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What Matters? Family Matters.

What makes a Family?  Last week, in his column, Interim ASHA President Marty Schaffel wrote beautifully about Family Fun and what riding and driving horses means to his family.  But, this industry lends itself to more than just the immediate family.  We’ve all heard it—“my barn family”—but what does that mean?

The American Saddlebred has brought more than horses into the lives of families for over a century. Every day there are people across the country that come together because of the unified love for this horse. When our members commit to becoming an owner, breeder, trainer, exhibitor or fan of this magnificent breed, they are joining a community. We see this comradery in the aisle way birthday parties at horse shows, the sharing of horses to help a fellow barn mate live their #asbdreams, trainers working together to help manage a back to back class schedule or an AOT finding help from a competitor’s pit crew to help drop a tail in the make-up ring. These “barn family” moments are what make the equine endeavors we dedicate our time and resources to so extraordinary.

This past weekend, there was a Celebration of Life for a long-time American Saddlebred competitor.  She comes from a family that loved the American Saddlebred and competing and practicing and grooming and everything.  She came to the breed because her mother has been a long time breeder and competitor.  Mother and Daughter.  She also brought her own daughter to the breed.  Mother and Daughter.  All true.  The Celebration was held at her barn at her request so that her barn family could be part of it.  Hundreds of people were there; not all horse people but many, many were part of her “barn family”.  And that’s where she wanted her friends to meet and laugh and talk and love—together.  At the barn.  A “barn family.”

The week before that at a high school homecoming, an American Saddlebred charged onto the football field, painted and beautiful, with a beautiful rider astride.  And standing there by their side were members of the “barn family”—to help and encourage and cheer.  Not at the barn but “barn family”.
Last Tuesday, there was a post wishing a happy birthday to a prominent trainer in our industry.  It was a post made by another trainer and it wished a happy birthday to her “parading partner; her partner in crime”.  Two friends.  Two competitors.  In a sense, a “barn family”. 

Last week a pony jumped a fence out of the pasture and left on an adventure. There were neighbors, friends, local authorities, and horse people on the hunt.  People went out on horseback and searched for the pony.  One of the search party was a local trainer who jumped in her truck, saddled her horse, and went on the search.  A “barn family” all coming together to find a pony (who incidentally was found nine miles away).

Families do things together.  They celebrate together.  They eat together.  They grieve together.  They support each other.  They fight with each other.  They are there for all of these things and many more.  If you look up the word “family” in a traditional dictionary, you’ll see something about “a basic unit in society traditionally consisting of …” and so on.  But, if you look up the word “family” in the Urban Dictionary, this is what it says: “A group of people, usually of the same blood (but do not have to be), who genuinely love, trust, care about, and look out for each other.” 

Feels like a “barn family”. And barn families matter.

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