This past weekend I spent with some of my favorite people in the world, at the American Horse Publications conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The annual conference brings magazines, podcasts, authors, photographers, and freelance writers from all over the United States to learn and network. The culmination of the conference is the Equine Media Awards, of which The Timid Rider was an Equine-related Blog Finalist in 2019.
While many had travel delays due to the tumultuous spring weather across the nation, the travel gods smiled on me. I arrived early on both flights and my suitcase was one of the first to be available at the baggage claim. Even better, I ran into equine photographer Shelley Paulson on my second flight, was rented a car and offered a ride. Luckily my roomie and dear friend, Carly Kade’s flight arrived early as well and we were off on our Southwestern adventure.
We arrived at the conference early. While Shelley had arranged to photograph wild horses, Carly and I decided to wander into Old Town Albuquerque and do a little shopping and exploring. We did not come up empty handed. Stopping into a local restaurant to enjoy a margarita and coming home with complementary serapes, among a few other goodies.
The first day of the conference the team at American Horse Publications put together two excursions. My friends and I were so happy to be reunited and spend the day together exploring Santa Fe and the surrounding area. Our first stop was the Hipico Santa Fe, a full-capacity equestrian horse park. We took a tour of the expansive grounds and then watched a demonstration from Chenoa McElvain, a trainer and Grand Prix show jumper with her horse Wall Street. Then, we were treated to a clinic on clicker and target training with Shawna Karrasch of Terra Nova Training Center. She showed us how she works with established horses used to the training methods and a horse new to the program, which I found incredibly inspiring. Don’t be surprised if you see me working this way with Ferrous to see how we go together. Finally, we were treated to a vaquero performance from Rudy Vara and his Andalusian mare, Paloma.
It was an amazing and inspirational morning, but we were nowhere near complete. We headed to the Mortensen Ranch and Saddle Shop for a genuine chuckwagon lunch and roping lessons, which I failed horribly. There were only ropes for righties, and I’m left-handed. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. But…at least I didn’t lasso myself like my friend, Carly. But the real star was Fergus the Horse creator, Jean Abernethy, who must be roping lassos regularly in her native Canada, because boy howdy she has skills!
The food was amazing and authentic and then we toured the ultimate tack shop, a silversmith and saddle shop on property with artisan Clint Mortensen. Clint introduced us to his ranch and even appeared as an extra in a few Westerns filmed locally, including Netflix’s Godless and Adam Sandler’s Ridiculous 6.
New Mexico is increasingly becoming a filming destination and as such, we then toured the set of Ballad of Buster Scruggs nearby. I confess we had a lot of silly fun playing in the saloon and inspecting the buildings!
After all this excitement I needed a nap and basically slept on the bus on the way back to the hotel.
The following day the conference began and it was time to network and learn as much as possible in two short days. Most of the big equine magazines were in attendance and well-represented and I enjoyed seeing the editors of Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman, Chrome, and more also there to learn and meet with colleagues. By chance at lunch the second day I sat next to Debbie Loucks of Horsemanship Radio, who also happens to be the daughter of legendary Monty Roberts.
Everyone was lovely but we were really looking forward to the Equine Author Meet-up that Carly Kade and I were moderating. Our goal was to bring together established authors, both independent and traditionally-published, as well as writers who wanted to write books. We had an amazing turnout and it was standing room only! We started a conversation that I really hope will continue to come together as a community to support each other and help each other. We all have something special to say and to give. As Carly says, “#authorsunite”. I recently started a Facebook group for authors to keep in touch, so if you are a horse writer and want to write books or have written books, come on over and join us.
Immediately after our meet-up came the reception, dinner, and Equine Media Awards. “The Timid Rider” was a finalist for the blog category. I had zero idea which blogs I was competing with, but since I’m incredibly honest, I thought they would all be personal blogs. Imagine my surprise during the ceremony when the winners were announced. Out of ten submissions, the Timid Rider was announced as the 2nd Place winner! Even better, the winner is the Western Horseman blog.
OMG! OMG! OMG! How was I even in competition with these large, iconic publications? I did not lose to Western Horseman. I am honored to even be considered in the same category. More, the judge’s feedback was all positive and I am humbled and absolutely blown away. In the year The Timid Rider has existed and Confessions of a Timid Rider was published, I feel that sharing my story is making a difference.
We had a little celebration in our hotel room with friends and talked about our time at the AHP conference with excitement, motivated for the future. When you find your herd, the place you fit, it can be hard to leave. But there is hope in knowing you will keep in touch and see them again, even if it is a year from now.
I have gained more confidence with my blog and my writing because of the support from my friends and associations like American Horse Publications. They give me a place to share my story and help me be the best person I can be for myself and to inspire others who may feel less bold.