If you feel passionate about something, I believe you can always find others that feel the same way. It doesn’t matter what your passion is–child welfare, protecting the environment, golf, cooking or horses–kindred spirits will find one another and if you are lucky, a community will be born. Such is the case with Horse Junkies United. I stumbled upon this group 4 years ago and thought I found Nirvana. Whether you were a dressage rider, eventer, driver, hunter-jumper, show Mom or just a horse lover, this was a place where passions could be shared and tested.

Our community is not unlike any other. We bicker, we debate, we laugh, we cry, we fail and we triumph TOGETHER. As we look forward to another year, we also look back and reflect. I have learned so much and grown so much by being a part of this community. I would like to share some of the highlights with you.

1. Friends. First and foremost, I have gained a whole new group of friends. I was heartily welcomed and accepted without reservation. While I have not met most in person, I feel very close to many as we shared stories and life events. Others, I have had the pleasure of spending time with and truly enjoyed every minute. Our passion brought us together and keeps us close.

2. Commonality. No matter what discipline you ride or how you are involved with horses, we share the same frustrations, problems, excitement and tragedies. We understand that the horse world is large, but really a very small community. Whatever the issue, someone has been there. That  has been a comfort and validation these past few years.

3. Broadening Horizons. Other disciplines are fascinating to learn about. I ride dressage yet closely follow the eventing community because my coach is a four star eventer. I have a few friends that drive ponies. Several friends do hunters and two show in hand. Many are trail riders and one even barrel races. Reading about and discussing what they do and how they do it, has opened my eyes to how diverse this community is.

4. Citizenship. Being a part of the equine community imposes certain expectations and standards. Horse welfare is a top priority along with good sportsmanship. We have debated what it takes to be a good barn owner/manager and equally, a good barn citizen. We have learned tolerance in accepting the diversity found in every discipline, breed discussion, helmet debate, injury analysis and rider assessment. While every community has “those people” who forever criticize and remain negative, ours explodes with phenomenal acceptance and support.

5. Comic Relief. I can always count on my HJU brethren to make me laugh. I have seen the craziest of horse pictures, laughed at videos of rider falls, shared stories of how we ended up covered in manure, mud and horse hair and how our adventures in riding have led to some epic fails. So great to know we aren’t alone and can laugh at ourselves when all is said and done.

6. Education. In addition to learning about different disciplines I have also learned about supplements, treatments, injuries, products, clothing/fashion, clinicians, riding opportunities, reference books/videos, boots—and a plethora of other things. If I have a question about something, all I need to do is ask. Answers will come that provide me with the opportunity to hear multiple opinions upon which to base a decision.

These are just a few of the lessons I have learned by being a part of the Horse Junkies United community. Patricia Da Silva, our founder (and often our voice of reason) planted a seed those many years ago and it has grown and flourished. What started as a single tree is now a beautiful forest, always changing with the seasons. Thanks to each and every one of you  who have been a party of this very special community. Timmy and I are thrilled to be a part of it.