Dust blowing in the wind, dirt under your fingernails, sweat dripping off your brow. Thinking of a day at the barn in the summer? You could be right. But this also describes the situation Amanda Starbuck encountered while volunteering in Ethiopia (p. 16). And her time there was a far cry from a typical day at a horse show.
Two stories in this week’s Amateur Rider Issue highlight what a few riders have done to help those outside the horse world. Starbuck, in giving two weeks to work among the poverty-stricken Ethiopians with the humanitarian organization Engage Now, got a glimpse of how a vast number of the world’s more underprivileged population live. And Lara McPherson (p. 24) took time out of her planned career path, and showing schedule, to devote more than a year to help showcase the images captured after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
For many amateur riders, their time with their horses is a welcome escape from their “real life.” A quiet moment with a four-legged friend, or a rewarding lesson that develops or confirms a new skill, can help alleviate the tensions created by the demands of work, family and home. It’s why so many amateur riders work so hard to juggle riding with their myriad other responsibilities. Stacey Reap takes a light-hearted look at that struggle in “The Amateur’s Guide To Maximizing Your Day” (p. 8), even though it’s a serious and significant challenge for many.
But in that flurry of activity, don’t forget that there’s another, even bigger “real life” world out there. It’s so tempting to get caught up in the bubble that is the horse world. We have our own language, our own gossip circles, and our own professional networks. We even have our own magazines to “chronicle” our every win and advise us of the next great training technique or nifty product. It can be a very insular world, and one we should constantly remind ourselves how lucky we are to take part in.
There are many in the world whose struggles are much more serious than trying fit riding into their busy day. They battle hunger, disease, poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, and all kinds of political and social problems–a reality far different from trying to decide which pair of boots to buy for your horse. We shouldn’t feel guilty for having been fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the passion we have for horses. But perhaps we should–every now and then–take a step back and appreciate it.
Donating either your time or funds to a volunteer or humanitarian organization is a great way to tangibly demonstrate that we understand just how lucky we are to have horses as a big part of our lives. And it helps others who need our help so desperately.
Take a moment to look outside the little bubble of the horse world, and even beyond the boundaries of your “real life,” and wonder whether there’s something you can do to help someone else? You don’t have to travel to Ethiopia to make a difference. Every little bit helps.