A Gratitude of Horses


Thorny was an old cowboy my parents knew, and the first person who introduced me to horses. I was still in diapers, holding on to the lead rope of a gray speckled pony that wasn’t much taller than I was. I can still see the ghost of a smile on that toddler’s face.

Thorny seemed like he had a million horses. On another visit, not long after I was out of diapers, my parents remember putting me up on a big red horse, where I sat smiling and clutching his copper mane until they had to lift me down. That’s when the screaming started. Other kids cried when they were lifted up on the horse’s back.

This was a portent of things to come. That day with the pony I met magic that walks the earth on four hooves; it was my version of getting a letter to Hogwarts.  For years I did what many other “horse crazy” kids would do;  pretend my bike was a horse or gallop around our backyard neighing. Collecting Breyer models and making up pedigrees for them (and voices). Feeding grass to horses through a fence and trying not to get caught.

Really, who could have designed a more perfect animal? They smell good when they sweat, they smell good when they breathe, when their hooves strike the earth in three time it’s an invitation to heaven. They are fuzzy and soft and when they look at you with those eyes! When their ears flick back to catch your voice! A nicker makes my heart burst.




I’m living with and teaching about the mystery that is the horse.   While I still enjoy riding, I am discovering that the gifts that horses offer us go beyond sitting on their backs. In my own evolution with horses, there are many things that have captured my interest and many horses who have given themselves so that I might, for a little while, enter their world. So that I might, for a moment, feel the twin freedom of speeding across the ground while being free from gravity.

I’m no longer that little girl in diapers. This year I hit a milestone birthday and though I’ve not usually been one to count years or label myself by them, I’ve also noticed that growing older is challenging. Our bodies change (I now revel in cold weather and dread the heat), grief finds us more frequently, we listen as our doctor tells us about the invasive health screenings we must endure. Health insurance goes up and our energy goes down.

But along with all of that, I also notice the frost on a horse’s whiskers in the winter. How on a chilly morning the wind catches the mist of their breath. How standing beside them allows me to calm down and experience a grounded sense of peace. The sound of horses chewing hay. Watching their muzzles gather hay into their mouths (I often wonder if horses saw elephants, would they have nose envy?). How their whuffing breath on my hands or face feels like the best self-care of all.

Is this obsession? If so, it’s one I’ll gladly claim. Is it the growing knowledge that my time is limited? Definitely.

All the times I’ve struggled, all the horrible things I’ve said to myself about my horsemanship, all the questions, agonizing, and striving and bringing horses into my life and letting them go again: all of it! And yet I can stand beside a horse and become mesmerized when the light shines through their manes. They’re deep oceans encased in soft coats. Whether I am riding or not, the feeling of being in a glorious nickering, neighing freefall around a horse has become downright mystical.

It all started with a dappled pony. Inside somewhere is that girl who still sneaks grass to horses through a fence. Though I don’t know how or when my journey will end, I do know I will always love and be thankful for horses.





42 responses to “A Gratitude of Horses”

  1. Beautiful Post Crissi.
    I was that little girl galloping around my garden jumping any pole I could find to make a jump.
    But like you, horses are so much more to me now I’m older.
    Thank you.
    Ruth xxx

    1. Hi Ruth xx thank you. I think it happens this way for many of us. 🙂

  2. That’s how I feel to- in wonder and awe of horses. Always have since I too was in diapers. Thank you for writing what some of us can’t put into words but feel.

    1. Thank you Jeanne. There’s a lot I can’t put into words either.

  3. I find that my relationship with my horses is changing as I get older. I never try to dominate anymore, rather work alongside. It’s slower, less energetic, but more enriching… Great article.

    1. Well said, and I agree 1000%

  4. Oh, Wow, Crissi, I think you said eloquently said it all. For me, at least! Thank you!

  5. Oh, Wow, Crissi, you just eloquently said it all for me, too.

    1. Thanks, Jet. I felt like gushing, so I did. 🙂

  6. So very beautiful and so eloquently written. I’m in that club too, although a bit older still than you, and probably a little more tired, but yes, still with the love and the obsession and the dreams and the quiet times. Thanks for this beautiful post

    1. Thank you so much for letting me know. There is so much I am enjoying about aging (and a few things I don’t) and a growing sense of gratitude is one of them.

  7. Gosh, what a beautiful essay. Everything you say here resonates with me! May we all have many more years to appreciate the joy and privilege of life with horses.

    1. Yes to that, Tracey!

  8. Yes. A resounding yes. Beautifully written and full of the essence of horse. Brava Crissi and thank you!

    1. Thank you, Connie! Sometimes you just have to gush. 😉

  9. Nose envy, I love it! A beautifully written piece that captures so much of our relationship with these superb beings who give was exactly what we need.

    1. Hi Helen! Thank you – Horses are so often just what we need. 💜

  10. I am in my mid fifties (how did that happen?!) and I am finding far more enjoyment with my horses besides the riding. And it’s glorious.

    1. Right!? One minute I’m graduating college and the next my dr. is talking about mammograms. Huh. How did I get here??? 🙂

  11. Beautifully written, Crissi. As always, your writing is so eloquently thoughtful. How I wish I could reverse the time back to when I was a horse crazy little girl and appreciate horses the way maturity allows me to now. Always learning, loving and appreciating these beautiful creatures we are so blessed to share our lives with.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Annette. I think that our horse craziness as little girls informs our appreciation of horses now. Aren’t we fortunate to have recognized the magic when we did! 🙂

  12. Thank you for sharing all the beauty that you do in your posts ! I SO appreciate your writing.

    Warmly ,


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    1. Thank you, Ashley! I so appreciate your writing and letting me know!

  13. Wonderful as always Crissi, your words always touch me., somehow horses keep my ‘little girl’ that’s still inside me alive. Still to this day I shout horse when driving and see them in a field. As I whizz throughly my 50’s my gratitude for them grows too – thank you X

    1. Horses are magnets, aren’t they? Thank you for sharing that with me, and your kind words. 💜

  14. Crissi: This is so beautifully written. It doesn’t apply to me completely but it so true for both of my girls (Gail and Susie). Gail is particular fell in love with horses when a fellow kindergartner brought her horse to school and that was it. It took a while before we finally bought our first horse but there have been many since then and naturally, as Mom, I got involved and still am involved.

    1. Hi Jo! We are indeed blessed by both horses and the mom’s who support us. 🙂

  15. Ditto, ditto, ditto!! Especially the part about screaming (I really pitched a big one) when having to get off. At 5 years old I met my first horse on a dude ranch in Wyoming. Rode out every day all by myself on that trusty mount with the cowboys, and never saw my parents for a week. When time to go home, I hollered big time! Seem to have never gotten over it but I scream less these days. This last phase of life wouldn’t be half as fun without the joys of still being able to ride FAST down the trail with a big smile smeared all over my face. We are fortunate to have this crazy horse gene.
    Thank you for getting me to appreciate these moments Crissi. Wish we could take a fun ride together.

    1. Hi Janie! What an amazing adventure! My 5 year old self definitely would have joined you on that one. 🙂 If the opportunity every arises, I’d love to take a fun ride together with you too.

  16. Thanks Crissi, sacred is the journey we are honored and privaliged to know, share and experience with our equines and kindred spirited humans.
    Love and blessings.

    1. Thank you, Pam. Sacred is indeed a good word for it.

  17. When you’re an older woman and you have the opportunity to read something that resonates within your heart, you know it with the tears that stream down you face. Thank you for the smile and tears with my coffee this morning.

    1. Cathy, what a beautiful compliment! Thank you – I am honored.

  18. It’s as if you’ve written a truth for all of us, definitely me. Thank you!

    1. Hi Gayle – we horse lovers are much the same under our skins. 🙂

  19. Beautifully written. I found it is that enchanting moment when you meet the Horse for the first time and something im you awakens. It is great to have a heart of a little girl and mind of a truly special horsewomen as you are. Love your toughts on horses and horsemanship . Thank you ! Wish you all the best 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words, Maja. I can tell from what you’ve written that you’ve experienced the magic too. 🙂

  20. Another beautiful post Crissi. I started reading Will James stories at a very young age and his short stories like, “The Seeing Eye” are still favorites 60 years later.

    For me, getting older has been a blessing in many ways. Since I don’t bounce as well as I used to, the “make ’em do it” and “don’t let ’em get away with it” methods of training have been abandoned.

    I’ve learned to rely on the teachings of you and Mark and some others to build trust and connection with my horses. I’ve learned to leave my “stuff” at the door when I enter a stall or the pasture to start a session with a horse. I’ve learned to be observant for signals from my horse and respond to them. I’ve learned that time is a gift I can give to myself and my horses. And I’ve learned to move away from ego in judging my progress and my horse’s progress.

    Here’s to the blessings of this journey!

    1. Paul, this is so beautifully worded. I was saying a big “yes” after every sentence. Thank you for gifting me with your observations. The horses, I am sure, thank you more. xo

      1. Thank you Crissi!

  21. Our equine passions come in so many ways – thanks for sharing this – who cannot relate to being totally horse mad?!!!!!!

    1. Not I. Not ever. 🙂

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