The New Year is upon us, and once again, I feel as though I’m not ready for it. While I look forward to the fresh start that a new year offers, I’m not always prepared to give up the old year quite yet.
Part of my reluctance to admit it’s Jan. 1 is because the days between Thanksgiving and Dec. 31 always seem to go by in a blur. There’s the time spent in Oklahoma City at the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity, followed by the time spent at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum for the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity. It is a crazy, hectic time for competitors, owners, vendors, sponsors and spectators. But that three-week span is also an all-encompassing reminder of what is good about our industry, if you slow down enough to look.
The NRHA Futurity showcased the sport’s biggest stars, both human and equine. In the arena and in the stands, the international reach of the sport was apparent. Reiners from faraway places such as Brazil, Uruguay, and Italy came together to celebrate their love of reining, and of the horse. There was the great story about the Australian reiners who wanted nothing more than to take a lesson from trainer Shawn Flarida and offered him a handsome price to take time away from his busy Futurity schedule to accommodate them. Ever gracious, Shawn agreed to coach the riders, but he wouldn’t take their money. Instead, he asked them to donate it to the Reining Horse Sports Foundation, which they did.
At the NCHA Futurity, the Open finals were scheduled to hold a little something extra this year, as Emily Crews spent weeks preparing to ride into the herd at the conclusion of the first set. A video released prior to the Futurity showcased the young woman, who hasn’t let three inoperable brain tumors deter her from her dream of showing a cutting horse. Thanks to Western Wishes, the NCHA, David and Stacie McDavid, trainer Clint Allen and Quarter Horse News, Crews was on track to fulfill that wish in front of a sold-out crowd at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. Afterward, the NCHA planned on auctioning off one of Emily’s original works of art to help with her medical bills. While that event is still a few days away, I’m sure it will be an emotional and heart-warming evening for everyone in attendance.
It doesn’t matter what kind of year you’ve had – when stories like that get told, life gets better. And for many of us, parts of 2014 have been difficult. The Quarter Horse News family said goodbye to Cutting Editor Mark Thompson in June, and we are still reeling from his loss, six months later. Many of us at Cowboy Publishing Group have also suffered personal losses that have made 2014 unforgettable. In one sense, we are more than ready to bid adieu to this year and grab a hold of a new beginning. But part of me also wants to hold on to the positivity, energy and excitement the futurities bring with them.
Yes, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day rush by all too fast, but the opportunities afforded to us at the futurities are many. In a way, the shows encompass the true spirit of the holidays, and not just because of the dates on the calendar. The futurities are a time for seeing old friends and making new ones. Getting to catch up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in 25 years after watching the best horses compete is like finding the perfect Christmas gift. Walking through the barns in Oklahoma City and hearing at least three different languages being spoken warmed my heart at the thought of people from around the world being united by a common love of the horse. Hearing the crowd clap, whistle and roar for a good horse is a sound that never gets old.
As finals weekend approached in Fort Worth, I heard a voice on the radio warn listeners there were only 16 days until Christmas. It was a reality I wasn’t ready to face, and not just because I hadn’t even started Christmas shopping. The truth is, I just didn’t want the futurity magic to end.
It doesn’t matter if your chosen discipline is cutting, reining, cow horse or versatility. The horse is the common denominator that brings us together – physically at the futurities and emotionally as friends. We’re tied together by bonds that transcend oceans and illnesses.
So this year, I’m carrying a little of the futurity feeling with me into the New Year. It’s nothing you’ll be able to see – not a souvenir from the exhibit halls or a photo I’ll hang on a wall. Rather, it’s the memories that I’ll keep as a mental reminder that no matter how many challenges we may face in 2015, we have each other.
Happy New Year, friends.