Misunderstood in the Midwest: We're Not All Cowboys

Misunderstood in the Midwest: We're Not All Cowboys

Most barns in the equestrian hub of Wellington, Fla. look out over beautifully manicured grounds, canals, or the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Many barns in California are tucked into beautiful valleys and shadowed by palm trees. My barn in central Indiana overlooks a cornfield.

Now, don’t get me wrong - my barn is absolutely lovely and there are a number of other hunter/jumper show barns nearby. Still, with no rated shows in Indiana, and an overwhelming population of western and pleasure riders, it’s easy to feel misunderstood by my fellow midwesterners - as most are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of our show circuit - and overlooked by many involved in the hunter and show jumping disciplines.

To other circuit riders, it’s easy to forget that anything even happens in middle America, given that our states are usually flown over on the way to somewhere more exciting—and to somewhere with more horse shows. To other ‘Hoosiers’, people who own saddles without horns and ride their horses in weird, tight khakis instead of jeans are a minority.

"Many barns in California are tucked into beautiful valleys and shadowed by palm trees. My barn in central Indiana overlooks a cornfield."

During a recent trip to Tractor Supply Co. (yes, that’s where I shop for most of my basic barn supplies), I asked an employee if they carried warmblood-sized fly masks. She looked at me and said, “You mean, like Arabians?” Well, not quite. When I tell fellow Midwesterners - who typically assume that all horse people in the area run barrels or wear cowboy hats - that my horses came from Europe, their eyes widen.

Though the landscape can accurately be described as ‘flat as far as the eye can see’ and doesn’t draw many visitors for the sightseeing, the Midwest happens to be home to several show facilities that are becoming increasingly popular - the World Equestrian Center in Ohio, the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in Michigan, Balmoral Park in Illinois, and of course, the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Related: Why I Chose to Quit Riding Professionally to Pursue My University Degree

We have great trainers and some of the best equine veterinary professionals in the country, like the doctors at Purdue University, Rood & Riddle, and Hagyard. Our hospitality is second-to-none, and although some of our horse shows take place in small towns, we know how to make people feel welcome.

There is more to the equestrian lifestyle than showing, and there is something to be said about keeping horses out in the country amongst corn and soybean fields. The road to my barn is narrow and I drive so far out in the middle of nowhere that I sometimes feel like I’m a modern version of Lewis and Clark, but, my horses benefit from the peace and quiet. In the Midwest, the stress is low and the grass is green.

While we may not be on the top of most people’s travel list, we know what’s here, and so do our horses.