by Laura Crum
OK, I’ll admit it, I am guilty of the above vice. At least, where my horses are concerned. The other day I was treated to an example of exactly the sort of thing that has turned me into a reverse snob, and I thought I’d write about it and see what you all thought.
I don’t usually meet many riders on my local trails, but occasionally there are folks from the nearby boarding stable out riding. We usually stop and greet each other, chat a bit and so on. But when I met the gal on the sorrel mare, I knew she was a little different.
My first clue came when the mare spooked quite handily coming upon my son and I around a blind corner. She was a quick little thing and could move. The middle-aged female rider stayed on—barely. My horses hardly turned a hair, and looked at the snorting sorrel mare with mild curiosity.
The mare was fancy, slick as if she were blanketed, groomed to the nines, and the gal had some very nice tack on her horse. A quick look told me that she was a cowhorse or wanna be cowhorse—the gear and the look of the mare put her in that category. The rider gave me the once over, too, and I didn’t miss her dismissive glance.
Because Sunny and Henry are not fancy. Small, humble, QH type horses (Henry is actually pretty well bred and a discerning eye can see it), my two geldings are fuzzy with their winter coats and they are definitely not groomed to the nines. They don’t have any obvious dirt clumps on them when we go out riding—that about covers it. Their manes and tails have not been combed out with Show Sheen—unlike the sorrel mare. Their tack is a motley collection of odds and ends that are comfortable and practical for trail riding—my old, rebuilt roping saddle, my son’s beat up youth saddle with tapaderos and a shabby neoprene breast collar (tacky looking, but light and useful), oh and let’s not forget the mechanical hackamore I use on Sunny. Trust me, every person who thinks they are a cool “trainer” depises the mechanical hackamore. And it can certainly be a very negative thing. However, all these so-wise folks sometimes don’t notice that it can have good applications, too, like most training devices, and, in fact, my horse Sunny prefers it to having a bit in his mouth, and for my use on this cold blooded little trail horse, it is very appropriate.
Of course, then there’s the fact that I keep the halters on under the bridles—very practical if you need to tie a horse up, but doesn’t look very posh. Makes you look like you’re part of a dude string, in fact. Icing on the “unprofessional” appearance is that I ride in cargo pants and Ugg boots—comfortable and practical for an experienced rider strolling down a trail, but not at all gear that would impress any “fancy” horse person.
But I digress. Suffice it to say that ms cowhorse rider looked at me and my kid dismissively (as soon as she had regained her balance), nodded as coolly as she could manage under the circumstances in answer to my “hi”, and rode on. Or she tried to ride on. Her mare didn’t want to leave our horses and did not like the look of the trail leading down to a ditch (the trail we had just come up with no problem).
The mare balked and spun and resisted. The woman tried to sit quiet and pretty, but guess what? Quiet and pretty wasn’t getting the job done. In the end she resorted to a much needed “over and under” and the mare jumped forward and headed down the hill. When I looked over my shoulder she was dancing in front of the ditch. I grinned and rode on up the ridge on my steady horse.
Because no, our horses are not fancy, nor is our gear. I am not much of a fancy rider any more, either. But we can walk down a hill and cross a ditch with no problem, or stroll through the surf, or wade through mud, or deal with traffic. We can even greet other horses out on the trail with a calm, relaxed demeanor and walk off and go on with our ride without making a fuss. Both my horses will go as quietly bareback and in a halter as they will tacked up. Imagine that.
Neither Henry or Sunny would ever win a ribbon in a cowhorse class, or any horseshow class, for that matter. Sunny even flunked out as a team roping horse because he can’t run. Neither horse would qualify as “well—trained” by most folks standards. But they are broke—broke in the old-fashioned sense. They will go where you point them and do what you tell them. They are sensible and reliable under all circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong. I have “been there and done that”. For many years I trail rode in my show saddle on my well-bred cowhorse gelding, Gunner, who was polished till he sparkled. (And yes, I combed his mane and tail before a trail ride.) Gunner won many a cutting class in his day. And Gunner was every bit as spooky as that sorrel mare and I hung on by the skin of my teeth (and my grip on the horn) many a time on various trail rides. The difference is that I was never so proud of myself that I couldn’t see the value in tough little trail horses in plain tack. To be quite frank, I often looked at such horses in admiration and envy and wished I were on them—especially when Gunner was whirling away from yet another horse eating stump. And I certainly never ignored anyone who greeted me.
As the years have passed and I lost interest in training and showing, I went out and acquired a couple of these bombproof trail horses. And boy do I love them. I love my comfortable saddle and my non-fussy gear. I love that I don’t work hard at grooming my horse and polishing my tack to impress somebody else. I love that I ride in clothes and boots that don’t pinch or bind anywhere. I love that my horses are comfortable and relaxed and so am I. And I have to admit, as I rode away I gave that gal on the sorrel mare every bit as dismissive a glance as she gave me. In our own way, we are both snobs.
And no, I’m not in any way saying I’m superior—if she had stopped to chat we could have swapped cowhorse/trail horse stories and it might have been great fun. She could have been pretty handy with a horse; it was hard to tell from the little I saw. She could have been a less than experienced rider with money for a fancy horse and gear. If she’d been friendly, I might have gotten to know her a bit. But it was more than obvious that she wanted nothing to do with the likes of me and my kid and our plain little mounts. She never said a word in response to my friendly hello.
And its not that everyone on a fancy horse with fancy gear is a snob. I have met some mighty fancy horses tacked up like hunters, whose riders wore immaculate white breeches and shiny black high boots (for a ride through the woods) and yet these people were quite friendly and we exchanged info on what trails were open and how to get from here to there…etc. I may not be exactly admiring of such obviously expensive, restively impatient horses or particularly impressed (any more) by the riders equally obviously expensive tack and clothes. But I can certainly give everyone space to enjoy horses in their own way, and I try to be friendly and cordial to everyone I meet out riding. But as I said, the gal on the sorrel mare was different. She pointedly ignored us.
I do know that folks who appear arrogant are mostly insecure and I guess that if I were a better person I’d feel sorry for the poor things. Unfortunately I’m not so enlightened. That this does not make me the Buddha of horsemanship, I’m well aware.
I’m afraid I’m a little bit prone to this vice in other areas of life as well. When I see a woman in elegant clothes and high heels, wearing a coat of makeup and stepping out of a shiny gold Mercedes, my first thought is that I probably won’t care for her. Is this fair or right minded of me? Probably not. Conversely the sight of some slightly shabby gal climbing out of an old pickup with mud or dust (according to season) on her boots, and no make-up and un-fussed with hair makes me smile and think we could have something in common.
How about you guys? Any of you guilty of reverse snobbism? Or am I the only one who succumbs to this sin?