Latest Elk Citian Sports Updates
- Published on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 10:14
Daily Elk Citian
As I walked up the path leading to the rear stables, I had in my mind that showing horses was part hobby, part sport. For the most part though, I leaned toward hobby.
I knew Glenda Bales — owner and operator of Bales Performance Horses, which is just a quarter mile north of Merritt High School — had just fielded a world championship Pinto horse named, “Ms. Obvious Dominance,” at the Pinto World Championships in Tulsa about a week earlier. What I didn’t know was how she categorized her trade, in which she has professionally worked for 43 years.
“It’s a competition,” Bales said when I interviewed her later. “Some do it for fun, but I don’t. I do it for a living. You’re going out there and being competitive, so it’s actually a sport. You’re competing with another person, but you’re using an animal. You just don’t have a ball or anything like that.”
When I reached the end of the path, Jimmy Parker, whom Bales recently took on as an apprentice, was saddling and prepping to train a horse aptly-named “Shoe,” because of its infatuation with his riders feet. Parker’s interest in showing horses was so much that he limited his involvement in the sport of bronc-riding, to begin his new role at BPH.
After chatting up Parker for a minute, Bales walked up to greet me, then brought out her prized Pinto, which won the open Broodmare Class at the World Championships in Tulsa. Viewing “Ms. Obvious Dominance’s,” massive size and strength in person was impressive.
The first thing that came to mind was how much the presentation of such an impressive specimen reminded me of body-building, which is showcased on ESPN and considered a sport by many.
In her lifetime, Bales has trained 36 world championship horses, about 30 reserve world champions, and has had many horses in the top ten and leading the nation. Some she has trained and shown herself, and others were from clients who brought their horses to her and received training.
If this was a sport, Bales’ operation reminded me of a training gym for boxers, minus the blood and the spit buckets.
Much like boxers, horses and riders are trained for months, sometimes years to perform their craft in front of judges, which subjectively determine winners. Bales erupted in laughter when asked if she had ever disagreed with a judges decision.
“Yes, you’re going, ‘What are they thinking? What are they not seeing?’ But that’s with any sport. There’s missed calls in football too.”
The horse showing industry itself has an economic impact felt across the country. According to a study done by Deloitte Consulting LLP in 2005, it directly produced goods and services of $10.8 billion and has a total impact of $28.7 billion on U.S. gross domestic product.
After some prodding, Bales convinced me to ride during my visit. To the best of my knowledge — very little in this case — all I had to do was climb on and enjoy myself.
This, Bales said, was not so. World championship riding form entails keeping a straight back, which forms a line from one’s shoulder to his or her heel. Such posture completely engaged my core muscles, and after a few minutes, riding felt more like exercising.
On my way home I thought about the hobby vs. sport comparison a little further.
Horses are trained like athletes to perform a in a certain way to win titles. Riders are expected to use proper technique during competitions, which make up a billion dollar industry.
Then it dawned on me — knitting is a hobby.
This is a sport.