Saturday, April 27, 2019

We need to do better than this

When I was in college, I volunteered as a side walker for Front Range Exceptional Equestrians (FREE).
I didn't know much about therapeutic riding and assumed that I would be working with kids with physical disabilities. Instead, I was paired with a mostly nonverbal, autistic woman who was older than me. She didn't make eye contact or acknowledge me in any way, and she had a lot of physical and verbal tics. I had never met anyone like her, and for the first session or two, I was very uncomfortable.

Fortunately, that didn't matter much. I was her side walker, but our interaction was fairly minimal. She paid attention to her horse and the instructor, and mostly, I just walked alongside and kept my mouth shut. I did that week after week, and it wasn't long before I realized that I was the one with the problem. My rider may not have been a cute, young horse lover in a wheelchair, but she was was fine. Different, but fine.

And, you know, even though she was mostly nonverbal, she did address her horse by name. Clearly, she was a woman after my own heart.

I have not met Anne Field's son, Travis, but I suspect he's a lot like my rider friend from long ago.
Anne has been taking Travis to model horse shows for more than a decade. He'll be nineteen in June, and he knows the drill. Nearly everyone who has shown in Region X has met Travis, and the consensus is that Travis is a valued and welcome member of the community.

Except... not this weekend.

Earlier this week, the showholder of the Quabbin Valley Performance Open asked Anne not to bring Travis to her show. She justified her decision the way people always justify these kinds of decisions: The hall is filled with valuable, breakable things. Travis might be overwhelmed. Travis might break things.

It's true that he might, but the same could be said for every single person in that hall. I have seen all kinds of things get broken at shows, and usually, the culprit is the owner of the piece in question. Travis has a good track record. There is no reason to believe he would present a greater than normal risk to any of the things at the show. 

I suspect the real reason is that Travis makes the showholder uncomfortable. I get it in a way, because pot kettle black, but what I don't get is making this anyone's problem but her own. And taking it out on Anne and Travis... That's beyond the pale.

I am constantly amazed that a hobby built around toys is so unwelcoming to children. This is not okay. We need to remember that people are more important than things, and inclusive is always better than exclusive. We need to open our hearts and showhalls to everyone who wants to play with plastic horses. We need to do better than this.


  1. THIS.
    Absolutely. Inclusion is so important.

    Thank you for sharing - whether young or old, on the spectrum or differently abled, we all need to make our hobby welcoming and accommodating. Hope to see Anne and Travis at future shows!

  2. I so agree. This show holder was so wrong. I hope people share the heck out of your post and shame her.

  3. Wow. I was at QVPO showing in the novice division yesterday and wondered why Anne wasn't there. It very much upsets me that the show holder treated Anne and Traivs this way.

    I also volunteer as a walker for our local Special Olympics program, and even when I feel uncomfortable, I always remind myself that these are people who put up with others who have problems with them daily, and they don't need it from me too.

  4. Model Horse Show MomApril 29, 2019 at 8:38 PM

    My 18 year old daughter, who has autism and participates in model horse shows, shared this post with me. My heart breaks for Anne and Travis. This is not OK. And it is not reflective of the model horse community as a whole. Abby's local show is incredibly supportive of her. The long-time show-ers offer her encouragement and feedback. She has also found a very supportive group in the Model Horse Month FB page. Thanks, Jen, for speaking up and being an advocate. And if Anne and Travis are ever down south, they should stop by the Palmetto State Live show. It's a fantastic group of people!