Reader Submission: Lessons From Lefty

Even though we may drool over the famous and fancy horses we see professionals riding, for many of us, our favorite horses are the more modest ones gracing our own backyards. Those humble and reliable steeds are often the ones that have the most to teach us. Here are 10 lessons from one such horse.

By Kristen Griffith 

Photo courtesy of Kristen Griffith

With my horses’ birthdays quickly approaching, I found myself reflecting upon the topic of my favorite horse of all time. At first, my thoughts went to the famous horses I watched on TV as a child; show jumpers like Gem Twist and Rhythmical. While these horses were spectacular, I soon realized I had a more honest and humble selection grazing in my backyard. Lefty, my 24-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, has been in my life since he was three. Now enjoying retirement, he was a fantastic trail horse in his younger days. He is not the fancy warmblood of my childhood dreams, but I eventually realized that he was the perfect first horse for me.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Griffith

He has taught me many valuable lessons over the years:

10 Lessons Learned from Lefty:

  1. Reach for 1% improvement. Lefty isn’t an innately talented horse and his conformation puts him at a disadvantage, but he has the biggest heart and is always game to try anything I ask of him. The key has been to set small goals and work consistently toward them. Even tiny improvements must be rewarded.
  2. Rub some dirt on it, then shake it off. Lefty believes baths to be one of the greatest injustices of life. In his mind, the best way to right the wrong of a clean, gleaming coat is to roll in the dirt and then shake it off. Problem solved.
  3. Be patient. I have made many mistakes along the way, and I have plenty more still to make. Luckily, I have a horse who patiently waits while I sort things out. His patience has helped me learn to be kinder to myself and others – after all, we are all perpetually learning.
  4. Chores are about so much more. Sometimes it feels like chores are never-ending, especially on cold, rainy mornings. However, going through these routines has helped me learn the value of accountability and looking after those who depend on me. A fair few of my major life decisions have been made in the quiet moments mucking out, cleaning tack, or grooming my horse.
  5. Look for moments of joy. Lefty is perhaps a bit spoiled, and he knows I usually have a treat in my pocket. Having a great day or a tough one? Doesn’t matter. Lefty always hopes I will take time to give him a LifeSaver or hand graze him in the tall grass. His perpetual optimism is a good reminder that bright spots can be found in even the most challenging days.
  6. Be prepared and roll with the punches. Horses frequently throw curveballs; be it a thrown shoe, a spook at an errant bag, or a Houdini-like escape from the crossties. Despite having a stocked first aid kit and backups for most items (especially halters!), I am still sometimes caught off guard by the shenanigans. When in doubt, take a breath and focus on problem solving.
  7. Lighten up. Lefty is a good boy, but he is easily offended and thrives on positive feedback. Like a tuning fork, he picks up on my energy and reminds me to get back on the sunny side if I lose my cool.
  8. There isn’t much a good ride can’t fix. To me, there isn’t a much more magical than the feeling of galloping a trusted horse. While our galloping days are behind us, I still love to hear the meditative cadence of his hoofbeats as we go on slow walks around the farm.
  9. Enjoy the present; it is all we have. Every day we spend with our horses is a gift, and I am increasingly aware of this as the years fly by.
  10. Don’t discount the ordinary. Lefty may be just an ordinary Quarter Horse, and we may have spent most of our time together only trail riding, but I am pretty sure Lefty thinks he is a unicorn. What you think, you become.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Griffith

Kristen lives on a small farm in the Carolinas with her horses, dairy goats, and cats. She has been a horse girl since childhood, trading her Breyer horses for real ones at her earliest opportunity. After spending years trail riding, she entered her first dressage show in 2022 and has enjoyed going up the levels with her horse, Sawyer, ever since.