ost-Holiday doldrums have arrived at my farm. I can’t say the horses are sad that the lighted, animated deer are gone from the gardens. It’s always a kick to watch the equines watching the fake deer on the first night they notice the change, but even that gets old after a couple of days. So I, for one, am ready to move on into Political Silly Season.
|Zip for Barn President!|
If you think politics and horses are strange barn-fellows, you are only scratching the tip of the manure pile. The current uproar over the restoration of funding for slaughterhouse inspectors is one of the biggest I’ve seen since…well, since the removal of funding for slaughterhouse inspectors. There are petitions galore online and elsewhere touching on that topic from both sides and addressing myriad others that are more local in nature. I’m not going to list them all. Sorry if that disappoints anyone. I'm taking the stand that "politics" has deeper meaning than just what's zipping around our heads under the guise of "reality". That's where I want to go today.
This morning I posted on Facebook a video of our esteemed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie making a fool of himself and all Jerseyans at the Iowa Pre-Caucus Slam Fest. In that news clip he threatened the State of Iowa with “Jersey-style” repercussions should they fail to support his chosen candidate. It doesn’t even matter who that candidate is. What matters is that Christie is fostering a stereotype that we here in the Garden State could easily live without.
That got me thinking about other stereotypes and the damage they do. Since this is a horse-business blog, I’ll stick with those. These should sound familiar:
- All horse people are crazy.
- Horse lovers are basically hoarders who will consistently over-extend themselves in ridonculous ways to keep their horses.
- Farmers are uneducated, incoherent, shotgun-toting rednecks who should not have a say in the political arena.
- Emotionality rules when it comes to sorting out the mess that the horse business has created for itself.
- Most farmhands are illegal immigrants and horse people are fostering the illegal immigrant problem.
- Equestrian sports are only for the rich.
I could go on, but I think everyone reading this can add to the list with more astuteness than I possess.
Stereotypes are rarely a good thing. I believe it would behoove each of us to think carefully about whether or not we as individuals are perpetuating a stereotype that would be better buried with our first pony’s remains never to be ridden into a lather again.
Do you scream endlessly about the problem of homeless horses (or other animals, for that matter) while you step over the homeless guy who sleeps in front of your bank? Do you have more horses than you can really care for but ample excuses for why this situation is necessary? Have you ever talked a friend into taking ownership of a horse you knew s/he wasn’t capable of maintaining? Have you bothered to educate yourself on the truth about the racing industry (or any other dark alleys in our business)? Do you make some effort to be involved in local politics in realms that don’t directly affect agribusiness and the horse world? When was the last time you caught yourself speaking loudly (that always helps) or in Spanglish to your neighbor’s barn hand? Have you “signed” and forwarded more than two online petitions in the past month without checking the details or considering the repercussions?
On that last, about horses and money going hand-in-hand, well, that's a little hard to argue against. Either that's just a statement of fact, or perhaps some stereotypes really do serve a purpose as more and more horse owners find themselves over their heads in debt in an effort to prove the belief wrong.
This morning I’m smarting over the whole “Jersey-style” thing. I can’t handle another stereotype that I need to fight. To be a Jerseyan is trouble enough. To be Jersey horseman with all the nonsense that’s become attached to both designations is more than I want to deal with before my morning coffee.
So I’m asking that all of us horsemen think twice about the kind of example we’re setting. Christie makes New Jersey sound like a haven for the brow-ridge boys. What are you making Horseman sound like? If you can do better, I hope you will. Keep your horses, but keep them properly and responsibly without putting an untenable financial burden on yourself and your family. Reach out and mentor newcomers who might be strong of heart but weak of mind when it comes to the business of horses. Work within the system for the changes you want to see. Make the title “Horseman” mean something that dispels all of the stereotypical BS we’ve come to hate.
It’s up to each of us to husband our own space on the planet. Do so with true Horseman's flair and an eye to the future. It sure can't hurt.