Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!
I have so many blessings to count this year, I don’t even know where to start! First, I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given to be a part of this amazing project called Horse Nation along with its sister sites EN and JN. I’m thankful for everyone who has supported us along the way, including our talented contributors, generous sponsors, wonderful partners and of course our loyal readers. You guys re-energize me every day with your love and devotion to the common denominator that unites us: horses. What a year it has been, in these tense, divisive times what a comfort it is to know that HN is and always will be “one nation, one horseback, indivisible, with happiness and vet bills for all!”
And of course no Thanksgiving shout-out would be complete without a nod to my ever-supportive husband, Tommy, and my three perfect-in-every-way horses Mishka, Esprit and Princess!
So a few Thanksgivings ago — I guess, if we’re being technical, it was Black Friday — a particularly hardworking student of mine and I were driving the equestrian center’s team of draft horses all afternoon and well into the evening for a neighboring town’s Christmas celebration. It was a fairly awful experience: we were driving right through some of the busiest streets in town, surrounded by people honking and revving their engines while touring wagonloads of the brattiest children to ever walk the earth on our ride circuit for hours on end. When it was time for our big moment — bringing Santa at the tail end of the parade to the tree-lighting ceremony — we had to contend with a remarkably rude parade coordinator who shrieked instructions at me and sought to dictate each step the horses took. (No, they really don’t work that way, ma’am.)
When we reached the end of this terrifying gauntlet, the parade route dead-ended in a crowd of shrieking children and insistent mothers, all of whom gasped audibly when Santa somehow managed to fall down in the wagon as we drew to an abrupt halt as to avoid running down any of these holiday revelers. We deposited Santa and an extraordinarily unhappy parade coordinator at the tree and got out of Dodge.
By normal standards, it was a miserable night — we were freezing cold, we had been yelled at for hours and we had put the horses through a lot. Kudos to the horses, though — they marched bravely right into a screaming, writhing sea of people all shouting about Santa Claus without batting an eyelash. Despite our vows to never, ever do that again, the tenacious student, myself and the horses turned up again the following year for the same treatment.
Five years later, that hardworking student is now my sister-in-law and those blessed draft horses are living in my pasture in semi-retirement. I’m ever so thankful for my family-in-law, who welcomed me — and my horses — with open arms, as well as my blood relatives who have always supported this hard-to-kick horse habit.
This past year has been has been a rebuilding year for me. Late in 2015 I had a bad accident on a training horseand I spent the better part of 2016 healing both physically and emotionally. The physical healing was hard, tedious, and painstaking, but the emotionally healing has been a hundred times harder. After I was physically able to ride again I tried to go about business as usual, and with most of the horses I did just fine, but my little mustang, Helix, knew something was up. He knew that I had become fearful and had lost confidence in myself, so he in turn lost confidence in me. It took me some time for me to figure out what was going on, but when I finally did, I realized that my riding journey was going to require a detour or two to get past this mental barrier.
Enter Kalvin. Kalvin is a very strange and special horse. If I had a nickle for every time someone has referred to him as “quirky,” I’d be a millionaire…well probably not a millionaire because I own horses, but I’d have to worry about the checking account dipping in to the negative a whole lot less. I acquired him as a sales project 5 years ago, and I guess you could say that his brand of quirky meshed perfectly with mine and the idea of selling him quickly went out the window.
This past year on a whim, after not jumping competitively in anyway for nearly a decade, I decided to take my little Kalvinator to a few local jumper shows. He did well, even winning reserve champion our division at one show. While winning ribbons is great and all, my little detour into jumper land was about so much more. Kalvin, despite being a fairly inexperienced jumper himself, had enough confidence for the both of us. He had confidence in me, and over time he allowed me to believe in myself again. Most importantly, he reminded me what it feels like to just go about, kick butt, and have fun without worrying about all the little “what ifs?” This year I am incredibly thankful to have a horse like him to teach to love riding again.
I’ll just say it. 2016 was kind of the worst, unless you’re a Chicago Cubs fan. 2016 claimed David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and my central identity, passion, and social outlet: barn life. Yes, I am the quintessential cliche of a new mom completely overwhelmed by the task at hand of keeping a spirited, careening, non-English-speaking, red-headed toddler from throwing herself joyfully into oncoming traffic. So overwhelmed in fact that I had to admit the gut-wrenching truth that while I still loved my spirited, careening, non-English-speaking red-headed mare who needed 5-7 rides a week to stay sane, I was no longer the person she needed me to be.
My equine BFF of three years has since found a terrific new home with a college freshman who this summer rode my little chestnut mare from one end of Utah to the other just for fun, camping all along the way and having the time of her life. So the first thing I’m thankful for is that my horse has found her person, even if that person isn’t me.
In my heart I know these tricky, hopelessly busy and horseless days won’t last forever, but in the meantime, the thing I’ve been most thankful for this year has been the opportunity to become a full-time writer and editor for the Eventing Nation/Jumper Nation/Horse Nation crazy train and help tell your stories. Because you wonderful readers are invested in our universe with clicks and shares and likes and submissions, I was able to quit my other full-time job and take on the career that I dreamed of having when I was 8, and which to most people probably sounds made up: horse journalist. No really, I write about ponies for a living. Sometimes it’s Beezie Madden and sometimes it’s your cousin’s horse playing a trumpet, but it’s always amazing. So really, I suppose 2016 wasn’t so bad, after all. (But please bring back David Bowie.)
I’m not sure that thankful is a strong enough word to describe how I feel about this past year. First, I’m thankful to the Nation Media family for allowing me the opportunity to join my passions for riding and writing and get to connect with some amazing people along the way. Secondly, I’m beyond thankful for the support of my family in the pursuit of my far-fetched equestrian dreams. Especially the Horse Show Husband who tolerates my addiction of browsing horse sale sites and my rambling and rationalizing why we need more horses.
Finally, I’m beyond thankful to Joey — the horse I’ve always dreamed of and never thought I would have the opportunity to own. His insane athletic ability and excitement to learn have proven he’s my dream horse come true. Add in the fact that he doesn’t ditch me at the big scary fences when I hold my breath, close my eyes, and take the Hail Mary spot just shows you what a saint he is. 2016 has been the best year of my equestrian career and I can’t wait to see what 2017 will hold.
This past year the weather has been beautiful, perfect for riding; my horses and mules have been healthy; and I’m very thankful for all the wonderful friends I have made throughout all my years of having horses.
I have two to be thankful for: Jag, my schooling horse who taught me to trust him at the canter and Theo, who is teaching me how much quiet courage an injured horse can have.
Happy Thanksgiving, Horse Nation! We’re so grateful to have you with us for this crazy ride.