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The Gift of Horses – The Inherent Joy of Horse Ownership

Life weighs heavy this year. Faced with a worldwide pandemic, an election year, and heightened tension on several fronts, we’ve all felt the impact. Our business models have changed. Our family lives have adjusted. Yesterday, as my horses ripped down all my fences and were at a dead run on the road headed for town, it occurred to me that we horse folks are uniquely prepared for times like these.

The horse/human relationship is one that has accomplished amazing things. Horses are part of our history. They allowed us to travel, construct, and grow; to harvest and hunt food. As technology advanced, the relationship evolved to include specialized industries that showcase the historical use of the horse. Horses have become effective partners in multiple types of therapy, continuing to enrich lives in new ways. For most of us they are forever woven into our lifestyles.

I believe that my relationship with horses has prepared me for each new season of my life, from childhood to professional competition, real estate, and motherhood. As I try to navigate my own current shifting reality, I have witnessed that my horse friends, across the world, face our cumulative troubles with grace and compassion, regardless of our political leanings. I think that’s because horses thrust certain life skills upon us that serve us well in all situations.

There is inherent joy in horse ownership. When life feels dim, there’s a warm nicker at feeding time. Horses don’t care that you can’t fit into last year’s jeans, they just care that you show up and are kind (preferably with food). Horses bring happiness to people in many unique ways, but with that comes the associated work. My mom has always loved to remind us that with rights come responsibilities, and that is a core value that horse people share. We may not all agree on what those responsibilities are, but we universally acknowledge that we have them, and that they are important. Horse people are never afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

The daily reality of horse ownership builds humans that must consider the welfare of another being. Feeding, exercising, health care, and maintenance all hone our ability to serve and have empathy for other beings. I don’t always like my horses (yesterday’s antics would be a prime example), but I show up and do my part, even when it’s hard. That is a trait that serves us in our human relationships and communities.

From a training perspective, horses have long taught us to look to ourselves and our behavior and make changes for better results. Horses are wired to teach us about ourselves in their training process, and that skill transfers to daily life. In a time in history where finger pointing and blame is the norm, it feels reassuring to know there’s a whole community of people that horses have taught to examine themselves first.

We’re used to chaos. I keep thinking that as I mature and improve there will be fewer instances of mayhem, but horses continue to surprise me. Murphy’s Law seems to be the mission statement for the horse. If it can happen, it will. There may be 10 acres of field, but the best dirt for rolling in is right next to the fence.

Horses are as fragile as they are resilient, which makes a rollercoaster ride for their stewards. Horses make us thoughtful problem-solvers. They teach us to try and anticipate potential problems and plan accordingly.

We face disappointment. Whether a crummy day in the show pen or dreams unrealized, horses give us a variety of opportunities to embrace the fact that good and bad are eternally intertwined. How we grow from defeat defines us more than how we shine in the light of success.

Outbreaks and quarantine are nothing new. It’s not unusual for us to stay home from shows or limit our exposure because of an outbreak of strangles or EHV. We make decisions on herd health every year.

Horses give us hope. It’s different for each of us, but horses have a way of giving us that light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, our world needs hope more than ever. It can be easy to become hardened and stand firm in our respective positions when it comes to politics or other hot topics.

One lesson I’m grateful horses have taught me is that there’s always an opportunity to do better. Horses teach us to rigorously and thoroughly examine our thoughts and actions first, knowing the greatest results happen when we are the best version of ourselves.

 

Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

See this article in the 2020 November online edition:

 

November 2020

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