Giving Thanks to the Horses Who Made Me

Meagan DeLisle takes a moment on Thanksgiving to consider some of the major equine players in her horse life, and all that she has to be grateful for.

You can’t log on to Facebook these days without seeing “I am thankful for…” posts, myself included. But as I sit here this year and reflect on who I am as a horsewoman today and what it took for me to get here, I feel like special recognition needs to be given to the horses that made me. Let’s face it, no matter what our goals are, every horse we sit on changes us in some way. While it hasn’t always been peaches and cream, its been a journey I wouldn’t change a second of and I feel as if those horses need to be given the ultimate shout out.

To my first pony, Sunshine: I knew nothing about horses and you knew that. You were a mischievous old lady, always letting me get juuussstt close enough before darting away in the field. When I would finally catch you and climb on, you would give a few mild little hops to toss me off and our little dance would begin again. She passed away a few years ago and my heart still breaks to this day. You taught me perseverance.

To my first project: I wasn’t ready for a project at the time. I was young and dumb and thought just my love could train you to stop going around the arena bronc style when I got on. You put me in the hospital once, but you always ran up to greet me in the field. You taught me patience.

To the first lesson horse I cantered on when learning to ride hunt-seat: You were tall and a little gangly. Sure, you weren’t the prettiest horse in the pasture, but you slowed down when you felt me getting jolted loose. You didn’t take off with me like some other ornery lesson horses might. You plodded along and were happy to get treats. I once called you ugly and I regret that to this day. You were kind and exactly what every single barn-owner looks for in a lesson horse. You taught me that pretty is as pretty does.

To the horse that took me over my first roll-top: That fence is still at the barn today and every time I jump it, I think of you. I was terrified. That was the biggest fence I had ever jumped and you just went over it (and hauled me over it the first few times might I add) like it was nothing. You were a little grumpy and a lot of people didn’t like you, but I fell in love with you. I got excited every time I saw your name next to mine on the lesson board. Diablo, you taught me courage.

Diablo, the horse who gave me courage. (Photo Credit: Meagan DeLisle)

Diablo, the horse who gave me courage. Photo by Meagan DeLisle.

To the first horse to buck me off: I just learned to appreciate you a short time ago. You not only bucked me off once, but twice in the same day and you hurt some ribs in the process. You kicked my butt. But as I drug myself up off the ground the second time and fought with my coach to get back on (I was in pretty bad shape, but I didn’t care. If you fall off, you get on. As George Morris says, “hospital or on.” That day, for me, it was hospital but not by my choice) I realized that you made me tough.

To the first pony I won a blue ribbon on in IHSA. I will never forget you. I was growing frustrated because since I was small in stature, I always drew the ponies and ponies are known to be a bit ornery. My coach told me, “We need to get you on a horse, the judges’ eyes are drawn to a horse.” And then I drew you. You had gray around your eyes and nose but you sported around that indoor as if you were 5 years old. I was in tears when they announced I had won the class and I give all the glory to you. You were such a good girl. Ebony, you gave me confidence.

I won my first blue ribbon on this saintly old lady. (Photo Credit: Sue Wolf)

I won my first blue ribbon on this saintly old lady. Photo by Sue Wolf

To the horse I placed third on at IHSA Regionals my Senior year: third is hard. Third means I was good, but not good enough to go to Zones. Even though I should’ve been crushed, I felt so confident. I had never ridden you before. You were a pony and here I was about to ride the most important ride of my career at the time and all I could think about was how my coach had told me judges’ eyes are drawn to the horses. You rocked. You absolutely rocked. You were so easy to work with, it was like we had ridden together our whole life. We got out there and every single photo of me riding you, I am beaming. I rode like a first place rider, just someone out there was a little bit better. You helped me draw my IHSA career to a close in the most positive way, sweet girl. You taught me that I was good enough even when I wasn’t.

To my first show horse: My dream horse. My unicorn. You taught me so much. You saved me so many times. We did some stupid stuff and you didn’t care. You had my whole heart and you knew it. You whinnied at me when I said your name in the barn aisle. You knew where I kept the treats. When you hurt your leg, I couldn’t stop crying. I literally went broke getting you the best care I could. Selling you was the hardest decision I have ever made in my entire life- and that is not an understatement. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss you. My LiveStrong, my Lance, you taught me true love.

A real life unicorn, Lance taught me more lessons than I can ever explain. (Photo Cred: Jennifer Cross)

A real life unicorn, Lance taught me more lessons than I can ever explain. Photo by Jennifer Cross

To my Joey… my wonderful Joey. I don’t know how to sum up our short time together so far into words. You have brought me happiness in a time where I didn’t know how to find it. You brought me comfort as I struggled with my transition into adulthood. You brought me peace in a time where I beat myself up consistently. I started with a horse who ran from me in the pasture at first because he’d rather sit in the field and now I have the most insanely athletic, sharp minded, and kind horse known to man. Joey, you and I are going to go places, bud. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow.  But we are going to get there. Joey, in a time where I doubted myself most, you taught me hope.

Thankfully, blessings come in all shapes and sizes right about when you need them. Joey is my blessing. (Photo Credit: Meagan DeLisle)

Thankfully, blessings come in all shapes and sizes right about when you need them. Joey is my blessing. Photo by Meagan DeLisle

I wish I could list all of the horses I have had the opportunity to ride throughout my life. There are so many that this article could go on for days. Every. Single. One. Of them has impacted me and has taught me something. So today, amongst all of the other things I am thankful for, I am thankful for horses and for everything they have done for me. I would not be who I am today without them. I owe everything I am to them. So as we jump head first into holiday season and remember all the things we are thankful for, kiss the nose of all the horses in the barn who you have had the opportunity to work with. The good and the bad, every single one of them has molded you into the rider you are, and they deserve a reward for all they do for us.

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