Life is change and horse life is no different. Equestrians face large changes, like taking breaks for health, school, work, or babies – returning to horse life when finances and time allow. Rinse. Repeat. Sometimes many times. The way we enjoy horses varies over time too; riding once a week in lessons becomes riding three or more times a week when we get a horse, to running a farm and working with them daily. For some of us, our enjoyment of magnificent equines becomes reading books or magazines or watching horse movies.
Horses face enormous changes over their lives too. I observe the horses in the paddocks and fields here and am filled with admiration and gratitude for the way they accept change. Big Deeds (Biggs) is a great example of this. I know he was born in Indiana and sold as a weanling and then again as a two-year-old. Because he is a Thoroughbred, I know he raced 27 times in four years, earning over $100,000. Then his trail vanishes for over a decade. I’ve ridden him, so I have educated guesses – he’s a big, beautiful, responsive boy who had some good training in his second career, but he also has some terrible scarring and a case of cellulitis that flares up at least twice a year.
I theorize he was a cherished show horse, a school horse and then injured badly. It likely involved many moves before I can pick up his story again. He appeared at a livestock auction where he was snapped up by someone who hoped he might be able to get him into a home; if not, his per pound meat price would have been fine. Luckily, we were able to offer Biggs a sanctuary spot when a sponsor stepped up for him.
At a minimum, Biggs has known at least eight homes. His stoic dignity and acceptance of life as it is served to him is inspirational. Most of the horses here have faced many changes in career and care over their lives. Once here, we work hard to establish routines and structures they can predict and accept, but change happens here too – big fields in the summer, smaller paddocks in the winter is one example of ongoing change they face.
I like to think they are grateful for the opportunity to feel secure here. Knowing they are our responsibility for the rest of their lives certainly impacts the way we feel about them and the work we do for them. I always reassure each horse on arrival “Not all change is bad – this is a good one – I promise.” They believe me – eventually. Maybe horses can’t feel gratitude, but I hope they do.
Gratitude can affect how we humans feel about change. Even difficult changes can have positive results. Appreciation of life’s positives has been clearly demonstrated to make us happier. Study after study illustrates that a little gratitude goes a long way to relieve difficult emotions. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. Finding a moment to consider and find reasons to be grateful is challenging sometimes – however it is so very worth it. Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal – regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful – can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
I am so sad Horse Canada is changing formats to digital only. Tail End is no more. But change is inevitable, and I get to choose how I approach this change. I will take a page from Biggs’ book and be grateful to have had the opportunity to meet you – to walk alongside you and to explore ideas together. May your journey, equine and other, be full of gratitude and positive change. I look forward to our paths crossing again. Be well, dear reader. Thank you.