BY JONATHAN PORTEOUS
Hope is one of the defining characteristics of human beings. It drives us to be better, to work harder, and to love stronger. Hope can be a very personal thing in regard to a finite goal or dream, but it can also be a general feeling shared by a community.
Throughout this pandemic, I have asked myself many times what carrying on with hope as a community really looks like. And the truth is, right now I believe it’s very hard to be deeply hopeful. The countless effects of COVID-19 and the associated economic crisis have shaken the foundations of our world. Communal hope is no longer a given. It is instead something that we need to intentionally identify, pursue, and courageously live in.
Whatever we do as equestrians, we must keep one principle at the forefront—interacting with horses is a privilege. That privilege comes with responsibility, and we must commit to taking care of the horses to the best of our abilities. So let us remember that when we hope, we hope not just for ourselves, or our community even, but for our horses and their futures as well.
But in these difficult times, how can we hold onto hope?
Horses provide us with many reasons to be hopeful. Think of the thousands of foals being born right now, full of life and youth. Each one has a story to write, and a journey awaiting them. No matter where each foal goes and does or doesn’t do, they will all leave behind legacies of interaction and growth.
Think of the 20 year old school horse who has done his job so well for so long, and still does, giving so much time and time again. From helping a young child trot for the first time or an adult amateur getting over their first jump, he’s been a part of so many memories. Also remember all the mistakes we’ve made in our journeys with horses, and the learning that came out of them. We will make so many more mistakes, and learn even more from them.
When I’m having a hard time finding hope, I pull from a few specific memories and feelings that bring me joy. I love galloping up hills. I think of watching McLain beat Kent by two whole seconds under the lights at WEF, and the thrill that brought. I remember the sense of pride I felt when a horse that I groom jumped clear in his first FEI class. Or sitting next to my mother as she watched a top-level dressage freestyle for the first time; she started crying from the sheer beauty of it.
Let whatever inspires your passion for horses—the feelings, the memories, and the moments of connection-—drive you to carry on. We know there will be more opportunities for these moments, and we desperately want more.
So, why the big fuss around hope? I am sure most would call me a youthful idealist for saying this, but I think that when we intentionally choose hope, when we call it by name, it becomes more powerful. Hope is a very powerful catalyst for positive change. And in these difficult times when we are being forced to change so much so quickly, it is important we make those changes as positive as possible.
And so, what would an equestrian community centered around hope look like? It would be self evaluating, centered around the interests and well-being of the horse, and caring for the people involved in it. Hope could change us from a loosely connected group trying to get back to a normal we can never reach into a tight-knit community creating new paths, grounded in the past, yet moving towards a better future.
Because of our shared responsibility to all horses, to ourselves, and to our community, as well as our shared passion, hope is the only way forward. Every day we must choose hope over fear and anxiety. Every day we must let that hope transform us. By doing that we will be able to continue to experience the blessing of interaction with horses while learning and growing along the way.
I hope I get to gallop up a hill again. I hope I can watch McLain and Kent jump off again. I hope to be able to share more of the potent beauty of horses with my mother. These hopes, and all the others like it, motivate me every day. They motivate all of us.
Let us hope.