Monday, November 12, 2012
Spotlight on Katie Walker and Equestrian Art by Su Zi
Ours is a culture so urban in mindset that a rural way of living has become anachronistic; a romantic concept that is the trope of jokes, and of Hollywood plots of dystopia. Equally, our culture’s recent spate of nostalgia is an impossible fantasy of women’s roles that practice a convenient amnesia to the restrictions, abuses and denial of the many gifts of the women who lived in those times. In addition, our culture’s tacit acceptance of transience gives rise to a lack of commitment, a sense of disposability to our relationships, to our very environment, that has created the climate change that may end human civilization, if not all planetary life. It is not a march in lock-step, however, and there are those who are choosing their life path in a way that rejects the glut of cities and all that dense population centers represent. One such person is Katie Walker, who says she is “not a city person. I visit them, but I don’t like them”. Reflecting on the urban influence upon our current culture, Katie says, “I think there’s a shift in how people live. When you make yourself far removed from the land and what the land can offer you, you’re at a deficit when something happens.” Mentioning the recent patterns of increasingly severe storms due to climate change, Katie stated : “It goes back to the primitive idea that even if you don’t live as organically as people living off the land, you still have the know-how [ to not be helpless]”. Katie is a fourth generation Floridian—a rarity in a state that is overbuilt beyond its water resources, where the state Farm Bureau posts “No Farms, No Food” advertisements, and where large commercial concerns destroy entire communities for tourist attractions and gated neighborhoods. Nonetheless, Katie intends to not only live her life as a rural person, but to spend her life with horses.
Formerly Katie Wimberly, Katie Walker is a talented equestrian who rides with classical grace, and who has begun also to accept clients as a trainer. She says she has been “riding since before I was born; my mom rode with me until she was four months pregnant, and she made a point to have me on a horse before I was a year old”. She attended University of Florida, Gainesville, for agricultural marketing and commuted a hundred miles “to keep the horses while I went to school”. Equating horses to actors and dancers, Katie says, “Horses have an emotional level that offers more depth, each one has its own way of being in the way they carry themselves and the way that they perform […] To me, riding is an art; being a good steward of the land is an art. Art is an appreciation of one’s surroundings. If you look back at agriculture, it took an understanding of your surroundings.” Katie continues with a comment about ‘the different grasses’ their individual structures and their appearance in large tracts “ so I think it’s interesting from a visual perspective.” Such considerations—the aesthetic of different grass types—are not the prosaic realm of an urban aesthetic; nor would their protein and sugar content after rain, after mowing, in drought, in dormancy, be the usual considerations of someone not used to thinking about the nutritional health of a four-hoofed vegetarian dancer, whose heights of movement can encompass both the competitive (sport) and the sublime.
Yet this is a woman with talent, intelligence, education and dedication, a woman who says of herself, “I have a great appreciation for the arts” without mentioning a classical mindset that once saw such appreciation as being equally necessary as agricultural knowledge and equestrian skills. In this young woman, Katie is in her twenties, our culture, as whole, has both another equestrian woman following the precedent of those equestrian women who preserved both our land heritage and our horses—the American Mustang, or wild horse, would have been exterminated two generations ago if not for the fearless, tireless work of a woman (and they are hunted and slaughtered by helicopter to this day—babies, pregnant mommies, half grown or ancient). While it may be true that too many young women concern themselves with only the produce and consume slavery our urban centers offer, here is one whose interests are far from the Manolo crowd.