The Traveling Horse(wo)man
By Gabrielle Sasse
There are moments where I get a flash of clarity of how different the “horse world” truly is from the “real world”. You mean your car doesn’t smell like your favorite animal? You don’t find hay down your pants? Oh wait, I still have my breeches/spurs/cowboy hat/half chaps on in a nice establishment… Right, not everyone enjoys horse hair on their couch. Let me go change real quick.
I got another one of those moments in a big way when I was out with my friend in June. I found myself in Michigan this summer (2012), interning for Christa and Rick Baldwin of Baldwin Quarter Horses in Stanton. One of my friends happened to live a few hours away, so I went for a visit on my day off. I was explaining to one of her friends that I was in Michigan for the summer but lived in Wisconsin and went to school in Ohio. Her response? “That’s weird.” I later found out that she had lived in New Jersey that I excitedly said “Oh! I interned there last summer.” She looked at me with another dumbfounded look and again “So weird.”
I had shrugged it off at the time, but later on took a moment to reflect. Is it really so weird? Sure, I haven’t really been in a state for longer than three months in three years… but isn’t that normal? I have a few friends interned in Germany and Ireland, Michigan really isn’t that far from Ohio! Or Wisconsin (home) for that matter, although that lake makes the trip a bit farther than my mom would like. I have friends currently in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Arizona, Texas, Kentucky… and none of them live there or go to school there.
I guess the idea of traveling is so commonplace for the budding equine professional. The training (or nutrition, as my friend interning for SmartPak found) business is one of those careers where you must go where the job takes you. Having grown up in Wisconsin and continued my education in the Midwest, I never thought I’d stay in the Midwest. I want to travel! To live in new places! Then again, I was supposed to be breaking colts in Illinois this summer (thanks Rita…), which is decidedly “Midwest”. But that was where the job took me. Now the job has taken me to Michigan, a place I never even considered when I dreamt of riding horses all day for the rest of my life. But it turned into a great experience!
I’ve found that amongst my fellow students at The University of Findlay, we are so willing to travel for the job it’s almost silly. We will jump at almost any chance to work for the big names and find our right job that we can pack up at a… well maybe a week’s notice. That’s a lot of tack to fit in the car with your clothes! Equestrians have learned something apparently quicker than “real world” students: that sometimes you have to be willing to move for the perfect job. It’s normal to ask, “Oh where will you be this summer?” instead of “What are you doing?”. We aren’t afraid to go to new places or new countries, because at least we will be able to connect with people over our love of the horse. Part of that may come from traveling for horse shows, such as the almost 20 hour trek to Oklahoma for Quarter Horse Youth World we took. Or how Quarter Horse and Paint Congress hosts people from across the nation, and a few foreign countries!
The equine world may have its extreme differences from the real world, but there are some great things about it. No matter if you ride dressage or work cattle, are from Florida or Maine, there is always something to talk about that is related to the horse world! It has made me lots of friends over the years, and has taken me to some great places I would have never otherwise gotten to go. In the past year I visited 15 states, 7 of which were directly horse related or brought me there because of horses. Not possible without my willingness to travel! Now if I could only fit my suitcase on the back of my horse to save on gas money…