Catfight at the OK Corral
By Cindy Hale
It’d be nice to think the horse world was a blissful oasis, free of silly distinctions between class and social status, but it is not. I came to this realization when I was competing on the A-rated show circuit, where the brand name tag on my riding britches was of upmost importance not to the judge, but to the other exhibitors. Heaven forbid I should have the audacity to purchase last year’s hue of khaki off the sale rack! And now, here I am living in a suburban horsekeeping community populated primarily with recreational riders and lo and behold, the same issues are cropping up again. The most recent episode involved the arena a few doors from my house.
As I’ve written before, the arena is a secluded little gem that sits at the base of a ring of hills. Perched on the rim of these hills is a huge cluster of expensive mini-ranchettes. The homes are large but the actual lot usually has a swimming pool, BBQ pit, patio and basketball court all crammed into the backyard. In the far corner, squished against the fence, will be a corral or two. The result is that the some of the horse owners in that neighborhood view the arena below them as their own private turnout facility. Since they didn’t reserve room on their own lot for a round pen, paddock or longeing area, they trundle down the hill, leading their rambunctious horses, to the arena and then set them loose to play.
A conflict ensues when there is someone schooling their horse in the arena (imagine that: actually riding in a riding arena!) at the same time someone wants to turn their horse loose. That’s precisely what happened this past Sunday. Verbal insults were hurled between a female western rider schooling a horsemanship pattern and a couple of gals who wanted to interrupt the session in order to turn loose their pair of horses. It got so bad that the Hillside Dwellers claimed they deserved priority status in the arena because they paid higher property taxes and the rider in question lived in the “older” (as in poorer) section of town.
Really, didn’t we all leave the school playground decades ago?
Fortunately, both a city parks worker and one of the neighborhood horse trail advisors (who coincidentally is an LAPD officer) defused the situation. They explained to all involved that the arena is a city-owned facility open to all the residents, regardless of their address. It was also pointed out that—according to city rules—there aren’t supposed to be any loose horses running free in the arena, anyway.
Ultimately, though, I am more concerned that once again I’ve become aware of this pervasive class war in the horse world. Sure, I’m guilty of some good-natured ribbing toward fellow equestrians who chose a different riding discipline than me. For several years I’ve traded emails with an east coast pal of mine who does three-day eventing. She chides me about the slow-as-molasses speed of the modern show hunter and I kid her about her garish choice of colors in competition apparel. Truly, it’s all in good fun. But when horse lovers draw lines of distinction because one of us can afford a house with a view while someone else lives modestly in the flatlands, then we have to pull up and consider just where that’s heading. Pretty soon there will be those who are somehow deemed worthy of owning a horse and those who are, somehow…. not. And that will be a very sorry day.
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Catfight at the OK Corral