I think if you were to ask a sample of equestrians and horse-owners this Thanksgiving, their horse would make the short list of things they are thankful for.
Previously, I would’ve said how thankful I was for my horse carrying my sorry behind around course after course, and being a total saint in general. I would’ve said I was thankful for her to be in my life, thankful for the people who have enabled us to come as far as we have. And I still am.
Maybe I’d have said something jokingly about how thankful I am that she keeps her stall neat, or that she isn’t a hard color to get clean, or how she has a super nice forelock/mane/tail, or that she’s barefoot, or any number of other little things. I’m thankful for the incredible effort she puts into her work, and the sensational (albeit shortened) show season we were able to pack in before we moved. And I still am.
However, has become readily, painfully apparent to me throughout the past semester that there is so much to be thankful for with and for and about my horse, and I didn’t realize it until it was compromised or taken away.
Leaving our undergraduate barn was one of the hardest things I have had to do, and I still am thankful for the connections I made while I was there. I gained valuable lessons from coaches and professors who have become friends, and who I can consult when I run into trouble-whether that is health-wise, or in my riding and training. Beyond my college’s barn, I had a great network of horse-people in the community, which was an asset when it came time to relocate. A local, private barn-owner I cleaned stalls for offered to trailer my horse from Ohio to Indiana, and let me work off the cost. I ended up packing up the majority of my furniture along with my horse. Without her, I don’t know that my move would’ve been half as smooth.
It wasn’t until we moved out here that I realized I took my horse’s care and health totally for granted. She’s always been really sturdy, and I’ve always been in barns where I didn’t have to be concerned about her well-being. Over a series of unfortunate events, The Mare has been sidelined for the majority of the semester,
about 12 weeks total. Through radiographs, ultrasounds, multiple rounds of meds, endless stall rest, hand-walking, hand-grazing and wrapping, I was thankful for a sane horse who seemingly understood her restrictions and accepted the care I was providing for her without much complaint. I was thankful with each ruling out of devastating diagnoses.
Now on the backside of our recovery and continuing back into work, I am thankful again for a sane horse who has gone back into work without much ado. I am thankful that the severe differentials did not come to fruition. I am thankful for my horse’s health in a way I could not appreciate until this experience. I am thankful for the bond that we have, and thankful that during a time what was incredibly stressful, we were both able to cope.
In the last week, we had to relocate. Due to the nature of her injuries (Getting kicked in the hock and her inability to not be a Boss Mare with one of the mares on the property), I was not convinced she would be able to adjust back to turnout with any combination of the horses on the property without further damage to herself, another horse or the property itself. I opted to choose a new environment totally.
I am so thankful for our new barn. We’ve been there only about a week, but I am already thankful for their communication, their generosity, their level of care, their welcoming environment. After 12 weeks of daily trips to the barn and constant fretting, I am thankful to be in an environment where I do not need to worry about my horse’s well-being while I am at school or when I have to go home for the holidays.
I am thankful for little things, like her being able to be turned out (What normal person puts turnout on the list of things they’re thankful for? Me. Definitely.)
I spent 12 weeks with a *need* to be at the barn (not like the compulsive desire we all feel to go to the barn 24/7, but a medically-driven reason to have to be at the barn each and every day, sometimes multiple times a day). While I love my horse an obscene amount, it was stressful; the rigors of veterinary school aren’t conducive to taking 3 hours or more every. single. day. to go out to the barn. I’d be lying if I said I was happy to be there every day-but I had an obligation to my horse. So as weird as it sounds, I am so thankful that I can not be at the barn every single day. I am thankful that I will be able to go home for Thanksgiving and see my family, and return to find a more conducive school-barn balance.
I am endlessly thankful for the people who support me and my little mare, family, friends who let me rant or helped me compare pictures of her leg to see if it looked better; colleagues and peers who offered suggestions, vets who answered frantic phone calls.
I am thankful for a horse who greets me when I walk down the aisleway, who is able to work and do a job she loves, who is warm and safe, who is healthy.
If you had asked me a few months ago, I would’ve said I was thankful for my horse, but I don’t think I would’ve addressed the latter half of that above statement. And so, despite our obstacles over this semester…
I am thankful for a little perspective. Because with it, I am that much more thankful for my horse. For her, with her, about her, and for all the people helping me achieve my dreams with her.
Happy Thanksgiving, Horse Junkies.