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.
As I reflect on this past year, there is so much to be thankful for that it makes my heart full. Simple things that are the “big ones” — like having healthy children, a great family, and a roof over my head. I have a healthy (most of the time) horse, lots of wonderful friends, a job that somewhat supports my horse habit, and my own health (well, with some creaks and groans from my 56-year-old body) that allows me to pursue my horse dreams. In thinking about what to write for this contest, those things all come immediately to mind. I am beyond blessed, and I wish all those things for all of you out there, too.
What I’d really like to do though is highlight one individual who I am thankful for, and I know that those of you who know him would agree. My constant companion, significant other and cheerleader Craig Harris is simply a wonderful human, who supports me and many of my friends as we compete and have fun on the Area 1 circuit.
He’s unfailingly positive and cheerful, and enormously helpful not only to me but to anyone who is associated with me. He’s always there to run and get a forgotten arm band, or crop, or number, or jacket for anyone who needs help. He walks horses, walks courses, and keeps his mouth shut when he encounters a jump that might be a little large (he learned that lesson after walking the course at Millbrook with me and commented, “wow, that jump is HUGE!,” giving me an instant heart attack as I contemplated the fact that I’d actually have to jump the thing). He gets up early, packs food, helps pack the trailer, and takes care of both my horse and I through thick and thin.
What people don’t know is his story. His story makes it even more remarkable that he is so wonderful, as he has absolutely no reason to be so cheerful and positive. Craig was married to the love of his life for many years. Karen was the barn manager at a local barn, and owned a special draft cross mare named Tsunami. They had one child, a son, who became a talented and capable sound engineer in Boston after attending college there. They had a wonderful family life. Craig was the volunteer scorer for the many horse shows that the barn put on. Karen was the show secretary and announcer. What a team they were! They were beloved by all who knew them.
One fateful day eight years ago, Karen had a seizure while working at the barn. She had a congenital kidney disease that threatened her health, and sometimes caused seizures. She was airlifted to the hospital in Boston, never to recover. Craig had to make the horrible decision to take her off life support, and she passed away peacefully. It was devastating. Unfortunately, more tragedy was in store for Craig. He subsequently lost his son as well, leaving him alone with his whole family just simply gone. It was a scenario that no one can imagine facing, and shouldn’t have to face. Every day my heart breaks for him that he can’t see, talk to and love the two most important people in his life.
Craig inherited his wife’s horse when she passed away. Tsunami (“Nami”) became Craig’s solace. They would go on walks, he would take care of her, and shared her with many riders at the barn. He didn’t know much about horses, but threw himself into learning. Craig eventually decided that he would learn how to ride Nami, with expert instruction from Mary Ann Davis at his barn. He has done a tremendous job learning. Most of us learned to ride as kids, when falling off didn’t matter and we bounced back. Craig was learning in his late 40s! His falls hurt more, and he even broke his leg in four places in one fall, requiring surgery and plates. Did he give up? Nope! He recovered and picked back up where he left off. He rides dressage, and hopes someday to learn how to jump.
He has educated himself about eventing, and loves to accompany me to every show to help and cheerlead. He has dried my tears, mucked my stalls, and celebrated when we had our modest successes. He is always there, and our horses have brought us even closer. I couldn’t ask for a more fun, funny and loving companion on this crazy roller coaster we call eventing. I am so thankful the universe brought him to me, and I can’t say enough about what an amazing human being he is.
In the end, it’s not about what we own, how much money we make, or how successful we are. It’s about connection and love. I am so lucky that Craig chose me and to have him in my life. I hope my story resonates with readers, and helps them appreciate the Craigs in their lives. We couldn’t do this sport alone, and having a community of supportive folks is so important. I know that the support of all of our eventing friends keeps Craig afloat in the dark times, and I want to say that I am thankful to all of you for your friendship, kindnesses, and love.
Happy Thanksgiving, and go eventing. With your besties. Stay grateful.