Horse Nation Gives Thanks

We’re so happy to witness another year and another moment to give thanks. Even amid the turmoil that has marked our recent history, we 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.

Aubrey Graham

I’m enormously thankful for this quirky life that I have been lucky enough to craft –for the opportunities to pursue what I love professionally – Eventing, Thoroughbreds, writing, and photography. Specifically, I’m thankful for Walker, my relentless sidekick who is always there to chase a ball, warn off a coyote, or remind me that I really should turn his fan on, thank you very much. I’m thankful for a barn full of gorgeous Thoroughbreds and for the amazing process of watching their personalities bubble to the surface as they get healthy, fat, happy, and trained. I’m particularly grateful for mine: for Forrest, who has gone from failed upper-level horse to lesson horse extraordinaire, for Boomer and his kindness, for Rhodie for giving me back my upper-level dreams, for Crafty for reminding me about the power of trust, and for Mountain for his goofy way of helping to remedy other people’s hurt.

I’m moved and so thankful for my clients, who are also my students, my friends, and often also my barn help. I wouldn’t be able to run this facility without them, and I wouldn’t maintain the threads of sanity without the wry humor and honest understanding they provide. I’m thankful for the intelligence and patience of my vet, chiro, and farrier. It is one thing to have people who are good at the regular things, it is entirely another to have the smarts and creative problem solving to tackle the hard cases. I’m grateful for my family who shook their heads but supported me walking away from a stable academic career to chase this crazy dream. I’m thankful for my friends who always pick up the phone, and for a man who isn’t afraid to care, to mend the things that break, and cook amazing food.

Finally, I’m thankful for the institutions that support what I do – for the Retired Racehorse Project and all the opportunities that have come from training horses for the Makeover. For Horse Nation and the ability to write about my equine adventures and the successes of others. I’m enormously thankful for DeAnn, who always supports finding a way to put my stories out there and who is always up at 6AM when I need to apologize for an article being late or commiserate about the general insanity of this life.

OK, OK, I’m grateful for Pig too.

Photo courtesy of Aubrey Graham

Photo courtesy of Aubrey Graham

Marcella Gruchalak

There are many things to be thankful for this year. I am so grateful to have my horses with me on property I can call my own. The pastures are up and the stalls are finished thanks to my wonderful significant other. All my equine partners are healthy, I’ve had a successful showing season in 2021 and I was able to take multiple once-in-a-lifetime trail riding trips this year.

Photo courtesy of Marcella Gruchalak

Jenny Kammerer

I was going to say that this year has been a roller coaster for me, but that’s not entirely accurate. It’s been more like an entire theme park complete with a tilt-a-whirl, scrambler, and free-fall waterslide. It’s been one wild ride for sure. Unfortunately, very little of said ride was actually on my horse. Despite this, I have an entire cornucopia of reasons to be thankful.

The first thing that comes to mind is my health. Last December I ended up needing a preventative bilateral mastectomy. Though intense, it was a relief to confirm everything as benign once and for all, and the reconstruction process happily took care of a prominent body image issue that had plagued me since puberty (unfortunately, no amount of confidence and body positivity can stop you from internalizing the notion that “women’s chests are not meant to be fully flat” when society seems determined to enforce the message constantly, from all possible angles). I’m now typing this from my pillow fortress as I heal from my (hopefully) last round of surgery, happy to finally be comfortable in my body but missing my horse quite terribly.

I wish I could say this was the most major event in my life this year, but I’m honestly not sure it even makes the top three.

After plans to buy a house in 2020 were derailed (thanks, COVID), my significant other and I were approved for a mortgage this year (by the absolute skin of our teeth after getting back to our jobs — again thanks, COVID). After a frantic scramble through an utterly insane market (remember that recent Zillow crisis??), we ended up closing on a house in the same neighborhood as our rental (at 4:30pm on a Friday, before a holiday weekend. I left the lender’s office and drank a very strong imperial stout). Even then, the hits didn’t stop coming.

My boyfriend had somehow convinced me to go over to our now-official house the very next morning to clean a bit. I had been working a lot and was exhausted and reluctant, but I figured I at least didn’t have to look nice. Or smell nice. Skipped shower, skincare, hair, makeup, all of it. I actually don’t think I’ve ever looked worse; all the times I came home from the barn covered in sweat, muck, and hay I looked like a prom queen by comparison (at least those times I was wearing breeches that made my butt look good, not yoga pants with holes in the crotch). No sooner had we crossed the threshold than this man stopped, pulled my greasy self closer to him, and pulled out a ring. And popped the question in our brand-new living room. Within 24 hours, I had acquired a house and a fiancé (and finally a shower).

As if the year could end on a crazier note, I recently realized that I had a very loyal reader of Gibson and the Apocalypse on my Instagram page. And said reader happened to be the lead guitarist for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra — my favorite band in the world for the last 15 years — and he happened to be looking for some new holiday artwork for his personal brand. As an avid TSO fan it wasn’t the first time I had ever talked to Chris, but I never in a million years would have imagined working with him!

To wrap up, I’m eternally thankful for the one constant this past year, my best boy Gibson. Though life circumstances have kept me away from the barn far more than I’d like, his goofy face and nuzzly muzzle have always been there for me. Gibson, you’re my favorite. Don’t tell my fiancé

Noelle Maxwell

I’ve stepped back my writing for HN a lot this past year – I’m currently employed as a small-town newspaper reporter and that, I’m sure you can imagine, keeps me busy! I’ll still be around for a while, doing book reviews and other stories when something catches my eye, just wanted to say while I’m here that no, I haven’t disappeared, but this is why you all haven’t seen me as often this year!

Again, as the resident “horseless horse person 20-something” here at Horse Nation (someday, when I’ve got this whole “adult life and job” situation rolling smoothly, I will get back to at least lessons. I’ve been an “aspiring” eventer for a solid 10 years now, which was not what I had in mind, but so goes life!) my thankful things don’t involve horses-horses-horses quite as much. But here goes:

  1. I’m thankful for the opportunity to volunteer at a therapeutic riding facility and get my horse fix while also helping others!
  1. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have used my writing talents to hopefully make even a small difference in the world, whether covering all that’s horsey for Horse Nation (and a couple of other sites) during my equine journalism career or covering what’s happening locally as a community journalist. Also, I’m thankful to have the chance to read all these books (great or not-so-great) for review! Even if I don’t love every single one, there’s usually something interesting to learn!
  1. This has been a year that’s seen me try new things, whether that’s learning the ukulele of all things (long story short: wrote an article about a ukulele club, borrowed a ukulele from a library to see what the fuss was about – also shoutout to every library out there, libraries are awesome and some of them have so much more than books – ended up liking this tiny guitar-esque instrument) or re-taking up taekwondo to mix up my exercise routine (I did taekwondo briefly when I was 12-13ish and liked it then, but had other things, dropped it, finally decided why not try it again as an adult when I don’t have the attention span of a gnat). So, I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunities to try new things and continue learning and growing!

Morgane Schmidt

This year, I have so many incredible things to be thankful for that I’m a bit overwhelmed by even deciphering where to start.
2021 saw some huge changes in my life — the largest perhaps being a move across the country from Reno, Nevada to Ocala, Florida, and the second being the publishing of my first book. Among those major plot steps, some minor ones include adding a Goblin to the herd, taking on some commissioned works, and generally exploring the horse scene here in Florida.

Aforementioned Goblin. Photo courtesy of Morgane Schmidt.

Every step of the way, family, friends, and even new neighbors I’d only just met, have continually stepped in to go above and beyond making the above mentioned feats possible; without them there’s no way I would have been able to make these transitions work. I am humbled and thankful to have such a supportive, genuine, and overall fabulous community surrounding me.
I hope you all have a beautiful Thanksgiving and get to spend time with your herd.

Photo courtesy of Morgane Schmidt

Photo courtesy of Morgane Schmidt

DeAnn Long Sloan

In the Sloan household, this has been year of rebuilding — and I am incredibly thankful for the ability to do so. We are finally back in our house (13 months after our house fire, we moved back in) and we’ll actually have an adult, non-hand-me-down couch in about a week (thank you, insurance money from aforementioned fire). This is a first, and it feels good to look forward and see our house coming together after a year of so much uncertainty.

My family is healthy, and I realize this makes me luckier than most. Even though I roll my eyes and get frustrated with my children, I still am incredibly grateful for their health and the spunk that keeps all of them going (even if most times it means they are at odds with one another).

Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan

I am thankful to have two happy, healthy horses (KNOCK ON WOOD) and a barn full of hay. I seized the opportunity to take over the management of my barn this summer. Although it comes with quite a bit of responsibility, I still am thankful for the opportunity to see my horses thrive and to help others see the same… and to be able to fill my barn with hay.

Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan

Finally, I am especially thankful for this mare, who puts up with my endless shenanigans. From mounted shooting, to toting around my kids, to riding around with the best cat in the world, Mac constantly proves her worth. There’s nothing like a good mare!

DeAnn, Kimber (the three-legged barn cat), and Mac (the ever-patient Thoroughbred). Photo by Carrie Cahill.

Candace Wade

I am thankful for my schooling horse every year. She’s my rock — my challenge — my refuge. I learn from her. She helps me grow. I know some day she will leave me, but for one more year, I can’t thank her enough.

Happy Thanksgiving, Horse Nation. Go riding!