't care much for Quarter Horse people either.

Having grown up in the horse industry, it is very apparent that we haven't gotten over our breed prejudices.  Here in the US, the Quarter Horse is the largest breed, so therefore, Quarter Horse people think they rule the roost.  Most other breeds are looked down upon from that lofty perch, and even if they don't express it openly, people who come from other breeds are not always allowed in the 'cool' QH club.  Some Arabian people think that the purity of their breed sets them apart from the rest of the horse world, and that they are inherently superior.  I have seen Thoroughbreds labeled as speed freaks and crazy, when they are reacting to a stimulus in the same way that any other horse would.  I have seen Saddlebreds labeled as too hot to be pleasure/trail horses, even when they are perfect for just that, especially when you just let them be horses.  I have heard people say terrible things about Appys, despite having met some that are the most dignified and intelligent animals on earth.

The truth is that within every breed, there are exceptional individuals and there are poor individuals.  There are horses that get great training, and become excellent representatives for their breed, and others that don't get a good start (or finish) and end up making very poor impressions as they wreak havoc around the stables they inhabit.  Within every breed, there are smart horses, friendly horses, pretty horses, affectionate horses, dull horses, common-looking horses, anti-social horses, and aggressive horses.  I say that if you really are a horseman, you love them, and try to learn from them all.  And if you want to raise the profile of your own breed within the horse industry, try reaching out to someone who rides a different breed or seat.  Be friendly and open minded, remembering that by learning about other types of riding, you aren't being unfaithful to that which you already pledge your support.  You may, in fact, inspire someone to come and give your breed a try, and make a friend in the process!

You may have read my blog header - "Show me your horse and I will tell you who you are."  By this, I do not mean, "Show me your horse, and I will tell you everything that I think is wrong with it."  Rather, I wish to know and understand what you value, how you view the world, where your priorities lie, and how you approach life.  Enjoy diversity - it is the joie de vivre!!

1 comment:

  1. How right you are Shannon. We have similar attitudes from some people here in the UK, and I find it bewildering. I wish they would open their eyes and appreciate the horse that's in front of them! I own a Welsh section C Pony, a QH, an American Paint, a traditional cob and her daughter by an American Paint stallion. They're all very different in terms of their temperament, they each have their special talents, and they all give me enormous pleasure. I like to think that I have a horse for all occasions and, guess what, they all do western.... Happy days!