The Horse Nation Team Gives Thanks

Here at Horse Nation, we’re happy to witness another year and another moment to give thanks. Therefore, we’d like to take a moment to say a thank you on Thanksgiving to the important people and horses in our lives.

Aubrey Graham

Photo by Aubrey Graham

It’s always hard to be concise about the things for which I am thankful – but I’m glad there is a season to reflect on it. I’m grateful for horses who walk in with all four shoes (and for my farrier), for ample hay supplies that don’t break the bank, and for the equines who regularly avoid self-destruction in the paddocks. I love the others as well, but then I’m just grateful for my talented and quick responding vets.

That said, I’m thankful to have a farm full of the most amazing creatures – from my sidekick, Walker, to the ridiculous pig, cats, and the many Thoroughbreds who constantly fuel my love for the breed, the sport, and for writing the articles here. And I’m thankful to my family, friends, and the Kivu team of amazing humans for a) being awesome, b) “getting it” and c) supporting me and this chaotic life through all the highs and lows.

Marcella Gruchalak

Photo by Melissa Jackson Photography

There are so many things to be thankful for this holiday season, but this year two big things happened that have overly excited me. For one, I am extremely grateful that my driveway leading to the barn is now graveled. I will no longer be stuck in snow and mud trying to get my trailer parked over the winter months. Secondly, I was able to purchase a new-to-me truck that is reliable and hauls my gooseneck like a dream! I am always grateful for my three horses, Buns, Payco and Hot Sauce and the lessons they teach me. From my farm to yours, Happy Thanksgiving 🦃🍽

Jenny Kammerer

Wait…what do you mean it’s time to write a Thanksgiving post? Wasn’t it just January?? This year may have moved at the speed of Gibson when he sees a plastic bag, but luckily there were plenty of little moments that filled me with gratitude.

The main thing I’m thankful for this year is supportive friends and family. Who KNEW planning a wedding could be so involved?! For my parents, whose generous gift money allowed us to plan a ceremony and reception in a beautiful, local conservatory instead of eloping to some mountain in the middle of the Maine wilderness (although I didn’t exactly hate that idea, either). For my best friend and Maid of Honor for living out our childhood fantasy of planning our weddings together at the same time—what an amazing experience! For my ride-or-die bridesmaids who have somehow perfectly understood all of my nonsensical, likely undiagnosed-ADHD stream-of-consciousness rambling about aesthetics. And for my fiancé for ranting about nachos and other important things and reminding me frequently of why I’m so excited to marry him.

In addition to my personal relationships, the support for my art this year has been remarkable. Despite being a long-time passion of mine, I never really saw my art as much more than a hobby, and yet I’ve now gotten commissions from clients all over the globe (including the return of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s guitar player, who’s become a dear friend).

Finally, I’m thankful that I’ve made a full recovery from the year-long process that was the reconstruction and cosmetic surgery following my 2020 mastectomy. Am I finally fully healed? Yes! Was everything benign? Praise the Lord, yes! Am I in the worst shape of my entire life after being forced to take it easy for 14 months straight? Absolutely! Does that last part not matter because now I can finally ride and work with Gibson like normal? Hell yeah!!

Of course, one of us isn’t too happy about that last bit. Here’s what he has to say about that:

Photo by Jenny Kammerer

DeAnn Long Sloan

This is one of the many years that I have trouble narrowing down that for which I am thankful. Although there are traditions from my youth that I miss so much it aches, I count my blessings on a daily basis. This year, I have enjoyed getting to really ride with my girls. They are seven and 10, and finally getting old enough to navigate a pattern and/or a trail independently. Even though I still have to help them tighten up a girth and double check their work, they’re getting there. And they’re managing the ups and downs that come with riding horses (and even those that come with riding a sassy pony). Despite the extra work, it’s made trail riding and competing that much more enjoyable and that much less of an issue when I’m gone for a few hours or even a weekend. After all, the SO gets much less grumpy when two out of three children are with me for the weekend.

DeAnn on Mac and Arden on Pony (aka Regina George). Photo courtesy of DeAnn Long Sloan.

Ellis and Pony getting ready to compete at the PA State Shoot. Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan.

To that end, I’m very thankful for the team of people that keeps my horses fit and feeling their best. I have an amazing farrier who isn’t afraid to think outside the proverbial box and an awesome veterinarian who can recognize a lameness from a mile away. I spent many years taking these things for granted, but the more I learn in the horse world, the more I realize how rare and special having such a team at my fingertips truly is.

Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan

I’m also incredibly thankful to be surrounded by teams of solid people. My boarders are a group of good, drama free people who have no trouble lending a hand when it’s necessary and work together to keep an eye on everyone’s horses. Professionally, I am blessed with an amazing team here at Horse Nation. From the writers to the management, I feel so lucky to work with people who are passionate about horses and bringing information to readers in a fun and relatable way. I hope to see that work expand and continue through the coming year.

Noelle Maxwell

As one of the horseless equestrians among the HN crew, I’m going to be honest, I’m never quite sure what to write for these things. I’m also not as regular a presence here as I used to be – life has just taken me in other directions these past couple years. This year, I’m thankful for good health as I’ve had a lot of family and friends going through a lot of health stuff. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to write book reviews for HN when a book is available and thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to put my writing abilities to good use in and out of the equine realm over the years.

Amanda Uechi Ronan

Photo by Amanda Uechi Ronan

One of the things I’m super thankful for this year has to be my Quick Feed Automatic Feeders. They were expensive and moderately difficult to install, but now that I have them … I can’t imagine life without them. It seems like a small thing, but as a person that has owned horses for over three decades — most of that with them living at home — the concept of being able to spontaneously go out to dinner or stay late at an event is still a little mind-boggling.

On a more serious note, my oldest horse turns 30 in January. I bought him when I was 12 and he was two, which means I’ve spent more of my life with him than without. The longest I’ve ever been away from him was my first semester in college, due to the fact that I had to spend that semester finding a barn willing to take me on as a hand to help pay for his board. Since then, we’ve moved five times to five different cities. We were competing at an event the day before my wedding. Yep, I was really sunburned for those photos. Ha! -And, years later, he sniffed my daughter’s head the day we brought her home from the hospital. He’s been unflappable as I switched from AQHA western to English disciplines then to dressage to eventing to polo to polocrosse. He’s seen and done it all. I stopped riding him two years ago because he started having some vision loss that seemed to be compromising his balance, but he’s still the king of the castle. I hope I have many more years with him, but I’m also realistic. So I’m just very grateful for every day I have left with him.

Morgane Schmidt

As most, I am thankful for the standard things so often mentioned — my friends, family, health, job, critters, copious amounts of coffee, not dying while riding The Red Dragon (that one might just be me), etc. — and while those are all quite significant, and although I am deeply thankful for them, I thought I would mention a few of the less traditional things I am thankful for this year.
To begin, I am thankful for the equestrian community and the often total strangers in it that rally to help one another during the rockiest of times. When hurricane Ian slammed into Florida this past September devastating areas across the state, the equestrian community sprang into action to help. My own sister and her family, who had to evacuate 30 horses due to flood waters, were recipients of such generosity, but I also saw numerous accounts of outstanding kindness and support for those affected all over the state. It really warmed my tiny Grinch heart to see that sort of kindness, and I am indeed quite thankful for it.

Photo by courtesy of Morgane Schmidt

I am also thankful to have something — riding — in my life that I remain entirely, unequivocally passionate about. It dawned on me that there are in fact people who don’t have something that ignites that sort of all encompassing excitement and drive within them (I believe they may be called ‘sane’). While I do tend to magpie about in life, getting excited (and subsequently obsessed) with new ideas or activities briefly before flitting to the next, the horses have remained a constant staple.  I do realize that that fact makes me a bit of a ‘crazy horse lady,’ but I’m fine with it as it seems entirely worth it to have something to wake up excited about daily (ok, so in full disclosure I may be *less* excited about the daily manure removal, and my excitement to ride the Red Dragon when it’s blustery *may* be closer to nausea, but it all comes with the territory). I hope that you all have a similar passion — be it horses or basket weaving — and if you haven’t found it yet, do yourself a favor and keep looking.

Photos by Morgane Schmidt

Candace Wade

Photo courtesy of Candace Wade

I am thankful, once again, for my schooling horse. Ambs and I are aging together. I can tuck a bareback pad on her and ride the farm in safety, thanks to her. Be thankful for horses that give us quiet time and companionship. Not every ride wins a ribbon.

I’m thankful for the people who keep our riding facility so clean, safe, and the natural wonderland that it is. We riders would not have or refuge if not for the people who keep the barn, arenas, and landscape in shape.

Photo courtesy of Candace Wade

Happy Thanksgiving, Horse Nation. Go riding!