My horse crazy daughter, Jamie, recently told me about a phone conversation she had with a gentleman who runs a local junk yard. Jamie was looking for a set of good used tires for her horse trailer:
“Prolly have somethin’ comin’ at the end of the month,” the guy told her. “Want me to give you a holler, sweetie?” He whistled through his teeth as he spoke.
“Actually, I need them before then. I’m going to a horse show,” Jamie explained.
“Is that right? What kind of equestrian do you do?”
“I do a little of everything.”
“Well… do you ride in a saddle with a horn or without a horn?”
By ignoring the fact that someone other than her grandfather just called her “sweetie,” Jamie was able to complete the phone call on good terms. She actually found the exchange thought provoking. Sure, the guy was a little light on vocabulary, but he had a firm grasp of the concept: western or english?
Not only that, he knew that “equestrian” is a word associated with riding horses. That alone puts him in the top 10 percent of Americans in horse knowledge sophistication.
“Horn vs. No-Horn” is pretty much how the non-equestrian world has always divided the equestrian world. I know this for a fact because it’s how I’ve always done it. Of course, in my role as a horseshow dad and carrier of things, I referred to them as the heavy ones or the light ones (the saddles, not the equestrians).
Oddly enough, ever since the FEI accepted reining as an official discipline in 2000, Horn/No-Horn has become how the “Big Serious Horse Sports World” divides itself. It’s good to see the FEI finally catch up with the rest of us.
Jamie thinks that adding reining was a good move on the FEI’s part. “Finally, guys can compete wearing something other than breeches,” she says.
I’m sure that’s important to somebody.
What’s really important is that reining, like jazz, baseball and nuclear weaponry, has its roots in American culture. The rest of the world has given us a lot of great culture and it’s nice to see that we’re giving something back—besides Madonna and bad movies.
What I know about reining comes mainly from my daughters’ 4-H days. I never quite understood what they were supposed to be doing in their patterns, but I often got the feeling that their horses weren’t doing it. We owned a lot of Arabs back then.
I have to admit, it was kind of fun to watch. Occasionally you would get some kid on a Quarter Horse who was really good at it. People gathered around the ring would hoot and holler. I liked that. For some reason—and I can’t say why—reining reminded me of hockey.
Reining is, in fact, the first western (with horn) discipline to be recognized around the world. From what I understand, Americans still dominate the sport. I think it’s great when Americans dominate—especially when we can do it without using the Air Force.
We certainly dominated in reining at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen—except for the Canadian rider who came in first place. In team competition we slaughtered our neighbors to the north, 665 to 664. Best of all, our arch-rival, the Czech Republic, finished dead last with a score of around 3. At least they tried!
There are other horn-saddle sports we could share with the world if the world is interested. What about rodeo? Of course I’m not sure rodeo was started by Americans. I’m not even sure it was invented by humans. I’m guessing it was the horses themselves who first realized how much fun it is to toss people off their backs—horn or no horn!