The Big Picture, Thank You.


 

Horse people can be a little intense. Come to think of it, I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone who was so-so about horses. Lots of people manage to live rewarding, happy lives without ever thinking of horses. We look at them with awe, wondering what that would be like, while we arrange work, living space, transportation, and even end-of-life directives in support of being with horses for an hour or two a day. The tiniest details take on mammoth proportions. We’re insufferable and it’s just the way we want it.

It’s my job as a trainer to remind you of the big picture. At the end of a ride, it might be the reminder that the farrier had just been here, and the horse is adjusting to a slight balance change. Or that the horse worked hard the day before and it’s normal that his energy is a bit low sometimes. It’s an effort to diffuse our pinpoint focus to take in some extenuating circumstances. It isn’t making excuses so much as encouraging us to come up for air.

It was a ride. It doesn’t matter if it was a lesson, a trail ride, or a competition. There were mistakes and there were brilliant strides. Pride and embarrassment. Flawless forward movement and sticky resistance. Glee and frustration. Whether things went really well or really badly, mortality appeared in a corner and shook a warning finger. All lives are timed events, precious beyond measure.

We laughed, we cried. It was a ride.

Now, the tack is off. You’re done lingering with the curry, picking hooves, brushing girth marks. The saddle has been stored and the bit is clean. (Yes, you cleaned your bit.) Nothing left to do but walk him back to his friends in turnout. It’s time to say thank you for something a whole lot bigger than a carrot can repay.

Sure, you were positive on the ride. That “good boy” or “atta girl” floated on the air, along with “perfect!” and my favorite, “yesss!” with a juicy hiss to it. If you rode with a group, you communicated more with your horse than your friends. If you were riding in a lesson, you still seasoned the ride with praise and deep breathing. If you were alone, you let silence within the movement bind your bodies in rhythm. Amen, but something even bigger than that.

Knowing that regardless of the kind of ride, horses hold us in a uniquely intimate way, their keen senses not distracted by our verbal chatter. Words are superfluous. Our thoughts are as true as tattoos.

When it’s all done but unbuckling the halter, it’s time for the big thank you. It’s the one that the rider says so plain and blunt and wordless, that the horse undeniably feels all that you feel. It’s a flame-thrower thank-you, the kind of gratitude that consumes all that came before.

Start here: You are standing next to a horse. For all the times you dreamed of standing here, and for the times to come when you may not be able to, acknowledge your fabulous luck. This is sacred ground. Nothing less than a perfect moment in time.

Stand back, retreat a few steps, outside of an arm’s reach but still deep inside his heart. See his eyes soften? His poll drops just a bit lower as he shifts to better balance? This connection we feel, this beautiful obsession, is not affected by distance. We don’t need to hold him tight to keep him close. Trust that.

It’s the peace he needs to feel, this affirmation that we will abide together; confidence that it will hold beyond a ride. Stand a moment in this light and remember the whole journey. Awkward beginnings, tumbles and re-mounts. Through sound and unsound years, and if we are especially lucky, on into old age, his and yours.

If you are brave enough to admit it, fear has been there every step, some days obscuring all else but in the end, always cowered in the face of love. If you’re a long-timer, a ghost herd joins you to survey the long and twisting path.  It’s your wild good fortune to have been carried all this way.

I’m pretty ordinary. I don’t have a trust fund to support my horses. My truck is missing its tailgate so it makes hauling easier. My little farm always has some fence to fix, the twine is holding for now. I said goodbye to my best old dog last year and there is a young horse in the barn. Days are over-filled with horses and words about horses. Today, as much as any day in my horse-crazy girlhood, I want a horse. Even with a barn full, the desire is blinding. Gratitude takes my breath away and fills me with more… gratitude. Thank you. Who is luckier than us?

Holidays bring it out in me. It’s Labor Day, a line in the sand. School is back in session and it’s a theoretical day of rest for workers. Even those who can’t tell work from play. Seasons are changing, days get shorter here and longer somewhere else on this tiny planet.

Change is eternal and so is saying thank-you. Those beautiful rides at dusk, the sun sending long shadows in pink light, as precious as any in our horse life, deserve a special nod at summer’s end.

It’s my job as a trainer to remind you of the big picture. Everything will be fine. Life goes on, and though our view might be as narrow as a pair of equine ears, the impact of our appreciation is infinite.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Clinician, Equine Pro

76 comments

  1. Another gorgeously-written post touching deeply. I adore this. I adore horses. Okay, I adore you! Many thanks for helping us be better people for the horses we are lucky enough to have in our lives.

  2. thank you for saying so wonderfully how I feel, how i love horses and always have, with no idea where that dream came from. dogs too. i am now reminded to be grateful for being a long timer, as my ghost herd numbers increase while the current real world numbers slightly decrease, as i try to be realistic about my age, ability, and finances. long may i continue to fail at that sensible route. thank you this is wonderful, as always.
    .

  3. What you said has been the high and happiness I have been feeling lately; so grateful to have my horses home with me and giving me their all every single time. Even people visiting our place see it while being around them and are grateful that the horses connected with them in a way they never experienced. They finally understand why I am so horse crazy. Thank you for your wonderful words. They are like pictures I can look at and smile with the memories.

  4. 💗💗💗💗 And by the way, yes I do, as a matter of fact, clean my horse’s bit. Every time. I also wipe down the entire danged bridle. And get comments from folks passing by the tack room somewhat along the lines of, “gee, I really should be like you and start taking better care of my stuff”. Yeah, well…some of us just can’t stand dirty tack I guess!

  5. Thank you. A big Flame Thrower thank you. To you. It IS sacred ground, and I’m going to try very hard to not forget it for another moment.

  6. Just read this..a friend passed it along to me. The love and obsession of horses started when I was 8. I am now 61 and still have horses. I can appreciate the big picture,although a few days ago my new project spooked and bolted in the woods,through the trees,i was so impressed with myself that I stayed mounted…my name was velcro when i was younger. .my friend sent me this article to remind me of the big picture…I have been so lucky to of had so many wonderful experiences. It is just a ride,some really suck, some are fabulous,they come and go,just like the years,faster and faster…

  7. I’ve been so aware of this moment of gratitude lately, but thank you for reminding me how profound the True Thank You Moment is – whether right beside my Taye or in this moment while I’m paused from the work that affords this lucky love miles away. I am most likely to rush away mid work day ride and need to add more time on the back end to not encroach on this sacred farewell till next time, which fortunately too, is typically no more than a day away.

  8. Anna, you moved my heart with your beautiful truth. I am so grateful to have your words to inspire and guide me and to have opportunities to work with you in person. Thank you for writing.

  9. Leaky eyes… as in yesterday after a two nights camping, a 20-mile trail ride, and a long drive in the trailer, Dasani, after being turned out, has a good muddy roll and then instead of going out to pasture, comes back to the gate and stands with me. And we breathe together. Gulping gratitude. Thank you Anna. Your heartfelt words hit the mark. Again.

  10. A welcome reminder indeed! I thank my wee little ones every day for sharing their life with me, sharing their peaceful energy, and sharing breath. I do thank them for loading on a trailer to go driving with me even though I know they may not want to. I appreciate them and love them so much for that. They are my dearest friends.
    Thank you Anna! =-)

  11. I love every essay you write, but I can honestly say this is my #1 favorite of all time. I will print it out, read and reread it, read it to other people, maybe even memorize some of it. It’s everything. Thank you for the phone consultations we had when I first got Phoebe. I realize now how terribly anxious I was, a frightened, unconfident new mother with this baby who was a total unknown to me. It’s only 6 months later but many worlds from there. She and I are doing beautifully. Our bond is growing and I learn things from her that I didn’t know before, every single day.
    I’m incredibly grateful that you’re there (here), Anna. You’re definitely my equine guru and it extends to every other area of life.

  12. Beautiful, soulful, poetic words. I stand with my horses as they share this world with me and only others like us can understand. Thank you, as I say thank you for all my rides the good and the bad. Thank you never seems enough when I take their beautiful head over my left shoulder as I nuzzle up under their chin and kiss the side of their super soft muzzle. They just take it in as we connect and cherish our time together. Thank you for recognizing this time of year, and for making us all love being there with these very special creatures I Love the fall and I too am nothing special. Someone’s Mom, wife, co-worker and crazy in love horse owner! ❤️ -Diana

  13. In my bones, I feel everything you so eloquently penned here. Had to gasp to hold back a sob. You touched on everything that defines the life I’ve lived and am living now. I often feel lucky too. But to read the words from someone so much more a part of the world I’ve never been quite that much a part of, no designations, mostly doing my thing alone still with my horses, having shown in my youth, having raised some really good foals, having been on the brink of professional, I feel lucky that I can relate to every word and sentiment here, oh so lucky. Thank-you so much.

  14. “Always thank each life and object you touch. The flower for it’s beauty, the dog for the wagging tail, the horse for the incredible trust allowing you on his back, the stream for the life-giving water. All are sacred.” – Rudd.
    Thank you, Anna, for the reminder. I recently found a small notebook with things Rudd had us write down that he thought were important.

  15. Thank you Anna for another wonderful , grounding post. Lately I have started a routine where I go into my horse’s stall before I leave the barn and just stand next to him, perhaps giving him a pat on the shoulder. He usually turns to look at me and then goes on eating his hay. I also thank him for that day’s ride even if it was not the best of rides. So your post really confirmed the importance of that bigger picture and taking some time to see it.

  16. I moved from one country to another last week. It was exciting and promising and stressful beyond belief.. I got everything ready for my ponies to arrive. It was a lovely place. But my God, when my ponies arrived a few days later, I cried. For they arrived safely, recognised me, were still confused.. But of all I knew I was home now. Thank you so much for this lovely article.. THANK YOU. because, yep, fences are already broken, the dust is everywhere and totally out of control and the heat is challenging. However, I look out of my window and they they are… And that’s a piece of heaven. Thank you

    • Oh Ella, I know how hard this is on all sides, when I made that leap, my horses were unhappy with me for quite a while… so good luck and best wishes. Thank you for sharing with us, it’s will be an adventure, all right.

  17. Thank you for the vision of my ghost herd. Thinking of each one individually and then of them all together. Telling each one thank you for all they gave me. Being horseless since last November I am asked often when I am getting another horse or the very painful, if I am getting another horse. I have to hold onto the dream. I tell them I am still looking, because I am and always have been looking and dreaming of horses my whole life. Why change now?

  18. Great post! Sometimes after a ride I sit in my horses’ stalls and just watch them eat. Even after all these years I feel so lucky to have them and to connect with them. You often write of gratitude and it is always so true.

  19. Loved this Anna. I have a ghost herd and a ghost pack. I have only one ghost mule, and I try not to let his amazing presence overwhelm what I feel for my present mule. She is so, so different and needs to be acknowledged as such. But I always say thank you for my ride.. and with my old grey Arab mare that process starts when I get off her a mile from home and walk with her… let her browse a bit on the verge on the way … she has earned that respect after carrying me safely all these years. Have to admit I am not so great at washing bits though!!

  20. I have a little plaque in our house that says “If you’re lucky enough to own a horse you’re lucky enough”. This post brought tears as not all folks understand what it is that keeps us working for our horses, with our horses, even when that sometimes means working with a cast lol.
    Thank you AGAIN, for the depths you reach with your words, it is a gift. I hope someday I can give you a hug!

  21. @Jane Greenwood – I have a tee-shirt that says the same. Anna, thank you for an eloquent wake up to the bigger picture of loving and living for horses. No truer words were ever written.

  22. Thank you for this! I have a new horse and trying to learn, using my own wisdom, about his back story. He’s had many owners; need I say more?

  23. Thank you Anna, I love the ghost herd; it brings them closrr. mine includes a few dogs and cats.

  24. Anna, once again you have provided brilliant insight. You are truly a gift to you fellow horse lovers, even the ones like me who are still too afraid to ride.

  25. Love this post! Especially “We don’t need to hold him tight to keep him close. Trust that..” It took me years to learn this and now I enjoy sharing this insight with others. Thank you for this wonderful post!

  26. I don’t know if I told you that I gave my first horse to a 20-something woman who absolutely adores him and doesn’t mind him spooking and throwing her off! I bought a 6 year old, 16H Gypsy Vanner in November last year. He has become my bestest buddy. The days I spend sitting on a stool and reading in his paddock are the absolutely most wonderful in my 66 year old life. If he could become a dog and climb into my lap he would. I had never just sat with a horse like that before. It feels like the most natural thing in the world and I feel like I know him so much better than any other horse I’ve encountered in my lifetime. So when we ride, it’s easy for me to say YES because I know him, I know when he’s day dreaming and then focusses on what I am asking and so I say ‘good boy” and when he takes a tiny step in the right direction in doing something hard, then I get off and say ‘good boy!’ and then we both give a big sigh, together.

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