Linus at the CHHAPS Pacific Canadian Horse Show 2011
My fingers have been hovering over the keyboard for about five minutes now, much like the scene in You’ve Got Mail in which Tom Hanks ponders how to explain his no-show on his date with Meg Ryan. I was so privileged to be part of the Pacific Canadian Horse Show in Maple Ridge, British Columbia that my gratitude has all but rendered me mute. Everyone was warm, welcoming, helpful–and that was just the people. The horses were, well, breathtaking, and since my booth was less than five feet from the shed-rows, you can easily guess where my heart led my feet, again and again and again. I couldn’t get enough of these superb horses, each one a credit to the Canadian breed in looks and temperament. All the owners and riders were very good about letting me pet, kiss and generally bask in the energy and beauty of their horses, and everyone graciously tolerated all my questions–and dumb and wordless staring, which I did a lot of. Even while there, I was very much aware how different this Show and this group of people were from those at other Event and Competition shows I’ve attended. The camaraderie shared amongst all the riders and owners was a sharp contrast to the cold, competitive, shut-down energy at other Shows where the riders/owners hardly look at each other, much less at their mounts. It’s a wonderful thing to showcase a breed–its versatility, its beauty, its willingness to do things for us which no doubt make no sense to them–and to pit one’s own riding skills against that of many others. That’s true sportsmanship, but more to the point, as Ken Morris, President of CHHAPS, has written, it’s most important that every one of those marvellous horses has a home for life. We call these horses athletes, and athletes need to retire after they have done all that we ask of them, astonished crowds of onlookers, put up with the rigours of training we impose on them, and just generally forgive and forget when, in our ignorance, we haven’t exactly heard what they want and what they need. Deb Harper, horse trainer/rehabilitator and photographer, showed me in one day just how poorly we read our horses, and how extensive their intelligence and communication skills are. Deb, you may remember, provided me with dozens of photos of Canadiens from which I was able to find Prince, the Canadien stallion who graces the cover of Ground Manners. I will have much, much more to say about Deb and to her, very soon.
In the meantime, she gave me two big kodak photos of me with her horses which I carry around with me from room to room, a bit like Linus with his blanket. Euphoric experiences deserve to be recalled–preferably at the drop of a hat–much more than sad or negative experiences, don’t you think? Overall, my experience in Maple Ridge, BC and at Deb’s place in Abbotsford, is a memory I will always treasure.