Sometimes, We Should Get Off Our Horse Island

We horse people could do good things off our island too.

It takes most of your mental and physical capital to make it through a given day or month, and you spend a lot of time just being, well, tired.

That’s why we horse people are often a culture full of great ideas but without much follow-through. I don’t say that accusingly; I’m as guilty anyone.

This subject came to me while having dinner the other evening with another trainer and her family, as I listened in awe to a brief explanation of her volunteer work with a local homeless shelter. She said she had discovered her passion for these issues a bit by accident, but she was now a board member of the organization and that she dedicated one morning a week in their kitchens to prepare food for the local homeless population.

The truth, though, is that getting off our island is a challenge, even on weeks that are normal and calm, and doing it to take on a task that requires rolling up your sleeves and getting to work is even more daunting—we’re all busy, bogged down, often in limited financial circumstances, and not keen to travel anywhere. Even when the volunteering opportunity is only on an adjacent island—say a committee involving your own sport—it can be difficult to keep up.

But here’s the thing—horse people can be the most dedicated, enthusiastic, hard-working, creative people around. So it’s a shame that hardly anyone outside our little islands sees or benefits from our unique skill sets.

Admittedly, my admiration is also tinged with some shame—though we do volunteer as a foster facility for a local horse rescue, it’s not quite the same as dedicating time to such a distant, and important, island. I love the idea of doing things off my island, but I just can’t for the life of me figure out how to do it.

I can come up with plenty of excuses—in addition to the demands of our horse business, we also have a 4-year-old son, a large extended family with whom we’re close and that lives nearby, and we have a second job (our writing and public-relations business). But is that it, really? I’m not sure. Are we sure we’re not just lazy and tired?

So perhaps, as a community, we should start small? Do a food drive in your barn during the holidays. Take one afternoon to volunteer somewhere once a year. Volunteer for a mentoring organization and introduce a child to these marvelous animals. As time goes on, a pattern may emerge that makes regular trips off the island easier and easier.

And, in addition to the obvious upside to that sort of work, you can be double-duty as a goodwill ambassador for the pastime we love. So often the depiction of horse folks (especially in the English disciplines) is snooty, entitled, selfish and elitist. Our isolation on our little islands does nothing to dispel those myths. It really might be good to take a trip sometimes.

We horse people can do wonders when we’re appropriately focused. Once in a while we should probably turn that focus outward.

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