I felt as though I had stepped back in my life 40 years. There was organized chaos. Little structure. But everything was working. The timetable was on point; the gate was opened, horses came through. I judged the class, ribbons were awarded, the next one came in. People commingled, cheering was widespread. Young children, teenagers, adults all seemed to be working in unison, cheering collectively. What began by a simple conversation in Kentucky with Cindy Reich was now a realization; I was judging in Namibia, it was a journey to yesteryear and in the process finding joy today. 40 plus years ago our youth group in Albuquerque gathered in vacant lots around a simple fence to show our horses. We competed, we played, we ate lunch together, we enjoyed our sport. Decades later I was in Namibia enjoying the same simplicity of camaraderie and joy albeit from a different perspective. I was in a moment of reflection and joy.
Namibian horse breeders are on a trajectory upwards. They are sponges for learning. They did not want me to only judge their horses they wanted the stories from my experience. Although there are tremendous obstacles to bringing in horses from abroad they are managing to do so. Not only South Africa but from Poland, Australia, and the United States. And when breeders talked about their explorations and additions, they did so with wonderful passion. When the horses came through the gate I found horses to award as champion that were nice individuals. And the trainers presenting the horses did so respectfully. After the in hand classes were done, the same horses came back into the arena under saddle. I loved seeing this. The Champion Stallion was not only ridden in hunter classes, he was ridden in costume as well. At one point I was so happy watching him I asked if I could ride him round the arena, they obliged me and my smile was ear to ear. In one class a professional rode the horse, in the next class the owner rode the horse and then in the next class, the owner’s children rode. This is what the Arabian horse is all about. And it is what we used to do with our horses 40 years ago. I wonder who is doing it right.
Rather than name names of all the Namibia people who did so much to make my trip a success, I want to thank all of them collectively. From the owners, to the trainers, and the volunteers it was a magical time. I loved the horse experience, but more importantly I loved the life’s experience. I will be returning with my family to experience life in Namibia, a place that took me back to another time of innocence and collective grace.