With the rise of social media changing the landscape of our Arabian horse community, new challenges and opportunities have arose. One woman who has used these opportunities, and tackled these challenges head on for the good of the breed, is Melinda Lawrence. Melinda is the sole admin of the Arabian Owners and Breeders Alliance, a Facebook group with over 5000 members, and growing. The Alliance is a judgment-free forum for anyone to request support and advice, share successes and come together to celebrate what we all love so much in the Arabian horse.
Equestrians are passionate and often love to share their interests[, and Arabian horse lovers are no different. Through her community guidelines and constant administrative work, Melinda has created a group that is cohesive, honest and resoundingly positive. Discussions are varied, as are responses; the goal always being to promote the Arabian horse, help other enthusiasts and foster a sense of community for the breed in this new social media driven climate.
When asked to share a little about herself, Melinda writes, “I was born and raised in Houston and am a retired attorney. My husband is a retired Assistant District Attorney. We have been married for 26 years and moved from south of Houston to Northeast Texas five years go. No children. Six horses, including OhYa, my Purebred Polish, Piaff son who is a trained reiner, and cow horse, and an AQHA cremello Tinsel Jac son, Hollywood Tinsel Jac, "Bubba", who has a reining foundation also but is currently excelling in roping.”
OhYa, Top Ten US Nationals Open Reining Derby, 7xs Regional Reining Champion. Now successfully competing in Cow Horse.
“I got my first Arabian mare, Oksana Jaox, a Patron granddaughter when she was two and we showed Western Pleasure at rated shows at the local level. She is still living with me at 23 years old along with another Purebred mare and two Half-Arabians. We currently have three cats and two dogs. I have been an animal lover since I was a child. Instead of dolls, I played with a virtual zoo of pets even though we lived in the city. So there is an unbreakable bond with all animals there.”
As the economy and world we live in adapts, so too does our community. “The Arabian Horse Community is one that includes all owners, breeders and lovers of the Arabian horse, no matter their background or social status.” Melinda shares. “It is one where we celebrate each other’s successes, educate each other, and support each other in times of grieving. It is one where we see passed the divisiveness that sometimes separates us. It is one where there are no labels. No Main Ring folks versus Sport Horse folks versus Working Horse folks. No Halter folks versus Performance folks. This sense of ‘community’ and the love we each have for our Arabian horses is, in my opinion, the important ingredient in helping the breed and the breed shows to survive and thrive.”
The Arabian Owners and Breeders Alliance offers easy access to help and support, and acts as an instant gateway to a large group of Arabian horse lovers. The group includes people from all walks of life and all experience levels, from brand new or merely interested through to some well-known veteran trainers. It is unique in its ability to foster relationships and promote positive discussion, though an enormous amount of work goes into this. Speaking about her motivation for forming the group, Melinda writes, “I have been the Co-Admin. on two previous groups and I was ready to try a new concept just over a year ago. I feel strongly that there are too many folks who are very negative about our Arabian Horse Community on social media. I believe that the divisiveness often seen gives the appearance that many are unwilling to work together on common goals for our breed. I want to change that perception and prove that we are in fact, a community.”
“It is my intention with this group, to bring us all together and give us all a voice – those of us who want to perpetuate our breed, and those of us who want to promote the Arabian Horse Community by working together. And lastly, I want to help show the world that we have the most beautiful, talented, and intelligent horses, and there is a whole lot of us who love them.”
Social media has played a huge part in many of the changes we as the Arabian horse community are experiencing, Melinda too shares her thoughts on this. “Social media has changed the way we relate to each other, one has to only go on Facebook to see the good, bad and the ugly. But I continue to believe that there is far more good that comes from social media than not. Without Facebook, I would have never connected with my extended Arabian horse family, lots of whom I have never met but consider friends. But lots of whom I have been able to meet in person because we met on Facebook first. And as an added bonus, we can all market our horses without a lot of time and energy, too. “
With passion can often come emotion. Melinda shares a little about how she manages the group in order to keep the tone positive, welcoming and informative. “I discovered a long time ago that emotion does not allow for constructive discussions. When folks let their emotion take over, then things go south very quickly. I think the group works because everyone is expected to be civil to each other and to move on from inflammatory topics when asked, if the discussion is no longer conducive to learning or supporting each other.”
“Managing the group and facilitating honest, informative, and open discussion means I am always ‘on duty’ and it is a full-time job. I try to find a balance between allowing frank discussion and keeping things on topic, and it seems to be working.”
“I believe the success of the group proves that bringing a wide spectrum of Arabian horse enthusiasts together, who Trail Ride, show, Race, rescue, etc., and can discuss issues civilly and intelligently, is enlightening in and of itself. It gives us all hope that we can work together on a larger scale, put aside egos and personal agendas and work for the greater good of the horse.”
One of the important roles of our Arabian horse community today is to act as ambassadors to newcomers and share the amazing qualities of our breed. “If we show the world we can come together as breed enthusiasts, and that we not only love our horses, but we are a welcoming community and we can be kind even when we disagree, then folks will want to know more. To me that is the first step in proving to others that we want them to join us. Our horses are amazing. We need new folks to know that we can be amazing, too. As always, I STAND FOR THE ARABIAN HORSE.”
If you are not already part of the Arabian Owners and Breeders Alliance, you can learn more by visiting the Facebook group at this link: www.facebook.com/groups/1535155039863230/