Catfight at the OK Corral

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    It’d be nice to think the horse world was a blissful oasis, free of silly distinctions between class and social status, but it is not. I came to this realization when I was competing on the A-rated show circuit, where the brand name tag on my riding britches was of upmost importance not to the judge, but to the other exhibitors. Heaven forbid I should have the audacity to purchase last year’s hue of khaki off the sale rack! And now, here I am living in a suburban horsekeeping community populated primarily with recreational riders and lo and behold, the same issues are cropping up again. The most recent episode involved the arena a few doors from my house.

    As I’ve written before, the arena is a secluded little gem that sits at the base of a ring of hills. Perched on the rim of these hills is a huge cluster of expensive mini-ranchettes. The homes are large but the actual lot usually has a swimming pool, BBQ pit, patio and basketball court all crammed into the backyard. In the far corner, squished against the fence, will be a corral or two. The result is that the some of the horse owners in that neighborhood view the arena below them as their own private turnout facility. Since they didn’t reserve room on their own lot for a round pen, paddock or longeing area, they trundle down the hill, leading their rambunctious horses, to the arena and then set them loose to play.

    A conflict ensues when there is someone schooling their horse in the arena (imagine that: actually riding in a riding arena!) at the same time someone wants to turn their horse loose. That’s precisely what happened this past Sunday. Verbal insults were hurled between a female western rider schooling a horsemanship pattern and a couple of gals who wanted to interrupt the session in order to turn loose their pair of horses. It got so bad that the Hillside Dwellers claimed they deserved priority status in the arena because they paid higher property taxes and the rider in question lived in the “older” (as in poorer) section of town.

    Really, didn’t we all leave the school playground decades ago?

    Fortunately, both a city parks worker and one of the neighborhood horse trail advisors (who coincidentally is an LAPD officer) defused the situation.  They explained to all involved that the arena is a city-owned facility open to all the residents, regardless of their address.  It was also pointed out that—according to city rules—there aren’t supposed to be any loose horses running free in the arena, anyway.

    Snap!

    Ultimately, though, I am more concerned that once again I’ve become aware of this pervasive class war in the horse world. Sure, I’m guilty of some good-natured ribbing toward fellow equestrians who chose a different riding discipline than me. For several years I’ve traded emails with an east coast pal of mine who does three-day eventing. She chides me about the slow-as-molasses speed of the modern show hunter and I kid her about her garish choice of colors in competition apparel. Truly, it’s all in good fun. But when horse lovers draw lines of distinction because one of us can afford a house with a view while someone else lives modestly in the flatlands, then we have to pull up and consider just where that’s heading. Pretty soon there will be those who are somehow deemed worthy of owning a horse and those who are, somehow…. not. And that will be a very sorry day.

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    15 COMMENTS

    1. It is unfortunate that class differeces have to be so nasty in a free country where “all men (and women) are created equal”, well, theoretically, of course. And I agree- things like this situation do seem a bit immature when you consider that this is grown women and not elementry kids at recess. If those girls were so intent on exercising their horses, they should have simply thrown some saddles on and rode. If they can’t do that, then surely if they have so much money, they could afford to hire someone who can ride. But if you’re going to do that, there’s really not much of a point to having the horse in the first place. Point is, it’s an arena for riding, not a paddock to illegally turn out your horses.

    2. HaHa, wouldnt it be funny if the parks department had little tags that they could attach to halters of horses that are left out there to fine the owners. Then that money could go to improving (fixing the fence their loose horse makes) to the PUBLIC arena. Or they could have a lock on the gate, like the boot for cars till they pay up. either way I would make sure I need to practice there more…guess I the drama from high society..lol

    3. I’ve encountered similar problems at a public arena located in the regional park in the area where I work. I school client’s horses, teach lessons, and turn out there or in one of the two public round pens on a regular basis. However, I’m very much conscious of the fact that it’s a PUBLIC arena; I obey the posted rules, and I always catch a horse I’m turning out and cheerfully hand over the arena to anyone who wants to ride. But there are a couple of other trainers who bring horses in by the trailer-load, leave their horses in the round pens while they school rather than put them in the stalls (still in plain sight of the arena), and generally get in the way of anyone else wanting to use the facility.
      More than once I’ve been yelled at or been rudely talked down to by someone who actually lives in the neighborhood – one woman in particular demanded a friend and I stop riding and let her turn out her horse because, quote, “he hadn’t been turned out in a month”. Like the woman in your blog example, she also used the excuse that her taxes paid for the arena. I smiled and replied sweetly, “Really? Mine too! Imagine that – a public facility being paid for with *our* taxes!” She got angry and started sputtering incoherently, but my friend and I waved good-bye and hit the trails instead.
      I think this really has less to do with class/social status and and more to do with people’s feelings of entitlement in general.

    4. Heck I have to deal with that at my own boarding barn facility. We even have a scheduling system on a public calendar in the barn for the riding area and round pen because everyone wants to use it at the same time. Especially when the only place that has grass is the riding area and the round pen because people let their horses overgraze and claim the fields! But some people in my barn feel that since they pay for full care instead of self care like I do, THEIR horses get to graze whenever and whereever they want them to! SHEESH!

    5. Sadly, I’ve seen this in all areas of horses. Like the book title says, There’s no bad color for a horse. We happen to have Paints because we like a little flash. Our best riding friend loves Appys, because she likes spots. We have no problem with anyone that rides whatever, as long as they enjoy riding. Western/English, who cares? But we have had a lot of folks call us elitists because we have Paints or Appys & not a Bay or Palimino, etc. It’s really silly, but they won’t even accept an offer of a trail ride/picnic. And we’re not talking kids here. We’re talking suppossedly mature adults, 35m – 65 yrs of age. I think I’ll get a mule next!

    6. I APPRECIATE ALL OF YOUR COMMENTS. YES, I DO LIVE IN SO-CALLED “HORSETOWN, USA,” WHICH IS ACTUALLY NORCO, CALIFORNIA. WE’RE STRUGGLING TO REMAIN SEMI-RURAL AND ANIMAL-FRIENDLY BUT IT’S GETTING TOUGHER EACH YEAR. AND UNFORTUNATELY, AS HORSES ARE CROWDED OUT OF OTHER AREAS THAT WERE PREVIOUSLY ZONED FOR HORSES, THE SITUATIONS LIKE I DESCRIBED IN THIS BLOG POST WILL JUST BECOME MORE COMMON.
      SAMANTHA’S USE OF THE WORD “ENTITLEMENT” IS CORRECT. SOME HORSE PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK THEY’RE AUTOMATICALLY ENTITLED TO MORE/BETTER/EXTRA STUFF JUST BECAUSE OF…. WHAT?
      AND BY THE WAY, I LIKE A GOOD MULE! 🙂

    7. That sounds a lot like the place I was in while still living in So Calif.
      Even though words were hardly spoken, the vibes were if you didn’t ride English & have a warm blooded horse you just were not good enough! Since moving to Texas the attitude is so much different! Now as long as you ride, treat your horse with care & love, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or what discipline you ride. Which helps me a lot since my riding is a fusion of both English & Western – Hahaha – I guess you’d call it Engwest?
      Too bad you had to witness that cat fight and spoil your day.

    8. The barn I board at now avoids fights by having a schedule for the arena… Western riders and English riders co exist peacefully and most of us ride in jeans/t-shirts/sweatshirts… there are no class wars… I didn’t realize how spoiled I was until I read your blog… I live in Ontario, Canada 🙂

    9. This reminds me of last weekend. I was out riding my horse in my own large field next to the road. I don’t have any problems with cars, my TB mare doesn’t mind them or the constant honking of people trying to get my attention. But after a couple of cars honking at me some little black sports car speeds by (speed limit on this road is 35 mph almost no one does that – I’m guilty of going 40 mph usually, I do 50mph if I really have to pee) anyway, the man in the sports car yells out to me and calls me a w%*^# What right did he have to call me a w%*^# just because I was riding a horse?

    10. I no longer belong to the local horsemens group in my area for this and other reasons. I want to have fun and enjoy my horse, not be judged by others who think they are better than me. Very sad that it is this way.

    11. “Pretty soon there will be those who are somehow deemed worthy of owning a horse and those who are, somehow…. not. And that will be a very sorry day.”
      I wholeheartedly agree…and those involved with such nonsense need to take a look in the mirror…because, with just a few more changes in the circumstances of the economy (personal or national), the circumstances of a person’s health, or anything that can change anyone’s life & we could all be not only wondering what happened, but also wondering how we are going to take care of our favorite equines, feed them, feed ourselves, figuring out where they will live, where we will live, etc., etc…We can never be assured that our circumstances will remain as they are regardless of who we are, how much money we have, and where we live…Those individuals need to grow up & think about what truly matters in this life…

    12. I’ve seen some nasty fights between parents of horse 4-H kids and it makes me wonder what these people are thinking. Aren’t we suppose to be setting an example of sportmanship like attitudes for our children? I’ve learned how to stay out of the politics and nastiness and just enjoy being around pleasant horse people and having fun. Unfortunately there are people out there who think they are better than others just because of their wealth or expensive horses, etc. But I just go on with my rescued Paint Mare and a smile on my face knowing that “What goes around, comes around”.

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