By April D. Ray
I have been involved in horses in some shape or form since I was six years old. I turned it into a career and more importantly, a lifelong love, and nearly five years ago that lead me to a sales position at Horse Community Journals. When I started working here, I thought I was pretty open-minded when it came to horses. Admittedly I had a lot to learn and still do. When it comes to horses, I know that I will never stop learning for the rest of my life. Luckily, working for HCJ has increased my ability to educate myself on my favourite four-legged topic. And I’m sure I can credit the complete shift that has taken place in my relationship with horses largely to my involvement with this magazine.
Since I was a kid, I have ridden in the hunter/jumper discipline. I have also read Canadian Horse Journal since then as well. When I started reading it, the magazine was called Pacific & Prairie Horse Journal. From the first time I jumped a cross-rail, I didn’t have much interest in anything other than jumping, so much so that when I was 15 and doing my first dressage test, I considered jumping the surrounds to make it more enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved horses dearly, but had some pretty serious tunnel vision when it came to what I wanted to do with them. Even my interest in flatwork was purely because I knew it would improve my jumping in the end.
When I started working in the office here, I was competing in both the hunter and jumper rings, teaching a little, and riding as much as I could. It’s not something I noticed right away, but gradually things in me started to shift. I began to see horses differently. With access to content sourced from industry professionals, my eyes were opened to so many things in the horse world. Whether it was the importance of saddle fit, proper nutrition, or just the general well-being of horses, with each article I read, my compassion (and passion) for horses grew. Now I no longer look at horses as employees who work for us in exchange for the feed, care, and housing we give them. I see them now more as partners and hope to continue to grow that partnership with my own horses and any that cross my path in the future.
This job has afforded me many great opportunities including the chance to attend trade shows and events over the years. Most memorable was the Jonathan Field & Friends event that took place in Calgary in 2014. I was, of course, keen on seeing George Morris coach but was surprised by how inspiring all of the other clinicians were as well. A liberty performance Jonathan gave the first day moved me to tears and still gives me chills. It also gives me something to work on with my horse in the hope that I can reach even a small fraction of the level of horsemanship, skill, and connection it takes to do what he does. Craig Johnson, a reining trainer, said something that still sticks with me to this day. When having a round table discussion and talking about nerves, he said, “There’s going to be butterflies, you just have to teach them to fly in formation.” And I am still trying to do just that.
Jonathan Field riding Cam and working two horses at liberty at the Jonathan Field & Friends event. Photo: Dainya Sapergia Photography
Canadian Horse Journal being an all-breeds, all-disciplines magazine, I have been exposed to so many intriguing and exciting possibilities to do with horses. Whether Western dressage, competitive trail riding, camping with your horse, or anything in between, I kind of want to do it all. My plans with my new horse have changed dramatically. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want her to be a jumper and I will make an effort to fulfill that dream should it work out for the both of us. But I also want to do loads of other things. I want to buy a Western saddle, I want to go camping, and at the end of the day I want to have fun. I am no longer chained to a particular arena and an idea of what I need to do with my horse to be successful. Now success looks like a happy, healthy horse who loves her job – whatever that job turns out to be.
“There’s going to be butterflies, you just have to teach them to fly in formation.” – Craig Johnson, world champion reiner.