Eileen Cody is a junior at Alfred University, where she rides on the varsity hunt seat IHSA team. She kindly submitted this heartfelt essay outlining her gratitude for “horses, and all that comes with them.”
Top photo: Eileen and Scotch, one of Alfred’s university-owned horses
There’s been quite a bit of talk about giving thanks lately, and it’s gotten me to thinking about all of the things I have in my life to be thankful for – crazy family and close friends, the opportunity to pursue my education (overlooking the twenty-plus years of debt to follow), steady employment… the list goes on. Horses, and all that comes with them, have become such an integral part of my life that it’s easy to forget how much of a privilege it is to be a part of the equestrian community. So in the spirit of the season, I decided to take a moment to step back and count my equine blessings.
I’m thankful for Horse Nation and horse people, because every time I’m on the receiving end of raised eyebrows and wrinkled noses for showing up to class in my perfectly-normal-thank-you-very-much attire consisting of muddy cowboy boots, breeches and tall socks, a polo shirt that’s more horse hair than cotton, and my marshmallow-esque down barn jacket (which I’m sure non-horse enthusiasts can smell at a thousand yards), I can cling to the fact that there’s such an outstanding community of people who would appreciate my unique sense of style, even if my professors and peers may fail to do so.
I’m thankful for my university’s equestrian program and the unparalleled lessons and opportunities it has provided me. I owe so much of the rider and person I am today to the wonderful animals and even more wonderful people here. And if there’s any other facility in the country where I could spend several hours a week riding and working with a herd of fifty-plus well-mannered, quality horses under the supervision of trained professionals and participate in nationally recognized intercollegiate competition, all for no cost beyond the tuition I was already paying, I have yet to come across it. (And if it does exist, are their instructors also masters of the fine art of Gangnam style? Didn’t think so.)
But most of all, I’m just thankful for horses and all of the lessons they continue to teach me. I got a bit of a late start in the equestrian world, and as a result, I occasionally get the feeling that I’m somehow behind the learning curve. But the great thing about horses is that whether you’re a raw beginner or an Olympic equestrian, you’re still learning every day. I’ve learned that perfection and success are not one-time achievements to be conquered and mounted on a wall, but rather a state of constantly and actively pursuing excellence. I’ve learned the value of patient persistence. I’ve learned to be less skeptical of trying new things, and that there’s no reason a hunt seat rider can’t rock a western horsemanship pattern. (And, someday, ride a reiner. It’ll happen.) I’ve learned not to be afraid to ask for something that will make my life easier – not directly horse-related, but sound and much-needed words of advice from our very wise barn manager. I’ve learned that size only matters as much as you make it. I’ve learned that there is rarely one right way of doing something, and not to discount the unconventional. And I’ve only just scratched the surface.
About the Author: Eileen is a junior communication studies major and equestrian studies minor at Alfred University, where she’s also a member of the varsity hunt seat IHSA team. She holds a variety of odd jobs, her favorite of which (no surprise here) is as a public relations and social media minion at the AU equestrian center. She also blogs with embarrassing infrequency about her collegiate equestrian adventures at notabovetheordinary.wordpress.com.