Oh, all right, it’s up to The People to save the world. Most American politicians have no interest in trying. (I can’t and won’t speak about politicians in countries other than the U.S., my only experience is here.) But if you added up all the politicians in the US and added a dollar–you couldn’t buy a decent cup of coffee. Certainly Corporate America isn’t interested in doing it–I can’t speak for Corporate Anyplace Else.
So once again, it falls upon the shoulders of We, the People, to bring about change.
That’s OK, we’re pretty good at it.
The change of which I write today seems like an easy one: change in the life of a youth. If we can get horsepeople from every corner of the globe to participate, one year from today we will have touched the lives of 1,000,000 young people.
Here’s the deal: in 2003, when the brilliant horsewoman, Penny Chenery (owner of the illustrious Riva Ridge and Secretariat), asked me why I needed to be an influential woman in horse racing, I responded that I needed to achieve two things in my Life:
1) to make the sport more nurturing for horses and
2) to make the sport more egalitarian for women and girls. Penny opened the doors for me to live my vocation, that of a horse-racing writer–and I’m trying to make good on my declaration of intent.
I doubt that I’m an influential woman in horse racing (either Arabian or Thoroughbred)–yet– but I do know that, one at a time, I’ve helped encourage some women and girls to follow their horse-vocation dreams. Every first meeting with these bright young women has occurred in a moment of opportunity, and, like Gharraa, (who pricks her ears every time she hears, Call to the Post) –my ears go up every time I meet a young person–girl or boy–who loves horses, and wishes they could figure out how to be involved with the horse world.
You and I, horselovers all, know the peace that comes from being around a horse. I confess here that I am entirely selfish: I write about horses for one reason, that when I’m around them, they share their stillness with me. I have found my vocation, and that calling allows me the indulgence of being around horses almost as often as I need.
You who work hands-on with horses get to experience the quiet joy every day–how blessed are you!
Young people are no different: those young hearts who hear the call of the horse yearn to be with them all the time.
But chances are that they don’t know that it’s possible to forge a career out of their passion, using their God-given talents. I’m an Alumna of Mount Holyoke College–a prominent women’s school in the U.S.–and our equestrian team is usually #1 in the country. If not #1, pretty high-up in the rankings.
Mount Holyoke equestriennes are among the best in the world.
But I’ve had many conversations over the past eight years, with Alumnae who rode while in college–and not a one of them dreamed that she could have taken that passion for her horse into her career life after graduation. That doesn’t even make sense to me: how can the world’s oldest college for women–an institution that offers a brilliant education–not inform its students who ride horses, that working with horses after graduation is an option?
But it’s true: too often, young people, male and female, alike, assume that their passion for the equine is an extra-curricular activity. No one guides them toward equine-themed vocations, and so they have no clue that they can spend the rest of their lives, loving their jobs.
On the flip side of that coin exist the children who’ve never even met a horse, but for whom the horse can be a source of healing and unexpected acceptance. So many children, in so many circumstances–whether elementary school-age, or in high school–live marginal lives, with no access to horses.
Many are disenfranchised, rejected by their families or society. Without a hand to show them the way out of a potentially dangerous lifestyle, too many of these young lives can fall between the cracks, get lost in society. Not just American society–surely every culture, in every country, has these lost boys and girls.
Entirely too many of those dear souls will end up in prison, or dead, because of unwise choices; circumstance or the feeling of hopelessness that enshrouds them from early-on. Too many of them will go from being lost boys and girls, sweet young children–to becoming hated and feared drug dealers, prostitutes with no hope or gang members who join because the gang is the only community that made them feel accepted.
Thoroughbred trainer, Gary Contessa, eloquently and freely discusses the fact that horses saved his lifepath, that he was a typical teenager who had some dicey friends. Had it not been for a school administrator and his passion for horses, Gary might have gone the way of many of his peers. But he found his meaning of Life in the whinny of a horse, and has become one of the best and most-respected trainers in the sport–a great horseman, horsemanitarian and generous giver. (With his kind wife, Jennifer, he gives so much mercy to youth-oriented causes, including CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services of Saratoga County, New York.)
Both of these groups of young people–those who already love horses, but are unaware of career choices–and those who are living on the edge, with no seeming way out–can be fulfilled, dare I say, saved–by the mighty equine.
This is where you and I come in, and the Million Mare–and Male–March Challenge. Today is October 17, 2011. One year from yesterday, October 16, 2012, we will end the Challenge.
The Challenge is this, and it’s so easy: share your passion with just one youth or child, in the next year.Whether you share your passion, your vocation and your horse with a youth who already loves horses, but has no idea that s/he can have a joyous career working with horses–or with a child from a rotten life situation (or, painful situation), who desperately needs the acceptance that only a horse can offer–however it plays out, you will have helped shape a young life.
This Challenge is issued to people who work with all breeds of horse, all disciplines, all over planet Earth.
Whether you’re a breeder, trainer, owner, jockey, exercise rider, dressage equestrian, barrel racer, reining pro, trick rider, groom, barn foreman, farm manager, farrier, veterinarian, administrator of a racing association, writer, editor, artist, photographer, handicapper, turf writer, publisher, assistant starter, author, head starter, security guard at a racetrack, horse van driver, marketing professional, association director or polo grounds–whatever your sport, whichever your breed–you are needed to make this Challenge work. If you work with horses, or in an equine industry–we want you.
We’ve all said–and God knows, we’ve all jotted it down at some time on our Facebook walls–that one horse at a time, we can have world peace. And I do believe that.
But I believe, also, that peace comes from within the human heart, first–and those hearts must be massaged, one at a time.
As I write this tonight, and you read it, there are one million young hearts out there who need you–who need us. (I know that my friends in the Arabian Jockey Club, who breed, love and race Arabians–will be on-board with this project. The gentle equine imps who’ve ruled the desert for 5,000 years also rule the spirit of humanity, and guide their people to step outside themselves almost daily. And I’m sure that many of my pals in Thoroughbred racing–besides Gary Contessa–feel the same sense of commitment as my Arabian racing colleagues. Both breeds of horse lend themselves to healing the human heart.)
And we know that all breeds have that ability, to reach inside a human and introduce wholeness, health and well-being. It’s we humans who sometimes need to make the conscious effort to put together our treasured steeds with a kid, or a teen.
The horses are willing–are we?
These youths, both little ones and teens–need horses, and they need a guiding hand to get them there.
I’m not asking you to take someone under your wing, to become a foster brother or sister to them. The relationship need be only a one-experience moment: I’m not demanding a commitment on your part that I could not make myself. I don’t have the time or resources to take a child or youth on a month-long junket to a ranch; to hang out with anyone one entire day a week, or adopt anyone.
All I’m asking is that you take whatever opportunity presents itself–or that you seek out–to help just one young person find her or his vocation, working with horses.
OR that you take that opportunity to connect a child’s hand and eyes with a horse, maybe for the first time. That mutual sniff may be all a child needs to realize that s/he is not alone in the world, and there are gentle beings, these horses, who want to help them heal.
Imagine being the first person to show the possibilities to that child.
I believe it was Dr. William J. Turnbull, the Founder of the Boys Choir of Harlem, who said, “If I show beauty to a boy, he will seek it the rest of his life.”
Wisdom, itself: once a human soul experiences beauty–or other nouns such as “love,” “acceptance,” and “sincerity”–that soul, relieved, will continue to look for that honest relationship.
We know that honest relationship with horses. Let us show that same love, acceptance and sincerity to a young person, whose heart longs to feel the soft breath and warm, low nicker of an eternal friend.
The Million Mare–and Male–March Challenge is on. One year to reach 1,000,000 young spirits. Are you with me? If so, please email me at the special email address I established just for the Challenge:
If you decide to look at these next 365 days as a chance to share yourself (just once!) and your optimism, with a youth–to accept the Challenge–please drop an email to me. Then, follow-up, with a report about what happened. It might happen tomorrow, it could happen next October 15th. I’d love to know that you’re with us on this journey, and what opportunity presented itself.
Whether you’re in the UAE, Paris, South Africa, Australia, the UK, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Texas, Sweden, Canada, VietNam, Nepal or Mars–if you work with horses, or somehow in a horse-related business–we are all on the same team. The mighty equine, the Great Unifier, has brought us together. We may have met via Facebook, LinkedIn, at a racetrack or in a tack shop somewhere.
Wherever you live on Planet Earth, you are a welcome member of the Challenge.
And just think–wherever you are on Planet Earth, one year from now, we actually may be able to celebrate together, because we will have been agents of change for 1,000,000 young people.
And those young people, in turn, may grow to become great horsewomen and horsemen–and people of great peace–all because of one hand, one heart, and one pair of eyes through which they looked and saw Beauty–perhaps for the first time.
Thank you for sharing this article, sharing the Challenge, and for joining me on this very personal march toward the future.