An Observation of The North American Equestrian Subculture
When thinking or discussing about the cultural mixture of America, we can speak of the culure- scape in terms of ancestral background, for example Italian-Americans. We can also speak of location, such as “Southern US” culture. When looking at cultures around the world, some cultures center around different aspects, such as industry or religion. Many cultures are either currently dependent or have been dependent on an industry in the past. Some are more agricultural, some more focused on hunting. For example, the country of Turkmenistan, their culture is affected by the religion of the people, but even more it’s affected by the industry and way of life the people have been practicing for years. This industry is the equine industry. I got the chance to see a glimpse of what horse culture (more of a sub-culture) looks like in the U.S.A, specifically at an event in Lexington, Kentucky.
When one thinks of Kentucky, they do not think of a diverse cultural melting pot, especially when Lexington is mentioned. Lexington, Kentucky has a different label, that label is “Horse capital of the world”. This draws another group, the North-American Equestrian subculture (as I call it). It’s not hard to find yourself amongst a member of this subculture. I decided to attend two events, colloquium and a hunter jumper clinic. I was allowed to “help out” here and there, but I mostly observed. On a personal note, I think that observing this particular sub-culture made me more uncomfortable than another (more obvious) culture or sub-group (excluding cults, and/or other more “obscure” groups).
The first event I attended was a colloquium, a friendly competition of various police mount programs from different cities and counties from across this half of the nation. The Asbury University Service Mount club was invited to attend, compete, and participate in a few educational clinics. I observed the last day of the week long event. During my few hours there, I watched the interactions between the students that were invited, other spectators, event organizers, and mounted police officers (retired and in duty). A lot of networking occurred at this event, as owners, trainers, and buyers are looking for an investment.
This made this event business driven as well as driven by connecting with those of the same subculture from around the country. When talking with some members of the Asbury University Service Mount club I noticed they talked with enthusiasm and energy about a certain trainer, this is to be expected in any culture/sub-culture. This trainer was reputable and his “horse- credentials” (as I call them) were quite numerous. I was overwhelmed with information that made very little difference to me whether I knew it or not. What this trainer represented, a respectable, knowledgeable, and reputable trainer, was what the people surrounding me valued.
While at colloquium, I was asked what I thought about the individual horses, I mainly commented on aesthetics, but a few of my comments were directed on the demeanor and inclinations of the various horses’ behaviors. A few of my friends (members of the Asbury University Service Mounts club) discussed the training of the horses that were competing in the arena, I asked a few questions here and there, but mostly watched and listened. Training and positive behavior displayed in the horse is also highly valued.
While at colloquium I heard many words that I had not clue what they meant in the given context. At the hunter jumper clinic I attended this became more apparent to me. Words, terms, and phrases like: bit, gait, back, chip, above the bit, release, crow hopping, etc. Some words I could figure out, others was had to ask, and some I still don’t know. This made me realize that this really was a cultural experience.
Although I share a culture with most of the people at the events (that shared culture being the “American culture”, I am apart of different sub-cultures. And it great to experience a sub-culture within my own culture.