I was an adopted child. I did not grow up at a barn, nor did I sit on a horse as a young one. There was a dude ranch down the street from my early childhood home in New Jersey that I would ask my parents to take me to on a daily basis so that I could feed the horses apples. A family friend had a gentle, old palomino named Goldie who I insisted on visiting every chance I got. I did not become a full-fledged rider until I turned 13 and started taking riding lessons at a barn in St. Louis.
Some riders can tell stories of how they were in the saddle from day one, showing their first pony in short stirrup, complete with braids and garters. Not me. I couldn’t tell you where my “horse bug” came from. The only explanation I can come up with is that, perhaps, somewhere far away in South Korea, my birth parents have some glorious farm full of shiny horses and expensive tack. OK, that may be a bit far fetched, but it works.
The point to my story is that my catching of the horse bug is what I feel I am most thankful for when it comes to my love of horses and eventing today. Horses are commonly idolized by children around the world, and sometimes that obsession sticks through the adult years, leaving us to fend for ourselves when it comes time to pay our own board and vet bills. Would I trade my constant state of financial insecurity for a life without horses? Absolutely not.
Here is where we would be without this fabled horse bug: There would be no Olympic riders for us to aspire to be like. No cheering sections craning for a better view at the Head of the Lake in Kentucky each year. No little girls kicking their rotund ponies around their first Green as Grass cross country. No dreams for us all to follow and achieve. The horse bug is to blame for each of the above scenarios and countless others. I, for one, am thankful that I caught the bug so early, as it has helped shape a horse-filled life that I find to be fulfilling and motivating all at once.
So, today on the national day of thanks, take a moment to thank that pony who took you around the pen on your first pony ride or the parents who bought you your first riding lesson. Thank the first horse who took you over a jump or on which you learned how to correctly do a leg yield. There are so many things to be thankful for today, but don’t forget to be thankful for the horse bug that continues to feed our dreams.