To recap the unprecedented year that was, we asked horsemen and women from all spectrums of the industry to write a holiday letter to the year 2020. This is the fourth and final one, courtesy of HN’s arts and culture editor, Gretchen Lida.

Dear 2020,

If you were a horse, your registered name would be “WTF Doom Scrolling.” You would be the kind of horse that flips over backward under saddle and makes a morning ritual of pooping in the water bucket. The vet has been called out for you so many times she has the barn address memorized.

You broke hearts, you hurt people, you cost a lot of money, and you kept us up at night. You have left us with such a deep weariness that weariness does not even seem like the right word anymore.

However, we often learn the most from the mounts that challenge us—and 2020 we have learned a lot from you. Like all horses, you have given us moments of awe and grace, and occasionally ones of terror. And I want to thank you.

Dear 2020, I first want to thank you for reminding me that every moment spent with horses and horse people is a gift. One of the gifts horses gave me this year was that of physical touch. Before COVID-19, I would have a tiny inner freakout at unsolicited physical affection from fellow human beings. Even me, the personal bubble aficionado, longed for more contact during this era of social distancing.

Unlike humans, though, horses and barn cats can be loved on with abandon. I can curry, scratch, and massage away with a trip to the barn, even occasionally getting a friendly headbutt, lean or nudge in return. My cat purrs on his spot behind my computer as I type this. Even he is a product of my pandemic horse life. I was there to watch him come into this world in my friend’s barn as her two Appaloosas munched at their hay nets and late April rain pattered on the metal roof.

The year has made me more grateful for the way horses can connect us across time and space, too. In 2020 I interviewed ten authors about their books for Horse Network’s monthly book HN Reads. Every time I logged off after an event, I was flooded with wonder at how an almost stranger and I could geek out together over words and horses.

“How lucky am I?” I would think.

Even as the fires raged, the numbers grew, and economic and political uncertainty mounted, there were moments of joy.

2020 you also made me remember never to take my equestrian friendships for granted. I am thankful for the friends who let me into their horsey lives, who had faith enough in me to hand me a halter or allow me to swing a leg up on the back of their most cherished partners. I’m grateful for the long-distance phone calls and messages at all hours of the day. I’m honored to be privy to the wins and the losses, the tears, and the laughter. Even if the year was hard, I keep the memories of listening and being listened to locked away for the long dark of the coming winter.

Of course, there’s much about you I won’t miss about our time together. “Normal life,” whatever that means, has been painfully absent these past 12 months—it felt like life as we know it ended.

In English, the word Apocalypse refers to the end of the world. But it actually comes from a Greek word that means to reveal or uncover.

2020, with all your strife and uncertainty, disasters, and divides, you left us all changed, bruised, and beat up. Sometimes it feels as though the world did end in 2020. But perhaps we should also remember what you have uncovered, both the good and the bad.

I’m grateful for the beauty you showed me, 2020. And for your too frequent reminders that the best way to get through a wild ride is with your heels down and your eyes up.