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Fandom Rules The Horse World
By: Denny Emerson On June 07, 2012

There must be something buried in the human psyche that craves an object of blind devotion, else why would there be fans of anything? Think about it. A ten year old boy, normal in many respects, is blindly obsessed with, say, the New York Yankees baseball team, and the New England Patriots football franchise. Now this kid never has, and probably never will, met an actual Patriot or Yankee. But if you want to start an argument that has no end, say something demeaning about either team, and you will hear a vast litany of reasons why these two teams, and these alone, are transcendantly superior to all others.

Political parties, religions, nationalities, hobbies, brands of cars, all have their champions and their detractors, and often there isn`t much logic or analytical thinking, or empirical evidence upon which those obsessions have been based.

It`s no different in the large world of horses. Try telling a devotee of some particular breed that some other breed is better, and you are right there arguing with that ten year old about the relative merits of the Yankees versus the Red Sox, with no hope of either party convincing the other in ten thousand years. You may be a fanatically obsessed dressage rider, but you`l be highly unlikely to ever convince a barrel racer to switch disciplines.

Most of the horse breeds and the horse disciplines have entire sub cultures surrounding them, with associations, magazines, websites, blogs, registries, and competitive venues in interlocking webs of support. Once you have decided to become—- Pick One: a show jumper, an eventer, a trail rider, riding—-Pick One: a thoroughbred, a Morgan, a Paint, there is an entire network created and designed to make you feel comfortable and part of something special and larger and more important than yourself.

There are enormous gulfs separating these segments of the equestrian world. Arabian lovers will not be found at an Appaloosa show, nor reiners at the Grand Prix of Aachen. Drivers drive, steeplechase jockeys steeplechase, western riders ride in saddles with saddle horns, race horse people live at the racetrack, and on and on it goes. There are a few areas of commonality, like the quest for veterinary advances, or the need for good hay, or trailers, but basically, there`s little to bind the disparate elements together.

The main problem with blind devotion to anything is that it`s blind, and tends to rule out all kinds of opportunities that are available to those with vision. Here`s just one example. Take a young event rider. Let her spend a few years developing her eventing base. Then let her spend a year in Germany working at a dressage training center. Then let her gallop timber horses for an entire year for Jonathan Sheppard. Then she should spend a year with Valarie Kanavy riding endurance horses. The next year she`s back in Europe with a grand prix jumper stable.

Now send her back into eventing, and if she isn`t wildly more proficient than when she left four years earlier, she must have spent those opportunities in a drug induced coma.

Now nobody I know has done that “total immersion thing” to the extent of my hypothetical example, but there are pieces of that puzzle available to those who are enterprising enough to seek them out. Basically, it`s a big, diverse world out there, and if you allow your fandom mindset to limit you, you can bet you`ll be surpassed by those more open minded. Hey, we know you`re basically whacked, just as most of us can admit that we are similarly “out there”. Don`t worry. You can crawl back to the secure little nest of the Patriots and the Yankees, and live there happily ever after, but maybe just try some other brands of ice cream before you eat just maple walnut for the rest of your life!

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Bioline Image Denny Emerson is considered “one of the 50 most influential horsemen of the Twentieth Century ...” He is an USEA Hall of Fame inductee and is the only rider to have ever won both a gold medal in eventing and a Tevis buckle in endurance. In 2011, he wrote "How Good Riders Get Good."


    • Ursula Ovitt nice article, horse people can learn so much from other horse people- just look what horses learn from different trainers?!.
      16 hours ago · Like

By: Horse Collaborative , On June 09, 2012
By: Horse Collaborative , On June 09, 2012
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