One of the questions I dread the most is when a polite stranger on a plane asks me, “What do you do for a living?” Usually, the question was preceded by an inquiry about whether I am traveling on business or pleasure (rarely the latter). Sometimes this question comes up when I am at a social function with my husband’s business.
For starters, I am never really sure how to answer that question. How do I sum up what I do in a simple phrase or what title could I use to describe my job? Horse trainer doesn’t quite cut it (although I use that a lot, hoping there won’t be follow-up questions). “Clinician” certainly makes no sense to civilians and invokes images of white lab coats and stethoscopes. So usually I reply with the innocuous answer, “I am in the horse business.”
At that point, one of two things usually happens. Either their eyes glaze over with a lack of interest and they move on to another subject or their eyes light up and stories ensue about their own personal connection to horses (or their wife-cousin-neighbor-childhood friend’s story). In the latter case, it can lead to a long and one-sided conversation, most of which I spend nodding and smiling.
If the conversation continues past the initial statement, at some point I will find myself trying to explain what I do. Usually I start with saying I am a public speaker; most people can understand, at least in theory, what that entails. Also, I fall back a lot on saying I am an “educator”. If their curiosity persists at this point, I’ll find myself explaining what goes on at a horse expo and the difference between an expo and a horsemanship clinic. That is usually enough to kill the conversation. I rarely bring up the TV show because, well, it sounds sort of vain.
Another dreaded question from the non-horse person, is, “Are you a horse whisperer?” Man do I hate that question! Actually, it’s great that people have a basic understanding that there are humane and seemingly magical training techniques that promote a cooperative relationship with the horse, I just don’t want to be labeled a “Horse Whisperer” because it sounds very Hollywood and silly.
Given that statement, you may ask yourself why then is my TV show called Horse Master? Well, for starters, I didn’t think of or pick the name and yes, I would feel really silly referring to myself that way. But, I recognized the tone and meaning that the title conveys and the promising marketing appeal. I also like the fact that we encourage and help people master certain skills in horse handling and riding.
I am lucky to have such an interesting job. Well, I guess it is not so much luck as appreciation, because I worked hard over the past few decades to get where I am; it wasn’t entirely by luck. But I love helping people with their horses (and, better yet, helping horses with their people) and working with so many different horses in different places. I know that I have benefitted in knowledge and skill by working with such a variety of horses—much more than I would have experienced if I had been cubby-holed in one discipline or even one region of the country.
Although I miss being able to ride my own horse, I am fortunate to get to ride a lot of really cool horses at expos, since I don’t travel with my own horses. Last weekend I rode a beautiful QH stallion called “Papas A Little Sexy.” He was an easy-going gorgeous hunk of horse flesh and all else being equal, I like to ride a pretty horse!
Today I am in route to Murfreesboro TN for QuarterFest, a weekend celebration of the American Quarter Horse. I’ll be teaching clinics and riding a cute little dun QH gelding that a friend is bringing for me to ride. With any luck at all, I may be able to sneak into one of Mike Major’s cowhorse clinics with my weekend partner. Mike is a world champion versatility ranch horse trainer/breeder and Rich and I have ridden with him several times. It should be a great weekend “in the horse business.”
Enjoy the ride,