With Thanksgiving upon us, we pause to give thanks for the people, animals and things in our lives for which we are grateful.

As time goes on, I find myself asking the question, “Am I grateful for the things that I’ve been given, or have many things been given to me because I’m grateful?” As the years pass, I’ve begun to think it’s more the latter.

Recently, I read a line by Melodie Beattie that sums up what I’ve come to believe: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

Conversely, I believe, a life without gratitude can turn an idyllic setting into a barren wasteland. Had Ms. Beattie been a horsewoman, she might have observed what I had: that without gratitude, everyone except me who parks their trailer at the horse show is an idiot.

Without gratitude, my trainer is always preoccupied with others and I don’t get the attention I deserve. Without gratitude, other trainers in the warm-up ring are all inconsiderate jerks. Without gratitude, the judge is either blind or politically influenced and I had no chance of winning even before I came into the ring. Without gratitude, everyone who places above us does so only because someone bought them a more expensive horse.

Without gratitude, every choice I’ve made to get to where I am seems like the wrong one, everyone who rides or trains differently is misguided, the show secretary is too slow, the classes start too early or run too late, and the coffee from the catering truck sucks.

Without gratitude, it all sucks.

Grateful for the ability to raise a family in a “stable” environment.

When I’m grateful, my 13-year-old truck and trailer is just fine.

When I’m grateful, I am amazed that I have a horse that can do what mine does, and graciously allows me to come along with him when he does it.

When I’m grateful, my trainer is the very best trainer and she seems always to “get” me and my horse.

When I’m grateful, there’s nothing better than a cup of hot coffee while going over our courses, waiting for our division.

When I’m grateful I’m ecstatic with the $100 we won in jumpers when the day cost us $400+, and I can’t believe that a formerly sedentary sideline observer of sports such as I, found his niche in equestrian competition.

Grateful to share the sunset and the magic of equus every day with Bella and the others.

I know one thing, above all else, to be true: There is no happiness without gratitude. I’ve learned a lot since becoming a member of the horse community, and the most important thing I’ve learned is to say thank you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

About the Author

Thomas Gumbrecht began riding at age 45 and eventually was a competitor in lower level eventing and jumpers. Now a small farm owner, he spends his time working with his APHA eventer DannyBoy, his OTTB mare Lola, training her for a second career, and teaching his grandson about the joy of horses. He enjoys writing to share some of life’s breakthroughs toward which his horses have guided him.