What are you thankful for this year? That’s the question we asked EN readers for the 2018 Thanksgiving Challenge from World Equestrian Brands, and your responses were numerous and heartfelt. Over the holiday weekend, we are honored to share your special stories. You can view an archive of them here.
Izzie Blumenthal: I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard to be thankful. To be fair, the past few years have been extremely difficult. In four years, I went from perfectly healthy to chronically ill. I’ve had a TBI, a fractured leg, multiple severe mental health diagnoses and interventions, and I lost both of my parents. It has become so easy for me to lose track of what I have in a life that has suffered so much loss. But in a world where I have undergone such severe trauma, there is still good. If I hadn’t gone through what I did, I wouldn’t have met the people who I now call my family.
There would be no Kati to be mischievous with, no Ashley to cheer me up when I’m down and rub my head until I fall asleep, no therapy to resolve my traumas and help me heal. I wouldn’t have gotten my cat *ahem* dog Bradley or have gained the wonderfully sassy family that I currently live with. My mother would’ve never let me get a pony if I wasn’t independently working for her. If my mother had not died, I would have never met the amazing women who I call my sisters or have a hilarious memory of my therapist nearly getting his hat stolen by a horse. And I may not have gotten to event in almost half a decade but I am going to be strong enough to do it again. For all of that and more, I am grateful.
My therapist says that I am wise for my young age from everything I’ve been through. I’m not sure if that’s true or not but I would like to impart some wisdom upon you, EN. Be thankful for your friends, your family, your barn family, the privilege to compete, your pets, the moments that have broken you and made you stronger, those who have helped you patiently figure out how to ride your horse, and most of all be thankful for your horses for with them we achieve dreams. Be thankful for everything you have. Just be thankful.
Go thankfulness. Go eventing.
Debbie Snead: Here I am at 67, almost 68 years old. The old mantra of I have always loved horses is true. There are many stories along the way and I don’t want to bore anyone with those details. I have grown from the I would ride almost any horse to the horse I ride now must be pretty safe.
Three years ago my gelding spooked and I flew off his back. Ended up breaking mine. Couldn’t ride for several weeks and drove my husband and doctor both crazy asking how soon could I ride again.
Fast forward three years, and I have become less confident, but I still get back on my gelding almost every day. I am thankful for him. He is my heart horse. I’m lucky to have had two of them. Callahan died at age 32. Amos is almost 12. I’ve had him since he was a yearling. No, I probably won’t show him. Lessons still make me nervous.
I still take lessons on him or lately my trainer has been teaching him piaffe, passage and canter pirouettes.
I am thankful I have a horse in my life. I thank him even if I only ride for a few minutes. I am working on building my confidence. I’d like to try the half pass at canter again. Until then he gets his kiss on the nose, his treats and my whispered thank you.
Emma Goltz: My name is Emma Goltz and I am a C-1 Traditional pony clubber from the Northeast Region USPC. I am thankful for my instructor, Mary. Last year, I was jumping 2’9” and schooling Beginner Novice cross country. I was competing in jumper shows and riding all different kinds of horses.
Then, something shifted. I fell off a couple of times and suddenly my confidence plummeted. I started to second guess myself even stepping up to the mounting block. An 18” crossrail now felt like a 3’6” oxer. I only felt comfortable riding our barns safest school horses.
Yet, through this difficult time, someone stuck by my side. Mary. She cheered me on when I finally cantered the full arena again. She told me not to give up when tears rolled down my cheek when I was nervous to jump. She believed in me. Eventually, cross rails turned back into small verticals and those turned into jumping the barrels once again. Last week, I even did a three jump grid. This is like night and day, from my nervous rides last fall. So I want to thank Mary for keeping cheering me on and being my inspiration.
Parand Jalili: I’m thankful for so much this past year! Like every year, there are ups and downs, but we most certainly grow from every life lesson we encounter. This year I purchased my first horse (I’m from a non-horsey family, so you can imagine how wild of an experience this was!)
I’m so thankful to wake up every day and go ride. I’m certainly thankful for finding a horse that will put up with my amateur mistakes, still forgive me, and loves me back. I’m thankful for what I learned whether it was what to do and what not to do. I’m so thankful for the support of my family and genuine friends! I’d have to say 2018 has been a pretty amazing, definitely exciting, and somewhat wild year. Of course not every day is perfect, but at the end of the day, we grew from it all. I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to grow and not get stuck! Also very thankful for our awesome vet and amazing farrier ;) They had our backs!
Molly Forney: I’m thankful I finally found a horse I can trust. My beloved heart horse, Doc, was a great partner, but I thankfully retired him when his ringbone was too much to keep riding with. He is spooky and did not travel well. He instilled fears of showing and travelling in me. He would decide jumps that he had already done were randomly terrifying.
I bought and sold two horses in short order after his retirement. One was bold and talented, but couldn’t take a joke with my amateur hands. The other hated our mostly ring-based program and developed an attitude issue. My confidence was shot after a bad fall and, at this point, years of not jumping consistently.
My trainer found my horse online. She just knew. Ollie was woolly, underweight, and 19 years old. He was also kind, quiet and sound. He has a canter that instills confidence in you. While it’s been a year and a half since I bought him, he has taken me from crossrails back to 2’6″. We have done hunter shows, combined tests, and my first recognized horse trial.
I recently went on a trail ride on a horse I had never met before. We cantered through the woods and trotted through sloppy fields. Had it not been for Ollie, I would never be able to step out of my comfort zone. Ollie has been the perfect horse for me, and I cannot be more thankful he came into my life.
Abby Basner: I am thankful for my amazing eight year old OTTB gelding Tucker. We started our partnership two years ago and even though he has never seen a cross country course or been in a dressage arena before, he gives me his whole heart. It has been a wonderful two years learning together with many ups and downs along the way starting at Beginner Novice and moving up to Novice this year. We placed 5th in our first ever recognized Novice event at Champagne Run at the Kentucky Horse Park which qualified us for the Area VIII Championships. After our amazing first run at Novice level, we headed to Cobblestone Farms in Dexter, Michigan a few weeks later. I figured this would be a walk in the park for us since we school there often, but we were uncharacteristically technically eliminated due to refusals on cross country. At that point, I knew something wasn’t right. After checking my saddle fit, getting him adjusted, and everything else I could think of, I took him to the vet to have him examined. We concluded that he had gastric ulcers and we started treating him right away even though it was a huge blow to my pocketbook. It was all worth it though. He now feels better than ever and we just placed 2nd at our last schooling event at Cobblestone finishing on our best dressage score we have ever had. I appreciate every day I get to spend with my amazing partner.