Webster dictionary defines passion as, "a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity object or concept." That definition is spot on when it comes to describing my love for horses and all that they represent.
My passion for horses is not just showing them competitively, but also teaching others in the world that these large, strong and majestic creatures are nothing to be afraid of and the bond you can create with them.
My passion for horses started young, I grew up around horses so I never saw them as a threat or a large dangerous animal. Instead, I saw the different personalities and character traits that all of my horses possessed.
When I speak with some of my friends of my love for horses they almost think I'm crazy, borderline insane, about horses. They often question how I can be that comfortable around an animal that could possibly kill me. Well, it is all about perspective and your history when it comes to looking at someone else's hobbies.
For me, I think it is completely insane to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and pull a parachute and float to the ground. That is another hobby or passion people might have that is dangerous but they still love to do. So, to each their own.
This semester I was asked by a good friend to supervise the horse portion of the Little American Royal during Kansas State University's Open House Weekend. LAR is an event that offers K-State students the opportunity to learn more about different animal species and how to work with them.
Students sign up for a species and the level of experience they have with that species, whether it be novice or advanced. Species include goat, sheep, horse, dairy, beef or swine. The animals are chosen directly from the research units just north of K-State's campus.
Depending on the species, students are given a certain amount of weeks to train their animal for a showmanship contest in Weber Arena during Open House. On show day, contestants would execute a showmanship pattern and be judged by an actual official horse judge. The top two in both advanced and novice division would be recognized and grand and reserve champion showman.
I served as one of two supervisors for the horse division. I was super excited to supervise the horse kids because showing horses is my passion and showmanship is by far my favorite!
As the weeks and practices went on I was able to help all of the students in the horse division learn showmanship and perfect their technique for show day. We also discussed how to work with the young 2 and 3-year-old horses we had to work with.
It was a great experience helping the students understand how the horse was processing the commands and movements they were given to them. Also to help them comprehend why we had quarters within showmanship and what purpose they served in showing the horse.
It was extremely rewarding to also meet other advanced division students who have the same passion for horses as I do and to talk through patterns and different training techniques for the horses.
Also getting to work with my co-supervisor, who I met years ago during a horse show. Getting to work with her and combine our skills as showmen to help better the students was truly rewarding and I can't thank her enough for asking me to do this with her.
The greatest thing I got to see within supervising for LAR was the bond that the students developed with the horses. For fun, the students named their horses and it was amazing to see how accurate their names came to be for that animal. I enjoyed seeing how the students grew and learned with the young horses and how their friendship grew.
I enjoyed seeing the confidence grow for both the horse and student. They became extremely confident in themselves and their execution in the arena. I'm not going to deny, there were struggles. But the good times outweighed the bad 10-to-1.
The students really bonded with the horses and grew to be really fond of the horses. Seeing the novice students finally have the confidence around such a large animal and the love that had grown within them for the horse.
Constantly the horses were complimented and rewarded for their actions and learning throughout all of our practices. By our last practice and the end of the show, I could tell how sad everyone was to leave their horses. Being together and learning together for three weeks had really changed their perspectives on their horses and I could truly see the growth and love in both of them.
But I could also see the happiness, after those three weeks of hard work and constant practicing had finally paid off. I had so many "proud mom moments" after watching all the people I helped do so well in the arena.
To see the look of joy on the student's face when they won top showman or even just executed their pivot perfectly when their horse never did in practice. Everyone left the arena that day with a smile on their face and a great adventure.
I feel extremely honored to have served as a supervisor, and I know my co-supervisor is as well, for a species that I am so heavily passionate about. I got the opportunity to meet and work with so many other students from the university and become friends with them through just one common trait.
I got the chance to help others learn how amazing horses are, and I wouldn't change it for anything. Showing horses is a big part of my life and I'm so glad that I got to share my passion with others and watch them succeed both in and out of the arena.