I met Melanie Davis about a year ago at the annual used tack sale at Riding Warehouse where she was set up selling tack. She had a box of old Arabian Horse World magazines, which i immediately stated to ‘nerd-out’ on, and we’ve been friends ever since. (A little know fact that – Arabian Horse World, the largest and sexiest magazine for Arabian horses is now based out of Templeton! We hope do do an office tour article there soon, it’s the ultimate mecca of Arabian horse culture.) Melanie was gracious enough to answer some questions I sent her so we can all get to know her a bit better.
In your own words, tell us a little about yourself – what part of SLO do you live in, what do you do for a living, etc.
I live in the beautiful hills east of Paso Robles overlooking several horse ranches and a dry riverbed, which is great for riding but not so great for our wells!
I started riding by exercising polo ponies when I was 12 and acquired my first horse when I was 14, a beautiful bay ¾ Arabian mare who taught me so much … and did everything I asked of her. Back in those days Arabians were shown in multiple disciplines — hunter pleasure, western pleasure, hunter hack, halter, dressage, equitation — she did all of them well. I even rode her in bareback and bridleless classes at our local shows where she usually won. She solidified my love of Arabians with her beauty, kindness, and intelligence. However, I love good horses of any breed and have owned others as well.
What’s your favorite part about working for Arabian Horse World?
I have been with Arabian Horse World for 17 years this month as the Art Director. Just being able to live and work in a field I’m passionate about is a dream come true. How hard is it to pour over hundreds of photos every month of such beautiful creatures? I love the freedom I have in design and the artistic quality of the Arabian horse, and the connections I’ve made with the people. I also love working at some of the shows, especially the Scottsdale Arabian Show each February. One year I went to Aachen, Germany, for the All-Nations Cup Show, which was fabulous!
You have an Arabian I assume? Tells us about the horse/horses you have.
I have two Arabians, two Quarter Horses, and a pony. The pony was “borrowed” to be a companion for my aged mare whom I lost three years ago, but now I have a soft spot for her so she’s still here. My Arabian gelding was bred at Cal Poly Pomona and the Arabian mare was bred by a well-known breeder in the Santa Ynez Valley — Evergreen Arabians. Both the Quarters are working-type ranch horses with a history of working cattle, ranching, and roping.
And what do you do with horses? Ride Western or English? Show? Work cattle? etc.?
These days my husband and I enjoy riding trails. I have not competed in many years and my husband has become hooked on trail riding. Ten years ago I was able to cross off one of my bucket list items — to ride and compete in the Arabian working cow horse division. I bought a Polish-bred Arabian mare from trainer/manager Bill Flemion of San Simeon Arabians whom I trained with for two years (taking my lunch breaks riding in the arena!) We had a wonderful go and worked our way up to the U.S. Nationals where we won Top Ten in the amateur division and Top Ten in the open division ridden by Bill. What an incredible journey that was, and once again, proving the versatility of the Arabian.
Where’s your favorite spot to ride in SLO County?
San Antonio Lake has a fantastic horse staging area on the north shore and wonderful trails, and it’s only a 45 minute drive from our house. Now that the lake is so low and there are no boaters or campers, we see all kinds of wildlife. Just last weekend we came upon a herd of 40-plus elk and we regularly see bald eagles, coyotes, wild pigs, and deer. I just love the remoteness and solitude of that place.
What’s your biggest fear when it comes to horses and riding?
Ironically my worst fear is having a wreck in a very secluded area and having my horse run off! I never ride alone anymore and we both wear helmets. With age comes caution, and I like to think wisdom!
What’s the biggest reward you’ve received from riding and/or having horses in your life?
The adventures and the close-knit bonds with friends, both human and equine. I can’t imagine life without a horse, even if I stop riding at some point. They are special, wonderful creatures that bring out the best in me. They are my therapy!
Tell us about the best place you’ve traveled to for horses – trail rides, breeding farms or ranches, etc.
By far the most amazing place was Egypt! Our publisher Denise Hearst spent many years traveling to Egypt and forming special friendships. She invited another girlfriend and myself to join her and experience what she found — the magic of the country, people, and horses. We rode every day in the desert, often right up to the Giza and Saqqara pyramids. We walked, galloped, and raced magnificent stallions and mares across the desert of their origin which was exhilarating and magical. And so much fun! We’re lucky to have had the opportunity — that was in 2004 — things are much different there now.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the horse world as a career?
Explore all the options of a career related to the equine industry.
There are so many options that aren’t necessarily obvious. There are hands-on positions involving training, breeding, and managing horses, and then there are countless related fields that keep you connected to the horse world — products, publications, films, marketing and promotions, shows, nutrition, insurance, products, etc., that offer employment opportunities. Be creative and keep an open mind.
Lastly, what’s your absolute favorite picture that you’ve ever taken of a horse?
This is the hardest question! I’m not a great photographer so I don’t have a standout. But I’m sending a current favorite, the eye of my husband’s Quarter horse, Chowder. I took it right after we bought him because I was in love with the kindness and roundness of his eye. Soon after that I was at an Arabian farm in Texas and a breeder made a comment that he heard Quarter horses had little pig eyes. I showed him the photo … he thought it was an Arabian!
Just like Annie Spurr, Melanie is a really great person to talk to, so if you see her out and about be sure to say hi. Also, make sure you follow Arabian Horse World on Facebook to follow Melanie’s amazing work.