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A Season to Reflect

I have a sign in my barn that reads “Gratitude Changes Everything.” I found it at a Dollar Store in Florida a couple of winters ago. I was feeling lonely and isolated down there by myself, wrestling with homesickness but at the same time knowing I would be unhappy working outside in the freezing cold for nine hours a day in Maine. I felt guilty for being sad, considering my choices and circumstances, but I didn’t know how to snap out of it.

Then I saw that sign, sitting amongst other wall decor adorned with similarly cliche phrases, and it immediately reminded me of how very much I had to be grateful for. As soon as I read it, my perspective shifted, and my mood lifted. So, I bought it and hung it in my tiny apartment, where it would remind me every day of just how lucky I was to be there, doing what I love in the warmth of the Florida sun.

The sign made its way back to Maine with me and now hangs in a spot you see immediately upon walking in the front door of my barn. When I am having a stressful day, it continues to serve as a reminder to zoom out and recognize how privileged I am.

Not only do I get to do what I love for a living, but I am surrounded by people who appreciate my work and share my vision of what the horse-human relationship can look like. I have a network of like-minded horse professionals that I call friends, whom I can reach out to with ideas or questions whenever needed. I have a healthy family that supports me on so many levels and who I love more than I can adequately sum up in words. I have friends to do horsey and non-horsey things with. I live in a peaceful place, have a warm home, food in my fridge, and clean water to drink. I have more of my needs met on a daily basis than a large portion of the world’s population will have in their lifetime.

And then there are the horses. Every one of them teaches me something about myself, about people, about relationships, about the world, every single day. How did I get so lucky as to be able to spend my days working with these amazing creatures? What did I do to deserve their grace and patience as I learned my craft over these past 30-plus years? I have no earthly idea, but man, I am so very fortunate.

So is every human out there who has the privilege to interact with any horse. They give us so much that we take for granted in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of our lives. If you stop to think about the extraordinary nature of our relationships with them, it’s completely mind-blowing.

These graceful, empathic creatures allow us to ask more of them than most prey animals on the planet would ever be able to handle, and even when we make mistakes that make their lives harder, they let us try again. They allow us to dress them up in ridiculous outfits and parade them around sandboxes and jump them over things they could much more easily go around, all for our pleasure and entertainment. They ignore their instincts at our request and do our bidding even when it goes against their nature. They give us the opportunity to reflect on our own habits and behaviors and to become better versions of ourselves simply by the nature of their being in this world.

I find myself reflecting on things like this more and more the older I get, so it makes sense that as 2023 draws to a close and I recognize that another year of my life has flown by, I feel this sense of gratitude on a deeper level. This is made even more poignant by the presence of Luna the Mustang in my life. Watching her earnest attempts to learn how to navigate the human world she has been thrust into through no choice of her own makes my heart ache and sing in the same beat. I look at her and I think about all of the horses who land in less desirable circumstances. I know she is a lucky girl, even if she doesn’t, and at the same time, I wish I could see her living free, roaming the hills of northern California where she was born.

I am so humbled by the privilege of being her guide in the new life she is living, and I also wish she didn’t need to be living it. She reminds me daily of that ever-present dichotomy in life - of how closely joy and sorrow exist to one another in this world and of how fortunate I am to experience both, as it means I am truly living.

So, thank you, 2023, for all the opportunities you brought my way, and for all of the things I learned over your twelve months. I am grateful to have been part of your story in some small way, and I will continue trying to be a steward of positive change in 2024. I will read the sign in my barn every day and remember how fortunate I am to be alive in this moment, in this place, surrounded by these amazing creatures.


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