Don't Eat Your Own Young

The Journal’s Christine Hamilton relishes in the camaraderie between fellow stock-horse clinic attendees.

By Christine Hamilton
The American Quarter Horse Journal
April 9, 2013

Christine Hamilton and "Pixie"

"Pixie" and Christine had so much fun at an ASHA clinic last year that they want to get to another one this year. (Christine Hamilton photo)

I went to my first clinic last fall with my little bay mare. It was an American Stock Horse Association clinic with Kevin Meyer of Douglas, Wyoming, and designed for riders of all levels interested in stock and ranch horse competitions. ASHA held a show the weekend after the Friday clinic, and Kevin judged it.

I was nervous. I was still very new to the little mare I call “Pixie.” She was 5, had been really well-started at 2 and 3 by AQHA world champion and Professional Horseman Mike Major and then turned out, so she was still green.

This would be my first clinic, too, to bring a horse to. I’ve always made my living in the horse business (at breeding farms and writing) and owned a horse for most of my life, but due to work and travel, my riding has rarely been consistent.

But this clinic was close, at Colorado State University’s Equine Sciences Center in my hometown of Fort Collins, and I would be in town! I jumped at it.

Of course, I’d had a horse savings plan in place for a while before Pixie appeared. Yet the savings plan failed to include a truck and trailer. When I signed up and paid for the clinic, I had no idea how we were going to get there.

I sent a note to organizer Kim Gabel (who I had never met) and she sent out a blanket email request. Several people offered to pick me up, including a couple hauling in from over the mountains in Fairplay, Colorado. I accepted Julie Gallegos’ offer (another stranger), since her place was only a couple of miles from where I board my mare. Julie didn’t even balk when I told her it would be Pixie’s third trailer ride.

We had a great time. Julie is super-nice and has a super mare. We packed picnic lunches and shared bits of them. In fact, I enjoyed every person I met, including the nice folks from Fairplay, the Grendells. I also ran into people I’d met in other walks of my horse industry life. Everyone was friendly and encouraging to this newcomer to the crowd and her green mare.

We learned a lot. Kevin gave me a light-bulb moment. I was concerned that it was tough for Pixie to lope a large fast circle … was she OK? Kevin gave me a friendly smile and said, “I’m going to give your mare a compliment: She’s lazy, and I like that! But you need to really ask her.” Oh! She had no problem hustling when chasing a cow, by the way.

I had so much fun that I’m now looking for another clinic to get to this year.

Just the other morning, in an unrelated conversation, a friend commented about a different group of riders: “Be careful, they eat their own young.”

I knew exactly what she was talking about: people who find fun in meanly taking apart the mistakes of newcomers to a discipline, a barn or to horses. Instead of welcoming in and taking care of the “young,” they “eat” them with standoffish criticism. When that happens, you end up killing the species in the long run.

It made me think of my clinic experience. I’m so glad this 44-years-young person wasn’t eaten. No, I was fed by every single person at that clinic, and I want to come back for more.

Christine Hamilton is an editor for The American Quarter Horse Journal. To comment, write to chamilton@aqha.org.