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The obvious change would be the societal shift away from the horse as a work animal to the horse as a sport and entertainment animal. My mother grew up on a farm and rode cutting horses to help my grandfather bring in the cows. The first horses I rode were cow ponies and quarter horses that had jobs. I don’t see many of those kinds of workhorses anymore. What I do notice are sell-out crowds to see the World Cup in Las Vegas and the equestrian cirque de soleil – Cavalia.
2 - Do you ride?
Yes, but my commitment to my work prevents me from doing it on a regular or semi-regular basis. It’s ironic that over the last ten years, I have spent more time riding horses abroad then here at home in the U.S. I’ve experienced Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and Brazil by horseback, and I must say that there is no greater way to explore a culture than from the back of the creature that enabled exploration.
3 - Do you own a horse?
Yes, my wife and I own two. One, “Kickapoo,” is our percheron/paint cross and is a beautiful dappled grey gelding that can be ridden bareback with a halter. Our other horse, “Count Me In,” is our grand prix show jumping prospect- an Oldenburg that we bought as a foal.
4 - Who is your favorite horse in history?
Let’s face it, horses captivate most children, and they certainly captivated me. I was very interested in American history when I was young, and the story of the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” really caught my imagination. I remember the teacher talking about how great Paul Revere was and I would sit there thinking, ‘without that horse, he wouldn’t even be a footnote’. My take, at that young age, was that Revere’s horse was responsible for the freedom we enjoy in the United States. Many people express the thought that the horse does indeed represent freedom. As a young boy, I thought that the horse delivered freedom.
5 - Who do you think was the most influential equestrian human in history and why?
Without a doubt the “Khan Of All Between The Oceans,” the historic horseman, Genghis Khan. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood the magnitude of his accomplishments. Western history never gave the Khan his due and I believe it is only recently, that many in mainstream academia have come to discover what he accomplished with horses. He is the architect of equestrian warfare and developed the first equestrian postal delivery system. His concern for the welfare of the horse exceeded that of his soldiers. The skill of the Mongol horseman has never been duplicated. With only a bow and a horse, his armies conquered the world.
6 - What was your greatest equestrian influence from books or cinema when you were young?
On the silver screen it would be The Black Stallion. The cinematography was a breakthrough with images never before seen, such as the swimming scenes between the boy and the horse. The bond they developed was one built on survival, which in reality was the bond that brought horse and man together in the first place. Book wise it would be Black Beauty. A story told from the horse’s perspective and the first book to really address horse welfare.
7 - What equestrian book would you recommend today and why?
Mustang: the saga of the wild horse in the American west by Deanne Stillman. With a strong and authoritative narrative, Stillman lays out the history of the wild horse from the early extinction to the reintroduction in North America by way of Spanish galleons. It is a fascinating saga and really puts the horse in its rightful place in regards to the history of the United States.
8 - How did you initially become interested in your specific equestrian specialty?
In 2001, my wife and I had the opportunity to purchase a little newsprint publication that catered to the hunter/jumper and sporthorse enthusiast in Colorado. I saw the potential to create a different kind of equestrian magazine, one that catered to an equestrian lifestyle and to people that were really involved with horses. The kinds of people that learned to ride by riding and not by reading tips out of a magazine. Eight years later, I believe we have accomplished our goal with the award-winning national publication - Horse Connection Magazine.
9 - What prompted you to enter that field?
It was an opportunity to continue my writing career and to reestablish my early photography work, highlighting an animal that inspires like no other - the horse!
10 - Did someone encourage your decision or inspire you?
My wife, Valerie, inspired me with her passion for horses and riding, along with her marketing genius. With her as my partner, the decision to go into publishing was easy.
11 - When did you begin your research, investigation, work?
Horse Connection magazine debuted in November of 2001.
12 - What do you think is your most important discovery, achievement or insight regarding your equestrian work?
I think the most important achievement is the creation of an equestrian magazine that is different from all the rest of the horse magazines available. Unlike the majority of mainstream equestrian magazines, we don’t publish “how to” articles in regards to riding horses. This alone puts us in a separate class in relation to the competition. Another aspect of our magazine that I think makes us unique is that our focus is all about the horse. Many of the mainstream equestrian magazines are about the horse people – e.g. you learn to ride from the trainers and the “masters” of the sport. I’d like to think that it’s the horse that teaches us – about our history, and ourselves and that’s what we try to reflect in the magazine.
13 - What modern technology, techniques and media have you found most helpful?
Without the Internet, digital photography, laptop computers and digital files, producing our magazine would be next to impossible.
14 - What part of your work do you find most fulfilling?
There are two things – exposing my readers to historic equestrian stories that reveal facts, incidents, and history, previously unknown to the equestrian audience - and the heartfelt comments from my readers expressing their love for the magazine. The one statement I hear over and over again from the readers of Horse Connection is “it’s the only horse magazine I read from cover to cover.” That, to me, makes all of the hard work worthwhile!
15 - What’s been your biggest disappointment in your work?
Probably the reluctance from the mainstream media to pick up and run with some of the groundbreaking articles we have introduced to the equestrian audience. Horses are responsible for where we are today. Our “great society” would not exist without the contribution of the horse. You don’t have to be a horse enthusiast to appreciate that, and I think that many great news stories regarding horses would be most welcome by the masses. Especially if those stories replaced all of the crime news we’re bombarded with every day.
16 - How do you explain the gulf between academic equestrian investigation and the average horse owner?
I’m not sure I can answer that, although as a horse owner, I can tell you that in order to find out about important academic equestrian discoveries, one must really search for the information, if you know where to look for it in the first place. Mainstream equestrian news organizations don’t appear to treat this body of research with much importance, so finding it can be a daunting and time consuming endeavour, I also think that the evolution of the horse as a vital work animal, to one that now enjoys a “pet” status, diminishes issues and information that were once important to the horse owner.
17 - What equestrian subjects are in need of more research and investigation?
If they ever find a cure for laminitis, that would be the biggest breakthrough in equestrian health and science. I also believe that the racing industry needs to take a good look at their breeding goals and realize that breeding horses for speed may lead to the downfall of horse racing as we know it. Speed without stamina and strength is the root cause for the breakdown of so many racehorses and the reason we haven’t had a Triple Crown winner in 30 years.
18 - Which part of the equestrian world would you like to see reformed and why?
I would like to see the FEI disbanded and the national equestrian federations come together to develop a uniform doping policy to protect the welfare of the sporthorse. The FEI is corrupted by money and power and the welfare of the horse is suffering greatly because of it. Sanctions against doping violations are a joke and are no deterrent to the ongoing abuse of medicating horses. The removal of the FEI as a governing body is the best step that can be taken to advance the true welfare of the horse.
19 - How do you traditionally deliver your findings or message and how would you ideally like to do so?
As the publisher of a magazine, we deliver our message with every issue, through my publisher’s editorial and our articles. Ideally, to achieve exposure to the largest audience possible, I would like to see Horse Connection on prime time television in the spirit of 60 minutes. We could call it 60 hoofbeats.
20 - What intellectual, technical or ethical advances would you like to see in the horse world?
Ethically, I would like to see strict safeguards in place to protect the horse from a wide range of doping. The horse cannot speak for itself; therefore, it is our responsibility as guardians of the horse to protect it from its biggest threat – money! It is money that causes a horse to breakdown from running too many races. It is money that compels a rider to dope a sore horse in order to get him in the competition ring. It is money that drives the whip in an endurance race with a purse. And, it is money that forces horses into trucks bound for the borders that house abattoirs. Money and greed are the biggest threats to the wellbeing of the horse.
21 - Do you foresee any difficulties for the horse world in the immediate future?
The economic downfall has been especially hard on the equestrian world. Unless the economy improves, we will see more horses being abandoned, heading to slaughter, and being neglected. As I mentioned earlier, it all comes back around to money- the enemy of the horse.
22 - What is the greatest challenge facing the horse world in the long term?
I think the biggest challenge facing the horse world is open space. Horses need open space to live a normal life and that space is rapidly disappearing. Agricultural areas are being turned into residential developments, and the agricultural and equestrian lifestyle is being crowded out by this urban growth. Do we really want a future where horses never know what it is like to run across a pasture? Are we going to condemn them to a life inside a paddock or stall? Unless we realize the importance of having horses as part of our society and culture, we will lose them forever, and in the process, lose our souls and ourselves.
23 - What books, magazines, websites, etc. can people read and review to learn more about your work?
For those that still love the feel of turning a page there is Horse Connection magazine. And for the rest, you can visit www.horseconnection.com
24 - Any final thoughts?
A world without horses is a world I do not care to participate in.
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