Not long after I began blogging ten (?) years ago, I heard about bloggers attending and learning at South By Southwest, aka SXSW. Like an annual World’s Fair with a touch of the Texas State Fair Does Tomorrowland, SXSW has expanded into a glimpse into the future for both the arts and technology. What I saw both sparked my imagination and worried me.
I saw a total of four live equids, which I didn’t photograph because the photos would’ve been crappy.
Two were Austin police horses patrolling the Sixth Street party crowd late at night.
Another pair was a cowboy riding a mule and leading a pack horse through downtown Austin around San Jacinto Street.
I’m not sure if the latter was a live promo for Rodeo Austin, also ran simultaneously as SXSW, or the now-legendary recreation of HBO’s “Westworld.” (More about Westworld soon.)
Granted, we didn’t go everywhere. You just can’t, and it has nothing to do with not having the pricey platinum guest pass. SX, as is shorthanded by locals and veteran attendees, is just too sprawling.
I was our group’s “tour director.” For about a month before we left, I scanned all the SXSW events for our party of four for events we all would enjoy. Our shared interests covered tech, startups, and wellness.
The only booth with any relation to equines was at the Wellness Expo, and that’s because I knew about it. Miraval Austin runs some equine experience activities, but I saw no related promo at the booth.
I thought about asking, but I suspected I’d be pitched. Just because we could afford to fly from Hartford to Austin to attend free events at SXSW doesn’t mean I could afford a weekend at the Miraval Spa. Ya know?
Although we didn’t go, the Westworld event at SXSW would have been a logical place to see horses. At first, I couldn’t find them, such as in this article in Business Insider. This article in Vanity Fair mentions six local horses were involved in the immersive experience, along with local human actors.
However, the Forbes website came through. Here’s a direct link to the Rich Winley’s SXSW Westworld video.
There! Finally. I’m a bit relieved. Did you spot the transport bus out to “Sweetwater?” It’s plastered with an image of a white horse.
Some of you may be thinking, wow, Rhonda, if you wanted to see horses, you should’ve gone to the rodeo.
Here comes my point. I bet you’ve figured it out already.
SXSW is all about the future
SXSW is catnip for young people. Music, often open bars, free food, free gaming. Technology both inspired by and yet unheard of in science fiction.
SXSW is even scheduled for a week colleges commonly use for spring break.
Horses were at Westworld, but not everyone got to see WestWorld.
One of the free events for the public was the SXSW Wellness Expo. In traveling up and down the booths, which included Miraval Austin, I saw was no representative for therapeutic riding or even a riding stable.
- Even though Texas A&M University published this report on the health benefits of horse riding.
- And The Guardian talks about the psychological benefits of riding.
- Then there’s this Japanese study into the benefits of horse riding on a child’s cognitive abilities.
Likewise, where was EAGALA, the organization for equine assisted therapy, a crucial aid for helping troubled people deal with trauma? Or The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association? Or PATH?
Oh, right. They’re doing their thing. Helping people.
And that’s lovely.
Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, SXSW isn’t cheap to attend, so I’m sure it’s pricey to exhibit at. Some stables run by tight enough margins that, if there’s a decision between paying to be part of SXSW or purchasing hay, hay is gonna win.
However, I also noticed America’s Best Racing, the youth outreach arm of the Jockey Club tasked with attracting young adults to horse racing, had no presence at SXSW.
Oh, right. They’re on the Derby Trail working at racetracks and meeting up with racing’s so-called youth movement.
Guys, if they’re already at the track, you’re kind of redundant.
The bottom line is THIS
If the young adults touring #SXSW don’t see you, let alone Gram and Tweet about you, you’re not on their radar.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating the importance of SXSW as a vanguard of culture.
On my Kindle is a book I’m afraid to read.
I read reviews when it was first published in Britain, and I bought a digital copy as soon as it was released here in the US, but the title keeps me scrolling past.. Even though I had the guts to read Jaimy Gordon’s LORD OF MISRULE (here’s my review), I’m still shying away from Ulrich Raulff’s book.
Maybe the title gives you chills, too. Check it out:
Huh. Wait a minute. That’s the US cover.
Looks like the publisher changed the subtitle to A CULTURAL HISTORY for American sales.
Here’s the cover sold in Great Britain, where the book was first released, with the original subtitle:
The Final Century of Our Relationship?
No matter how the US cover has been retweaked, reviews told me we are in a long goodbye to our favorite animal. Author Ulrich Raulff points out that art no longer features horses.
Look closer, sir. Please.
Frankly, no more horses represented in the arts?
I know some fine equine artists working in many media, and I’m not talking about Moneighs from ReRun.
And don’t get me started on how mainstream publishing is marginalizing horse books. Many stories featuring horses are self-published now. You may not find them on bookstore shelves, but browse the big e-retailer–and order them from your local independent bookstore.
Granted, equine historian Susannah Forrest’s review of FAREWELL TO THE HORSE is less alarmist than reviews. Horses may be used in other parts of the world, as Susannah points out, but they are retreating in what’s considered the modern world.
I see farms close, and the land developed. Developers love former horse farms. The land is already cleared.
The SXSW attendees may not choose to ride or attend an equestrian event, but you can bet they’ll vote and weigh-in on laws and zoning ordinances. Perhaps these laws will pertain to horse industry businesses.
We’d like for the young movers and shakers who attend SX to send their children or future children to a summer camp. Or maybe even entertain the notion of filling an empty nest with a horse to enjoy.
Wouldn’t it be nice if they looked on horse-related businesses with warmth and high regard?
We save what we love.
But we have to know about it to fall in love.
As Kentucky horseman Price Bell Jr. of Mill Ridge Farm says on the video introducing Horse Country Tours, paraphrasing his grandmother in reference to horse racing:
“If you want someone to fall in love with this sport, let a horse breathe on them.”
The world of horses is vast, and there are so many ways to enjoy time with them.
Let’s ensure that we aren’t saying farewell for at least another century to these inspiring and often generous creatures.
So, there’s time, Austin area horse people and pony clubbers, to look ahead to #SXSW2019.
Update: When I posted the link to this blog post to Twitter, the following conversation happened. Check it out: