Rid­ing Out­side the Cir­cle

Horse & Rider - - Contents - by Bob Welch

IT SEEMS MANY of us—my­self not­with­stand­ing—go through life try­ing to find our place. Ca­reer paths and fam­ily goals that once seemed so clear in the starry-eyed op­ti­mism of youth and young adult­hood be­come opaque and con­fus­ing in the throes of mid­dle-age in a post­mod­ernist world.

I’ve per­son­ally faced these feel­ings in light of a re­cent pro­fes­sional dis­rup­tion. ( Amer­i­can Cow­boy mag­a­zine— which I edited for the past 4-plus years—was abruptly closed.)

And while the nar­ra­tive that this change sent me into a tail­spin might make for bet­ter sto­ry­telling, the truth is I never be­came de­spon­dent. But I’ve sure had a lot of ques­tions. Of course, I’m ter­ri­bly sad that what I once thought was my dream job no longer ex­ists; how­ever, my pre­vail­ing thought through the process has been, “What’s next?”

The feel­ing that I needed to—as the Mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion might say— “find my lane,” had been pes­ter­ing me. What would fill the void of cov­er­ing and con­tribut­ing to a culture near and dear to me?

THE BUR­DEN OF those ques­tions, in­ter­est­ingly enough, be­gan lift­ing from me at a horse show. Now, to be clear, I’m not much of a horse show­man. I love to ride, I love look­ing after cat­tle, and I love the trap­pings of the cow­puncher life­style, but I don’t crave the show ring. My wife, on the other hand, does.

She found a lo­cal ranch horse ver­sa­til­ity as­so­ci­a­tion that of­fers cut­ting, fence work, rein­ing, pat­tern, trail, and con­for­ma­tion classes for sev­eral dif­fer­ent lev­els of abil­ity and youth— par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive, given our kids could use show ex­pe­ri­ence in prepa­ra­tion for their 4-H pur­suits. In the end, I agreed to en­ter be­cause of the cat­tle classes—and rea­son­able en­try fees.

Though I take care of some stocker cat­tle as a side-hus­tle and get to ride in that pur­suit, be­ing a desk jockey for al­most two decades has stunted the growth of my horse­man­ship and show­man­ship. I have a nice young horse that I re­ally like, but he’s not fancy. Trainer fees aren’t in the bud­get. So, as the show date neared, I be­came in­creas­ingly un­com­fort­able.

Me­moriz­ing the pat­tern—trot at this cone, tran­si­tion from a lope to a walk at this cone, pick up the right lead here—was es­pe­cially vex­ing. And ev­ery time my horse ap­proached the prac­tice bridge I had built at the house, he snorted and stepped side­ways be­fore I could con­vince him to take it. I was ex­cited about the cut­ting and fence work classes and the rop­ing el­e­ment, but my horse’s stops for the rein­ing pat­tern were com­ing un­done the more I worked on them. Dread for show day was build­ing.

But, be­ing fru­gal, I couldn’t walk away from the en­try fees we’d plunked down. While I’ll spare you the de­tails, the show ac­tu­ally didn’t go too badly. Sure, I felt as though I could’ve done much bet­ter—I was es­pe­cially frus­trated to have missed both loops in the rop­ing, and my horse did snort at the bridge in the trail class. But there were some bright spots, too. I hit all my lead changes and re­mem­bered what to do at each cone.

My wife had a won­der­ful day with a new friend and showed her horse re­ally well. She beat me in the cut­ting, in fact. Our chil­dren con­tin­ued to hone their horse­man­ship and learned some valu­able life lessons.

And re­ally, so did I. We as rid­ers, as well our horses, have plenty of room for im­prove­ment, but we weren’t com­pletely out­classed, ei­ther. In a way, we’d found our lane in the horse show world—and we weren’t even look­ing. That dis­cov­ery gave me an in­cred­i­ble amount of con­fi­dence that find­ing my lane pro­fes­sion­ally wouldn’t be im­pos­si­ble, ei­ther. Be­fore the show be­gan, I was well aware that I was not, nor was ever go­ing to be, a great horse­man. But that or­ga­ni­za­tion al­lowed me to see there’s still an op­por­tu­nity for me to be­come a bet­ter horse­man in a com­pet­i­tive at­mos­phere.

My jour­ney of dis­cov­ery wasn’t over yet, though. As the comfort of know­ing that I could find my lane sunk in, I be­gan to re­al­ize just how much I’d been con­sumed by my own pro­fes­sional dis­rup­tion.

A wise man once ad­vised not to merely look out for our own per­sonal

in­ter­ests, but also for the in­ter­ests of oth­ers. Be­ing sin­gu­larly fo­cused on what might re­place the rel­a­tive suc­cess I had en­joyed with Amer­i­can

Cow­boy kept me from con­sid­er­ing what was best for those around me. A pas­sage from Proverbs cut right to the quick, stat­ing that who­ever iso­lates him­self seeks his own self­ish de­sires.

The chal­lenge, it seems, is rec­og­niz­ing the gifts we’ve each been en­dowed with and us­ing them to serve oth­ers. To com­bine the metaphors I’ve been play­ing with hereto­fore: This means us­ing our “lane” as a way to serve our fel­low man. WHICH BRINGS ME full cir­cle to what’s go­ing on in these pages. Horse&Rider will now ab­sorb the sub­scrip­tions for Amer­i­can Cow­boy and The Trail Rider mag­a­zines. Horse&Rider has been blessed with a di­verse group of read­ers, and I can tell you ed­i­tor Jen­nifer Paul­son and her staff are tak­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity of serv­ing you se­ri­ously. You’ll see a new look, an un­ex­pected con­tent mix, some fa­mil­iar faces, and a for­ward-think­ing ap­proach to mag­a­zine pub­lish­ing. Their “lane” is faith­fully serv­ing you, their reader.

Please pro­vide them feed­back, ideas, and con­struc­tive criticism so that mis­sion can be ful­filled. A mag­a­zine, at its core, should serve as a voice

for a com­mu­nity, not to a com­mu­nity. It’s not an or­a­cle in print form. In­stead, a mag­a­zine should be an ag­gre­ga­tor of in­for­ma­tion and a re­flec­tion of the in­ter­ests and val­ues of the com­mu­nity it serves. As such, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion can’t be one-sided. There’s no de­sire to iso­late and pur­sue self­ish de­sires in these pages. We want to serve your in­ter­ests. Let us know what they are, and you’ll be do­ing us a great ser­vice. Send your thoughts to Horse­and Rider@aim­me­dia.com.

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