Volunteer work is one of the best ways to further your equestrian skills, and is an excellent form of continual professional development. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a fair amount of my time travelling last year, and this has provided me with opportunity to expand my knowledge of horse care, training, and riding in different countries.
After such a positive experience at Zephyr Horses in Byron Bay, Australia at the beginning of 2018, I wanted to explore equestrian culture in the United States, and try my hand at Western riding. It was as easy as making an advert, and posting it in some local horsey pages on Facebook for Arizona and Nevada – two places I was keen to see on my trip. I had also e-mailed a few ranches in California that were of interest, to see if they could offer accomodation in exchange for work. It paid off to contact several places, however I was delighted when Arthur from A&M Equestrian in AZ, offered both my partner, Riley (who I was travelling with) and I a place to stay while we were there.
It was a privilege to work with such beautiful Arabians and OTTBs, and getting to try Western riding for the first time. After discovering a love for it – I’m now determined to invest in a western saddle myself at some point – Arthur and Catie, the owners of Arabians and More, are both exceptional horse people and were so generous with their time and knowledge during my stay. Their thoughtfulness, care, and consideration for the animals they have and train is expressed greatly in the horses personalities, and I met some of the politest Arabian stallions there that I’ve ever seen.
The establishment caters for lessons, training, and boarding. Catie and Arthur do a terrific job retiring and re-training racehorses, supporting them, and giving them the best start in their new careers and homes off the track. Catie has also recently competed in the Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park on her chestnut gelding Samendra, known as Hero. I had the privilege of getting to ride Hero while I was there (see photos below!), and he blew my mind, making me appreciate Thoroughbreds all the more. Incredibly, he had won over $153,000 in his time on the track and is the son of Demidoff, with his pedigree even including the well known Secretariat! As a testament to the kind and brilliant training he’s received, and his lovely personality, he’s now turning his hoof to being a lesson horse to kids of all ages.
As well as re-affirming my love for TBs, being at Arabians and More allowed me to fulfill my childhood ache for all things Arabian. I’ve had a love for this breed ever since I was a child, and my dream horse between the ages of five and ten was of course, a black Arabian stallion (a completely inappropriate horse for a child, I know most would say!). However, meeting the incredibly well-mannered and interactive stallions at Arabians and More had me thinking: maybe my childhood dreams weren’t so daft after all?
I rode a couple of fabulous Arabians, a gray gelding named Luke in particular, made me realise just how agile this breed is. You can get away with being a passenger on some horses, but not an Arabian. I ride a lot of cobs in my line of work (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve grown to really love a cob) but getting on an Arabian is like driving a Lamborghini. They make for a sensitive and exciting ride, and with their level of intelligence, they’re incredibly fun to interact with. Luke gave me a fantastic core workout in our little sessions together!
The other place we stayed at was on Crazy Horse Ranch in Morongo Valley, California. This was with a lady named Jacklyn who ran the place herself, and hosts volunteers on a regular basis to help her around the ranch.
We cared for a mixture of animals during our stay there, from horses, dogs, and rescued cats, to goats and chickens. It was an excellent base for Riley and I to visit the nearby Joshua Tree National Park, and see Los Angeles after our morning duties, and we had a lot of fun working together on various ranch tasks.
Riley even came out with us on a trail ride, and had his first canter. My fellow equestrians with non-horsey other halfs will appreciate the achievement in this!
My trip to the US was a memorable one, and I’m excited to go back in the future to experience more of their equestrian culture. Wyoming, Montana, and Texas are high on the list and I’m keen to try cutting and barrel racing! And to those who are interested in trying something new, broadening their skills, and immersing themselves in a slightly different way of life – I would highly encourage a working holiday or volunteering abroad. Most places you’ll find will be willing to offer accommodation, and even some food during your stay whilst you work/care for their horses – meaning the trip doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, but can still benefit you hugely when it comes to experience.
Photo credit to my lovely other half, Riley!