Horse Nation Staff Give Thanks

In a year that has been hard on so many, we still have much to be thankful for; the Horse Nation staff takes a moment to say a thank-you on Thanksgiving to the important people and horses in their lives.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Kovatch Bentley

Kristen Kovatch Bentley: I realize in writing this how lucky I’ve been this year and how much I do have to be thankful for: my health and my family’s health in the midst of a global pandemic, steady employment in a time of financial uncertainty, and a relatively unchanged daily life in a time of social upheaval. I’m thankful for a life that lets me find pleasure in the daily litany of chores and tasks: watching from the fence line with my sister-in-law as a calf gets to its feet for the first time; the cadence of a long canter to the highest point on the farm on a fleet Thoroughbred; standing quietly in the softly-falling snow on a good horse counting cows, hearing the lightest ticking of the snow as it falls on dried cornstalks around me. As I count my blessings and give thanks this season, I think of the old Shaker song:

’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Kristen Brennan: Like for so many, this year has been full of ups and downs, but I have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for a loving husband who supports me through (almost) every crazy idea that pops into my head. For my wild child toddler son who makes everyday fun and keeps us on our toes. For my family, who is just the best. Of course, I can’t forget my big guys — Marcus and Geoffrey. Looking back, 12-year-old horseless, horse crazy me would have never dreamed that I would end up with not one, but two, horses of a lifetime and that I would be able to look out my backdoor and see them everyday.

Ashley Francese: This year, while the pandemic has been in full swing and I have been counting my blessings, I have been thinking a lot about how thankful I am for horses that have come into my life unexpectedly and wormed their way into my heart. I met my Standardbred, Nardi Jim Jim, last December when I was volunteering taking photos in a kill pen and he followed me around like a puppy until I took him home. Spirit in the Sky came to me from Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare, Inc. For almost 20 years I had looked for a Notebook baby or grand baby. Lo and behold! It turns out his grand sire is Notebook. And lastly Hill Four Eleven, who came to me a little over a year ago, and who has decided that he belongs here. So for this year I am thankful for the horses who have chosen me.

Jessica Fox: Arguably, on the surface there isn’t much for which to be grateful — so many challenges and so much heartbreak and loss for us all! That first, brittle thought is followed by another: isn’t being grateful related distantly to hope? The last thing I want is to lose that. Besides, I have a lot to be grateful for. There’s the sun on my face, books, and my husband’s humor and love. I actually love having him around, working from home every day. One of my favorite things is having tea together in the morning. Then there’s weekly Zoom calls with my two high school best friends. In the Before Times, we spoke sporadically, all of us busy with our lives. Now, I get one hour of weekly awesome with their faces! Because where else are we but home?

That’s actually been a bonus of this wild year — more time to connect, with my family, with my friends, with my dogs. Especially our new rescue pup, Miss Vanjie, who needs an extra dose of love to help her leave her past behind.  I’m also extremely grateful to have some of my writing work return (for however long it lasts). Then there’s the horses. I’m lucky and so, so, grateful to exercise horses several times a week. Without their insistence that I focus on the present and their soft, carrot-questing noses, I’d be lost.

Casey French: This year I am thankful for the restoration it has brought. Through the peaks and valleys I have come out stronger. My faith is rejuvenated, my family is closer, and my knowledge as a horsewoman has grown exponentially. I am thankful for my “dream team,” which consist of like minded friends and professionals who support and share the common goal of what’s best for the horse.

Jenny Kammerer: In a year with a major pandemic bringing large quantities of chaos, fear and grief to the world, finding reasons to be thankful can feel a bit difficult. In this situation, I’m doing what I always try to do in life and looking for a bright side — any bright side. And I have realized that this year, I am thankful that I actually got a gosh darn break for once. I didn’t realize at the time, but when the first lockdowns started in March, I was maybe a week or so away from a complete burnout from being overworked and underpaid for months. When both my jobs temporarily closed and social obligations were cancelled, I was able to mentally refresh and realize how close to the brink I had unwittingly been. Stuck at home, I finally had the time, means and mental focus to do the healthy and necessary things that were a struggle before, such as thoroughly cleaning my house, exercising regularly, spending more time at the barn, building my savings back up, sleeping and spending time on personal projects. Although I would obviously trade it for everyone’s health and safety in a heartbeat, I would be lying if I said that those few months weren’t the most productive, mentally healthy and financially stable I’d been in years. And without that time off, I would not have been able to start Gibson And The Apocalypse (an idea that had been floating around in my head for the better part of a year), which led to me joining the Horse Nation family! I’m thankful for all of the support I’ve received on this series, for Gibson being my creative muse and supplying me with an endless amount of ridiculously hilarious material, and for Horse Nation for giving me this opportunity.

Noelle Maxwell: I think it’s safe to say 2020 hasn’t been what anyone expected. To anyone who’s lost someone this year (COVID-related or not), anyone who’s struggled with the lockdowns, I don’t know you, but I’m sorry for your losses and hope next year is better. To all the scientists, doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, teachers and all essential workers – thank you.

We’re supposed to write about what we’re thankful for and I’m not really an introspective, sentimental person normally, nor one who enjoys baring her soul on the page for public consumption. Many of my fellow horse-crazed writers here are probably going to mention they’re thankful to have spent more time with their horses (I know how you all are!) – as Horse Nation’s “horseless” horse person, I don’t have regular access to horses so I’ve not had more horse time. To cut the rambling – here’s what I’m thankful for this year:

  • Good health – mine and that of my friends, family and others around me, as well as that of everyone who’s stayed healthy in the midst of everything.
  • The scientists and doctors working to bring us vaccines for COVID-19.
  • More time to ride my bike and walk/jog – I don’t have a horse but I’ve definitely been on my bike much more this year and hope that’s something I can continue and build on.
  • My cat – sure he’s no horse (though he’s named after one – Cortes, as in “Cortes C”), but it’s still great to have a four-legged furry friend around.
  • Every opportunity I’ve had to combine my love for horses and passion for writing – and I hope I’ve made the horse world a little bit better through doing so.

Morgane Schmidt: Ah, what indeed to say about the Apocalypse that is 2020? How does one even begin to digest a year that dawns with a pandemic boasting completely unknown parameters, global lock downs, people hording toilet paper, the emergence of Murder Hornets, world wide natural disasters, the greatest political upheavals in recent memory,  and a myriad assortment of other equally insane, borderline unbelievable shenanigans? When ‘The Tiger King’ is the most normal thing about a given year, well…yeah. There are certainly chapters in life that one would prefer not to have to write, and yet I do wholeheartedly believe that one tends to come through them on the other side a better person and in a better place. Given that, this glorious hot mess of a year has made me take a moment to consider and be even more thankful for the supportive people in my life, my spoiled rotten beasts of both equine and canine persuasion, the ability to find humor in the most unlikely of places, and the fact that though it is imperfect, we have this moment here in time. Cheers to you all, and here’s to a less ‘exciting’ 2021.

DeAnn Long Sloan: At the risk of being redundant, in a year that has brought us a global pandemic, devastating wildfires, civil unrest, murder hornets, UFO confirmation (did we forget about this!!?? if 13-year-old X-Files fan me could see 40-year-old me nearly forgetting this, she would be b!&$%-slapping me about now) and a whole host of other issues, I find myself taking note of how fortunate I truly am. Despite some personal obstacles — as house fire, a mare with a fractured pastern and a car accident, to name a few — I am incredibly lucky and feeling increasingly grateful. My family and pets came out of the house fire unscathed, if a little shaken up (even the toothless wonder cat, who went missing for a day or two). My horse is well on her way to recovery and we’re nearly ready to get back to work.

Rightful Goddess, aka Mac, on her way to recovery and sporting an awesome halter that was a gift from good friends. Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan.

The truck will be fixed and some of the pre-existing scratches and dings will be no more. On top of that, we are on the precipice of embarking on a new adventure by building a barn and bringing the horses home. And I really believe the house fire softened my husband a bit and made him consent to gifting me this amazing 40th birthday present:

GETTINKNUDEFORMOOLAH, aka Josephine Marcus, aka Jo. A sassy running bred filly who will (hopefully) be my next shooting mount. Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan.

My husband and I are fortunate to have jobs that weathered the pandemic, and the kids are healthy even as they grow increasingly feral with the extension of virtual schooling. We landed well after the fire, and the house is undergoing reconstruction.

As we look forward to 2021, I can only hope that it looks up for all of us and that we continue to find the strength to persevere and support one another. Happy Thanksgiving.

Candace Wade: This year has been from the lower depths of hell for many of us around the world. My year was a few inches lower. Lunacy does cha cha in my family, so I can say that I am content and thankful on many levels. Thank you to the friends/family who fluttered in and out of my year, supporting me. Thank you for my friend/riding instructor who let me come to ride anytime I wanted and took time to go on trail rides with me. Thank you for my sister and friends who I roused at the wee hours when a wave of panic tumbled me. Thank you, once more, for my, dear, patient schooling horse who let me tell her my secrets, cry on her neck and gave me deep sighs to remind me to relax and breath. Thank you for the Horse Nation crew who were patient and supportive of this manic zombie

Leslie Wylie: It’s been an unsettling year for everyone, but I’d rather traffic in positivity and gratitude than in grief — we all have so much to be thankful for despite. For me, personally, this year I’m most grateful for my support system, and at the tip-top of the list are my teammates here at Horse Nation and Nation Media. After losing my father suddenly not-quite three months ago, and in the same breath being skewered on social media for trying to do what is right, they rallied around me to offer support and condolences, and shared such sweet gifts. I’ve carried their kindnesses with me like a blanket throughout this difficult and disorienting chapter of my life and will never forget it.