Humans Of The Horse World: Tell Me A Story
Stephanie Riggio Bulger, July 2016
Horse people are great storytellers. The more years I spend in the barn and around the show grounds– 27 and counting – the more certain of this fact I become. It’s in our DNA. I couldn’t tell you what I ate for breakfast this morning, but I can describe, stride for stride, my winning trips from the Pennsylvania National Horse show in 2007.
Becoming a mother has put me in a reflective mood. So much has changed in the past year, I find myself reminiscing a lot, especially with those who knew me pre-baby. Since I spend so much time riding, I spend a lot of time thinking about my equestrian past, both glories and failures. The madcap escapades that have followed me (and my long-suffering “horse show mom” extraordinaire) are by now family legends. There was the time, so excited to attend my first ever Devon Horse Show, that I forgot our luggage in the lobby of our building in New York City. Or the time, bored waiting for our classes at the Washington International Horse Show, that mom and I decided to visit the Spy Museum. There I was, decked out in horse show finery, when the docent on our tour declared the first rule of being a spy was not being conspicuous. Then 20 faces turned and stared at me, clearly not a spy. These and so many more stories, memories, laughs, tears, tribulations, victories. So much stuff that makes up my – and every equestrian’s - life with horses.
The ever-pithy Winston Churchill is oft quoted, and has many horsey aphorisms. My favorite has to be, “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” It is for this reason, I think, that all of us who spend much time around horses become such good storytellers. Every moment – both in the saddle and out – is precious, worth documenting and sharing.
Horse-human relationships are complex, symbiotic, and totally unique. They also change day-to-day, moment to moment. I can attest that my biggest most macho horse, Fiddler, turns into a big doe-eyed softie whenever my toddler is in the barn. My champion, Indian Summer, was the bravest horse I have ever had the pleasure to work with, but only in the show ring. In his daily life, he behaved like Chicken Little who thought the sky was falling ALL THE TIME. Often I thought that I would have to dismount and carry him past some scary and offensive (and sometimes imaginary) object had I the strength.
Since I began my work with the Equestrian Aid Foundation in 2008, I realized that we all have stories to tell. Some of them are sad, some funny, some redemptive. All have a common thread: the horse-human connection should be celebrated. Moreover, horse people are some of the kindest, most inclusive, welcoming and colorful folks I know. Some of my greatest and most lasting friendships are with my riding friends, and I hope to honor the special bonds that tie fellow equestrians to one another.
Thus this blog begins. Humans of the Horse World: Tell Me a Story. With it I hope to introduce you to horse people from all walks of life, from all corners of the country, and from every discipline, Olympians, backyard pleasure riders, and everyone in between. I hope to introduce you to folks who benefit from the Equestrian Aid Foundation and those who don’t. Mainly, I hope to remind you what a special group of people we are, that we speak the same language, that we love the same things, and that we are connected by our love for horses. Think about a story that you can tell us, too!