Tasting wine and evaluating horses have several similarities.
Years ago, when I lived in California, I worked in a winery tasting room part time. Admittedly, I knew nothing about wine when I started. Reds and whites. Room temperature and chilled. That was it. I couldn’t even finagle the bottle opener properly. I would read tasting notes and wonder how anyone detected hints of blackberry and vanilla on the finish. It tasted, well, red. But I continued to work. I learned about varietals and pairings. I talked to folks who visited and mentally noted their comments. And I continued to taste. After time, the world of wine unfolded before me. I learned the difference between Petite Sirah and Sirah. I picked up on jammy hints and finishes of spice and cardamom. I learned that the “legs” of a wine really don’t mean anything about quality. And I felt more confident than ever before about my personal preferences and dislikes when it came to vino.
And thinking back further, it’s funny to me how much this parallels my experience with horses. Granted, I like horses a whole lot better than I do wine, so the interest was ignited much stronger, sooner. But for a long time, I just rode. I would watch others compete and want to be them, but had no idea what was a good run and what wasn’t in the cutting, cow horse, reining or any judged discipline. They all sort of looked the same to me.
But as I grew older, I immersed myself with learning more. I rode so many different breeds that were all going to do different things. I studied bloodlines and watched good runs, bad runs and runs of all types. I studied and loved genetics, breed associations and color. I could see the way a horse was put together and tie it to the way he looked traveling, and then, how he felt when he traveled with me on his back. In my work, I learned so much about reading cattle and handling young horses. And all of these experiences and conversations combined couldn’t help but unfold further awareness and knowledge about my subject.
I had an interest but no real grasp of how strongly I was establishing a further education in either field. I learned about wine because I was around wine. I enjoyed the challenge of grasping new vocabulary and concepts about the whole scene. I developed more of an eye for horses because I was around horses. I loved talking to people who knew more than I did and absorbing their take on each subject. I loved gaining knowledge and confidence as I unconsciously studied and learned my topics. To this day, my education on wine is just a drop in the bucket compared to many. I would say the same about my horsemanship. The two are really a funny comparison, but they’ve both taught me that I can go from knowing nothing to a lifetime of acquired knowledge if I pay attention, care enough to learn and put the right type of people around me. It’s all about the situation, and it’s all about my enthusiasm for the results.
And, on a slightly related sidenote, please remember that though you can ignore the “legs” of a wine and get along fine, it’s a whole different story with the horse.