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By Steve Komadina
The Right to Independent Thought
One of the gifts of my life with horses, is that it has forced me out of the contentious arena where many Americans live. A number of the horsemen and women in my life, don’t just disagree with me about politics and religion, they hold completely opposite views. I also grew up in a family where my father was a Catholic Democrat and my mother a Mormon Republican. I was a pretty ecumenical kid! I learned early that you don’t have to bring areas of diverse belief into every activity you do.

At age nine my mom took me down to the sandy bank of the Rio Grande, just off the bridge on Central Avenue, where there was Clark’s Riding Stables in the bosque. I did not have the money to own a horse or even to rent a horse or pay for riding lessons. We would just sit in the car and watch the kids and families ride. After a few weeks, Mr. Clark came over and asked what we were doing. We explained that we just loved horses and enjoyed watching people take lessons and go out on rides in the bosque.

Mr. Clark asked why we did not rent a horse and I explained I was saving my money and hoped one day to be able to afford lessons. I explained to him that I had never even touched a horse. He was a portly man with a white stained cowboy hat, dirty jeans and a big trophy belt buckle. He opened the door and asked my mom if he could show me a horse. I still remember the feel of that muscular leg as he placed my hand on the front leg. The breath on my palm was like a magical breeze. I was hooked.

“Mr. Clark?” I asked. “Is there anything around here I can do to help? I don’t want any pay; I just want to learn as much as I can about horses.”

That was how I grew up at that stable as a volunteer worker. I was big for my age and I was able to help hold a horse for the farrier, unload the trailer, lift feed bags, empty the pickup, saddle, and unsaddle horses brought back from trail rides, walking to cool them off. As a kid I could care less about politics, I just loved horses. I would listen to the adults talk at family gatherings and at down times at the stable about both religion and politics and quickly noticed that not all adults agreed.

I became a member of my extended Yugoslav family as well as the Stable family despite my differing views. Because the horse people in my life fed me, forgave me when I made mistakes, and thought I was a pretty neat kid, they became part of my extended family and the language of horses breached our differences philosophically.

I had a deep pride in these connections for a long time. Often, I still do, remembering a simpler time and kinder world to my limited experience. I loved this idea of being a bridge person, a fence walker, a person who could switch in and out of different lives and values to see the beauty in complicated things. Like learning to ride, I knew that growth came from discomfort, and I wanted my mind to burn with understanding the same way my legs did when trying to learn something new in the saddle.

As I grew in my horse experience, I gravitated to politics in school and found myself a leader and peacemaker and a consensus builder. Rising to the rank of Eagle Scout, I learned to love my country and standing at attention for my flag. I could feel the rise of patriotism in my chest as the National Anthem was played. The contention between neighbors saddens me and even in our horse community with breed fighting, judgement of other’s horses and clothing and riding discipline. Why must human beings contend? It is perhaps why I travel many trails alone. Just me and my horse, my wife, dog or child. Can’t we all just get along? To quote Rodney King.

There is room for all kinds of opinions. The problem comes when we try to thrust them on others. Let us as a horse community in Corrales leave breed politics, political politics and religious politics out of the barn experience. Just be happy that we have the best village in the world to enjoy our equine friends. See you on the trail!

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