Thursday, February 26, 2009

To Win the Prize

*As published in "The Valley Equestrian" February 2009

William James said, “He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he had failed.”
Years ago, I was presented with one of those unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Call it what you will, be it fate, destiny, or luck; whatever it was, the day I discovered the Pintabian horse was the day my life found its direction.

As a girl, I was horse-crazy as they come, and knew that no matter what direction life might lead me, that life must include horses. Arabian horses, in particular. In addition to being horse-crazy, I was also an independent thinker, not prone to following a crowd or to accepting other people’s opinions as fact. Arabians graced my life from the age of twelve, and so I knew from personal experience that the stereotypes given them as “flighty”, “silly” or (my particular favorite) “obstinate” were way off the mark. The Arabian horses I knew were sensitive, intelligent, willing, and demonstrated great endurance.

So in 1994 when the opportunity arose to meet some Pintabian horses and visit with a foundation breeder, I jumped at the chance. That day is forever etched in my memory. The horses were breathtakingly beautiful and totally unique. What sold me, however, were their temperaments. One could not walk through their pastures or pens without being followed and pestered for attention. Those Pintabians were so regal in their bearing, yet humbly sought human companionship and seemed to truly enjoy it.

That day left me with a fire in my soul. I went home, and as with every question or venture I pursue, did my homework. Formed in 1992, the Pintabian Horse Registry was still in its infancy. At the time, there were but a handful of horses and even fewer breeders. The realization struck me that this was an opportunity second to none. Pintabian horses were, in essence, the Arabians I so loved, but with the added interest of showy tobiano markings. They are not a cross-breed, as so many first assume; rather, the Pintabian is one of the more pure breeds in existence. Derived from the Arabian, with only a single outcross at least seven generations back to acquire the tobiano gene, they are over 99% Arabian in blood and breed true to type.

Moreover, Pintabians are quintessentially American. They are the embodiment of a great and original idea, as well as an example of the creativity, dedication and tenacity required to pursue such an idea. Pintabians are unique, rare, and the result of many years of careful selective breeding. I wanted to be part of the action as this new breed grew and prospered. In other words, I embraced this unique opportunity.

What a privilege, education and adventure it has been! Pintabian horses have been part of my family’s life for fifteen years now, and in that time we have watched the breed grow by leaps and bounds. Pintabian horses are now spread across America from New York to California, Alaska to Texas; and also reside in such far-away lands as Australia, Africa, and a number of European countries as well as Canada and Mexico. They compete against other breeds in events ranging from cutting to endurance to dressage and perform phenomenally well. Pintabians are versatile athletes in addition to being intelligent and willing, and yet are also a gentle family horse second to none. In fact, the trainer currently working with one of my young mares called recently to tell me that she is one of the smartest he’s ever trained. His opinion? “If all horses were this easy to train, I’d be out of a job!” and better yet, “I could ride this horse all day!”

Never once have I regretted the decision to dedicate so much of myself to this breed; quite the contrary, in fact. Through life’s many triumphs and tragedies, through two relocations, the birth and raising of my children, Pintabian horses have been a constant in my life. I could not be more blessed or more grateful for what these horses give in return. Each day as I witness the poetry in motion they write by simply walking across their pasture, or their gentle patience with my young daughters as they learn to groom, feed, and ride, it is clear that by embracing the unique opportunity presented by the Pintabian horse, surely I’ve won the prize.

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