Enjoying the holiday with my family, and hoping you’re doing the same…
As horse people, there are probably a number of things we’re universally grateful for, our horses being at or near the top of that list. Some things are easy to name, they’re always happy to see us, they don’t judge, they love unconditionally. They may not say “thank you” back in words, but they have many ways to show us how they appreciate the comfortable lives they lead in our care.
Outside of the obvious, I’m thankful for horses teaching me about responsibility, trust, and honesty. My relationships with horses have, I think, lead to better human relationships as a result of the experience. Horses have helped me recognize my own strengths and weaknesses, they’ve calmed my worries, they’ve excited my spirit. Horses have given me purpose and guidance. I’m thankful for having had the amazing horses who’ve been a part of my life, as well as those yet to be.
Now take a step back. We can easily list our personal reasons for gratuity, but do we remember how horses have shaped our lives more globally?
- Without horses, expansion and discovery would have taken much longer, and man might not have developed the rich cultures that we now admire.
- Without horses, the Romans might not have developed roads, which in turn, may have prevented the eventual development of automobiles and trains. Can you imagine today’s world without good transportation?
- Horses had a tremendous impact on war. Cavlary units could sweep in and take out hoards of infantry, which forced armies to develop and expand their fighting styles. Without horses, many battles in our history might have had different outcomes.
- Without horses, Lewis and Clark may have never discovered the Pacific Ocean, and the West would still be a wild and untamed land.
- Without horses, we wouldn’t have fabulous legends like King Arthur or mythological heroes like Perseus. Our knights in shining armor wouldn’t come galloping in on handsome steed, and instead we’d have to walk off into the sunset. Not quite as romantic.
- If it weren’t for horses, we wouldn’t have lucky horseshoes, and I’d be forced to wear a rabbit’s foot around my neck. I think I’ll pass.
- If it weren’t for horses, we wouldn’t have cowboys, which would make many women terribly unhappy. We’d also have cows running wild, and that is never a good thing.
- If it weren’t for horses, thousands of people all over the world who suffer from physical and mental disabilities wouldn’t be able to lead normal lives.
We’ve really had a lot to appreciate for a long time, make sure you make the time to say thank you to the four-legged souls in your life for all they’ve given and continue to give. They deserve more than a day to celebrate, we owe them thanks every day.
In honor of our US Veterans yesterday, I’m reminded that not all of them walk upright on two legs. Some walk on paws, hooves, or even claws. All are deserving of recognition for their efforts.
I didn’t have as much time for research this week, but I thought I’d share some story links about different memorials around the world, paying tribute to the sometimes forgotten veterans of war and conflict, and some photos I’d found.
The Animals in War Memorial, located in Hyde Park, Westminster, England
The Australian War Memorial featured a presentation, “Of animals in war…”
The US War Dog Memorial guards the gateway of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel, NJ
Not only have animals served industrial purpose in wars, carrying burdens too heavy for humans, delivering messages, offering faster or stealthier transportation, and even providing shield to their masters under the most dire circumstances, they also provide warmth, quiet calm and understanding, and often, simply, friendship.
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat (via email) with the newly crowned Quarter Horse Congress Queen, Lauren Harrington. A brief conversation is all that’s needed to confirm why she was the right choice for the title. To begin with, I asked Lauren to share her one minute introduction speech that was required as part of the interview portion of the competition…
“On most Sunday mornings, you can often find me trail-riding – either along the shores of Lake Erie or through the fields on our beautiful family farm. If I’m not there, my horse and I are probably enjoying some of Pennsylvania’s four million acres of public land available for trail riding.
When I am not taking advantage of our state’s natural beauty, I am attending one of Western Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association’s 26 approved Quarter Horse shows. Our association is one of the fastest growing and most active in the East. We host some of the largest classes in the region for youth and novice riders. But most importantly, we welcome everyone to come cherish a weekend with family, friends, and of course, your horses.
Proudly Representing the Western Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association, I am Lauren Harrington.”
I asked Lauren, was the title of Congress Queen one she’d always aspired to, or something that had come to fruition on it’s own?
“I would have to say it is one I have always aspired to. I remember being little, and my parents would take my sister and I to congress just to shop for a weekend. We would stay in the horse trailer, and at night we would look through the Congress edition of the Equine Chronicle and the Congress Souvenir Program. We would be mesmerized by the queen’s ads. We would stay up all night flipping the pages. At the time, it was something I could have only imagined doing, but what little girl doesn’t dream of becoming a queen someday.”
During the different elements of the competition, were their areas you were more nervous about than others, and how did they eventually turn out? Were there any big surprises during the competition?
“I think every queen contestant’s biggest fear is the test. The rulebook is almost 200 pages and contains hundreds of rules. The test is only 100 points, and anything could be on it. It is comparable to a cumulative final. I was beyond nervous about the test, and honestly I felt even worse after taking it. But much to my surprise, I won the test portion of the competition.”
In the brief hush that fell between “your 2015 All American Quarter Horse Congress Queen is…” and your name, what went through your mind? The split second that feels a lifetime long!
“My mind was a complete mess. I honestly had no idea if my name was going to be announced after that. I was already crying from winning the test portion and Miss Congeniality, so when my name was called there was no stopping the tears. It was one of those moments where I wanted to be hopeful, but at the same time I didn’t want to get my hopes up.”
What would your horse want us to know about you, and why he/she believes in you?
“My horse, Ima Blazing Grace or as everyone knows her ‘Gracie’, is one of my best friends. She is the type of mare that gives you 110% every time you ride. She would want everyone to know although we take showing very seriously, we have a lot of fun outside of the show pen from trail riding, attempted trick riding, mounted water gun fights, and so much more.
I think she believes in me because we always have each other’s backs. It doesn’t matter whether we had a good ride or bad pattern, she is still my horse and I love her to death. If we win, it’s a good day, and if we don’t, she still gets a handful of treats at the end of the day.”
What are you most looking forward to, and/or hoping to accomplish during your reign?
“I am looking forward to meeting the little girls of our industry over the year. They are a huge inspiration to me. They are the future of our industry and I think the best way to get them involved is to invest our time in them and help them create dreams of their own whether it is running for Congress Queen or as simple as owning their own horse someday.”
One piece of advice that you wish you’d been given, prior to starting the competition?
“This is an extremely hard question for me. This year was my third year competing for Congress Queen, so I was pretty well prepared for what the week entailed. But I guess a piece of advice I would have wished to have is to enjoy every single moment of that week. It is an amazing week. You meet so many wonderful ladies from across the country and you get an experience of a lifetime, yet it is extremely stressful and easy to forget that this is your time to enjoy something you worked so hard for.”
Lauren, congratulations again on your fantastic achievement. It was a pleasure speaking with you and learning more about who you are. Thank you for the glimpse into your recently rocked world, and for sharing your thoughts and photos with us. Cheers to you and your reign!