I’ve been thinking a lot lately about great gifts to give others. But why are horses at the top of my list?
I’m a pro-present kind of person. I like Christmas, birthdays, celebratory gifts and presents “just because.” (Side note: I’m good at giving myself presents too, just because.) I certainly like receiving something fabulous and unexpected, but I truly enjoy giving gifts to others most of all. It’s some sort of great challenge for me, to figure out a meaningful, thoughtful or funny present for someone that they will enjoy for years to come.
On that note, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about extraordinary gifts that we are all capable of giving to others. As horsemen, horsewomen and people just plain drawn to horses, we sort of stand out to everyone else like a fly on a wedding cake. But to most folks who don’t have horses, cattle, ranching and outdoor chores and labor to accomplish, what we do with our time is kind of, well, magical.
I’ve had a few opportunities in my own life to bridge the gap between my reality and the non-horse-world people, and I admit, I love giving out the gift of enjoying horses. To recruit other people to scratch, love, ride and own the same big ol’ silly creatures that we have made a part of our lives is an honor. One of the greatest and most gratifying gifts I’ve been blessed enough to receive and pass along is sharing the “spark”: the simple gift of enjoying horses.
No one has ever asked me the question “Now, why do you enjoy horses so much?” But if they did, I wouldn’t be able to come up with an acceptable answer. I don’t totally understand it myself. The facts are, horses are expensive, large, risky, high maintenance, consuming and often a lot of drama. It’s not always a ball of fun. It can be stressful. It’s a humbling and constant learning process. I could counter that with their beauty, grace, fun, friendship and intelligence, but really none of those qualities define why I am drawn to the horse. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a reason to get out of bed in the morning, take a walk around the property in a blizzard, and get up at 3 a.m. to see if there are new baby colts. I’ve seen callused old men light up when they talk about cowboying on their favorite gelding years ago. I’ve seen toddlers bubble over with joy when they reach their chubby hands out and pet a friendly Shetland. What a gift the horse is to all of us, from the greenest of riders to the most experienced horsemen there are.
For whatever reason, there were people patient enough and willing to grant me this same gift when I was a child. My uncle, who farmed in steep country and was worn and tired from the Central California sun, was always willing to saddle his old swayback gelding and let me ride down his ranch roads. The lady who ran a hunter stable down the road allowed me to hang out and brush horses in exchange for riding lessons. When I finally had my own pony and no trailer, there were plenty of adults with better things to do that would let me and my bay bum a ride and go to shows, rodeos and events with them. And although I can’t thank each of them individually now for the life that they helped me find, I can mirror their generosity and pass that same gift to others.
I’m not saying we should all open a beginner’s lesson program. I’m certainly not a personality cut out for that, and I don’t have the horseflesh to make that a successful endeavor. But when the interest is piqued, whether it’s a child with the hopes of riding someday, or a timid adult who has always been drawn to horses but couldn’t make it work in their younger years, it’s truly a gift to be entrusted with helping that spark ignite.
It could be a mere word of encouragement or selling someone a pony that will carry their love of riding and confidence beyond what was ever dreamed. But either way, it’s a gift we are all privileged to give.
And, since most documentation proves a domesticated relationship between horse and human dating back over 5,500 years ago, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a gift that keeps on giving.