September 2008 • VOLUME 37 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine
You Have Made a Difference - September Editorial
Three years of putting out the magazine has been both a joy and a struggle. Or perhaps I should say a joyful struggle. It is has been incredibly hard work, but one I have enjoyed every moment of every day. Time consuming and overwhelming as it is on a daily basis, it is both a passion that I now would not know what to do without.
When the concept of the magazine first came up, it was just a few horsemen, a few instructors looking for a way to share and help the horses. Sad but true, we were thinking of the horses first, not you the rider. We of course realized that to help the horse, we had to help the rider. So what could we do?
We played with many formats, public discussion list - too free for all, private discussion list, backed with an extensive website of information - too private and not enough sharing, we played with the idea of an online classroom, complete with photos, video evaluations, and tons of material – too...not sure what "too" involved...but it just didn’t feel right. And then .. I don’t even remember who suggested an online magazine.
Well, we desperately all missed the former fabulous Dressage & CT with its wealth of information, all of the current magazines seemed to be filled with the same brainless twaddle as the next one. If I read one more time how to shorten the stirrup...I was going to retch. Not that everyone doesn’t need to learn these things, but where was the meat, the controversy, the article that would make me think and question everything I thought I ever knew about training?
While we all desperately missed Dressage &CT, none of us felt confident in our own abilities to replace such an icon. But it did sound interesting to take the wealth of information that we had collected in our private website and share it as articles in an online magazine. Loved the idea of creating a online resource center where we would save each edition and create an incredible resource that was added to, month after month, year after year. Truly it would be the same as creating that resource on a private web site, except that we would commit to bringing 12 new articles each and every month, and that was the beginning, the seeds of what started all this.
Twelve articles quickly became 14 then 16 and sometimes 18. We struggled those first six months, frustrated when few subscribers joined up. Not because we were not earning any money for our time, as this was never about money, but because no matter how well written an article was, no matter how important the message in that article was, it did absolutely no good if nobody was reading it.
Then our July double issue on rollkur came out and the floodgates opened. At that time nobody was talking about rollkur, too afraid that they too would be sued. We were scared, nervous that we were going to be next. We had people refuse to participate in the issue, afraid that they would have everything taken away that they had worked a lifetime for, and be left with nothing. We had the pictures, we had the video, we had the articles, and we had some very brave authors, photographers and videographers, every article in that double issue pertaining to rollkur. Up till the last moment that we went live, we were told, don’t do it. We questioned whether it was the right thing to do, after all we too had families, children that we needed to support, and not be locked in some court room battle that we could ill afford. Would our lives, our very livelihood be threatened? But the horse’s eyes spoke and we could not refuse their request, they needed help and all of you who came that day, the day of the release of the magazine gave it to them. On discussion boards all around the world people came saw the pictures, told others who came and saw the video and understood the true travesty of what had been going on. Saw that this was not “just a moment in time.” And the genie was out of the bottle and couldn’t be put back in. All of you did this. You incredibly wonderful people, who care so much.
In one day our readership expanded by 100% and since then we have never looked back. Sad in a way that our success came about through the pain of the horses. Somehow that doesn’t seem right.
But we continued to struggle, never happy with our numbers, although they continued to grow as we seemed to have passed over some imaginary line, one where on the one side you live in obscurity and on the other where more and more people started to find us - as one person told the next, who told the next. We were never happy, as what good does it does to print an article on how the cavesson can impinge on the orbital nerve, or about the research on how 80% of horses participating in dressage and jumping had poll ossification, or any of the articles and research that we ourselves found very disturbing. We could write the articles, but as many people that might be reading the magazine, there were so many more that were not. And we wanted to reach all of them.
No matter how many articles that we wrote on rollkur it was still there. Yes, more and more people were talking about it. We ourselves committed to write one article in each and every issue, like a dog with a bone unwilling to let this issue die a quiet death, because all of us were being ignored by the powers that be.
Time passed and some took heart that the FEI the international body was going to look at this, and were sorely disappointed with the results. And not just us, but many wonderful individuals around the world continued to press for change. Everyone now knew because of the power of the discussion boards, what rollkur was. Many discussed the horrible aspects of what it did to the horse.
But it wasn’t just rolkur, what about the disgustingly tight crank nosebands that were appearing in international arenas all over the world, what was happening with newly approved strange bits? There was a path that we seemed to be taking as horsemen that was truly disturbing.
But on the other hand, as the magazine grew, we found joy in the many riders and trainers we were meeting through the pages of the magazine. How wonderful to find so many caring equestrians. Meeting the readers, talking to them on the phone or through email, was and is always incredible. An opportunity to delight in horsemen that are looking for so much more with their horses.
And amazingly, all of you are making a difference. We hope the magazine has helped, has been a part of your voice, has maybe sometimes been the starting point that you have taken so much further. Exciting to see how the magazine has attracted attention from our editors, from trainers, instructors, judges and authors, many of whom have gone on, on their own. The changes I have seen in the past three years astound me. I see other magazines following our lead and talking with more depth on many subjects, using authors that they would not have before; we have seen others follow and join us online; we see the FEI finally realizing that together online we have a voice that they cannot ignore.
Three years is in reality such a short time, but the power of you combined with the internet and the sharing of information has shown us how much can be changed, how information can be shared and opinions and training methods begin to change because of that sharing of information. While at one time I wanted every single horseman reading the magazine so that we could share the research and knowledge of so many wonderful horsemen, as always the words, the articles, mean nothing if there is not someone at the other end reading them. Today I am content to see others spin off in their own directions, adding their knowledge and experiences through websites, and video and books. There is something special knowing that we together have planted more than one seed, and those seeds have sprouted and have become something wonderful unto themselves or, in turn, how many have come to us, so incredibly happy to share and contribute their own knowledge and experience, and we have been able to help pass those experiences and their knowledge along through the pages of Horses For LIFE.
We are all connected throughout this universe and that each of you has their own promise to fulfill, and how joyful it is that we get to do this journey together.
By Nadja King