The Christmas Message

Christmas snow at a former family farm. Photo by Holly Covey.

Yeah, well, I snuck a couple of Christmas cookies for breakfast along with my coffee, so I’m wired up to write a big long holiday blog all about exciting stuff, but, I did a bad thing. I went looking in an old box of photos for a picture to illustrate this blog, and it got all sad and bad.

My goal was to find a picture of myself and my horses on a long past Christmas day and share it with you, and talk about how much fun Christmas and the holidays were when I was young and we had our first horses. We had no idea then that horses might be with us the rest of our lives. We didn’t think of the future, the way animals might age, and change, and leave our lives and with that leaving, cause us grief and pain. We didn’t have any idea about growing up and being an adult and paying for the things we wanted, and having to deal with supporting ourselves. And how horses are not an easy part of that.

If I could give all of my fossil-class eventers some advice: Don’t go looking at old photos this time of year, unless you are into the eggnog and have loved ones near. It’s pretty hard. For those of you still young in this sport, start saving those Christmas day photos now, and make sure you’re in a few of them.

I kept looking and realized all the photos were of others and places and trees and animals, and none of me. Mostly because I was the one behind the camera and not in front of it. I was always looking for beauty and I sort of have that habit today, of always looking for a the pretty scene or the right shot. That’s what photographers do. But in a way that’s the fun of holidays, finding the beauty of the things around you, and giving it back to others.

We call that sharing.

In this sport, we pride ourselves on our sharing. From the moment you arrive at an event, and park next to other eventers, you start to share. Help hold the horse so your neighbor can mount. Ask if anyone would like a cup of hot coffee from your thermos. Chat about where they are from, and how far it took to get here. Oh the stories I could tell, the places I’ve been, but there’s no time for that now, we have to walk a course. And we share information about the course — “look out for the hole between fence 5 and 6” — and be careful in warmup, the corner is slick, and … share a smile … share a “good ride” … share a hug with friends who finally got through cross country without a stop.

And we share sympathy with terrible losses, and we share empathy and commiserate when things don’t go to plan, and we share support when stuff happens that seems wrong and inconsiderate and shameful. We offer ourselves, our horsie beings, our hope that things will be better next time. We stay optimistic for others and keep thinking positive, even when it’s like, really adulting hard to do that. Nobody said sharing was always easy to do.

People who have shared with me have created some of the most wonderful memories of my life. People like my dear friends who have given me horses and stuck with me when all seemed hopeless, and the people behind eventing-centric businesses like Waredaca Farm and Plantation Field.

I remember jump-judging in April at Plantation Field, and just taking in the beauty of that green grass and thinking, “I want to ride over a course again here before I die,” and getting the chance to do it one year later. How lucky that this facility (and all eventing facilities are) is open to all who want to compete, how generous that the landowner shares this incredible place with all of us eventers. I remember feeling odd when I pulled in to park at Waredaca this year, usually I get those little butterflies in my stomach, but all I felt was gratitude — that after 10 years and losing my lifetime unicorn horse, that life handed me another unicorn, and there I was — competing again. There’s no dollar figure on that gift.

So mostly in this sport, if you look at it the right way, we get shared with a lot more than we share out. To fix that, many of us share back to the sport, by giving time, giving services, giving goods to silent auctions to raise funds for the kids or scholarships or other good causes. All seems to work as it should, as long as you don’t get sucked into reading the expert armchair commentary on the social media outlets (where their definition of sharing is word vomit you’re all supposed to take as gospel on high). (Anti-sharing.) This time of year when I have some time to read a little, I try very hard to keep the purpose of the season in mind while getting through six pages of crap I know not to be true.

So let’s end on a note that makes us happy to be here and grateful for our sport and the relationships we cherish within it. Share not just this holiday season, but try to find a way to make sharing meaningful this year. Eventing faces some stresses, we are losing land for cross country courses and we are losing events. Our breeders are losing business overseas, our riders are working too hard to share much. Our organizers and sponsors share as much as they can without giving away everything. So let’s help one another and share a bit to help a lot.

Here’s a few ways we can share all year round:

Volunteer at an event; volunteer for your Area; volunteer for a committee; volunteering drives just about everything in this sport, because it takes financial stress off organized event competitions. If you can support a local tack shop, do so. Take a look at the sponsors listed on your favorite rider’s page and support them when you make your next order. Tell people when you see a nice horse for sale, not for a commission, but to help a friend who bred that nice colt. Take a working student out for dinner or bring lunch to the barn for everyone, or think of something you can do that helps in some way make someone else’s life a bit easier. Do a favor for someone and don’t expect anything in return. Be nice. Be courteous. That’s sharing, too, creating an atmosphere of kindness — it rubs off. (Something I personally must remember to do more often.)

Think about how it felt those many Christmases ago when things were different, and there was no stress and no bills and no worries but just a pony waiting in the paddock for you after all the stuff under the tree got handed out. I remember that Christmas day ride through the neighborhood with leftover ribbon from Christmas presents tied in the mane and tail, and all your friends had ponies and horses with ribbons, too. And that one day we just rode and enjoyed the cold day and were friends forever and it was the best Christmas.

Being there. The best sharing of all.

Merry Christmas.