Many years ago, I was reading The Onion in print—so many years ago, in fact, that I’m not even sure if it was online yet. In one of their political one-line zingers, they asked their columnists if they were better off than they were four years ago.

One of the ‘pundits’ replied, “Absolutely. Even a King in 1996 couldn’t walk into a bar and order a Red Bull and Vodka.” Red Bull was founded in 1987 and entered the American market in 1997 ( I’ve never found the quote in The Onion online since to reference, but I so vividly remember pressing my finder along the newsprint and reading it with both my mind and mouthing the words.

Piper & Reuben Sandwich enjoying their time in Kentucky in the Adult Amateurs. Photos © Shawn McMillen Photography.

I’m not one to lionize energy drinks, but I found myself often repeating this over the years. It is definitely a joke between my husband and me, especially when we find a new product we like. Average life in 2020 is something literally a King couldn’t have dreamed of in any other point in human history.

Our choice is unparalleled. We walk into absolutely overwhelming options and preference in the grocery store. We have any item imaginable delivered to our homes with historically instantaneous speed. In the tack store, we have thousands of feeds, treats, breeches, underwear, helmets, and let’s not even get started on how many pairs of spurs that riders carry in their ring bags.

 This is all unimaginable. There are endless supplements, endless stain remover laundry detergents, fabrics, songs on demand, television and entertainment at our fingertips… you get the point. The grocery store is shocking if you think about it, and when you really think about an interstate system or the postal service, it’s almost too much.

With all of this—with Red Bulls for everyone—we are really bad at human-ing. Data shows that people are unhappier than ever, have skyrocketing anxiety, social pressures, and mental health issues. With everything possible or maybe even just visible, all we can focus on is what we don’t have. Human nature trains us to look for the negative—that’s how we survived all those thousands of years. Social media trains us to be hateful, spiteful, and outraged at people we’d ordinarily like. People’s attention spans are shorter and we all lack the ability to be lost in our boredom, our imagination, or in a book.

I’m guilty of this and so are you. It is so easy to get sucked into the 2020 horror show. As bad as this year has been, are we still better off than we were only a few short years or decades ago? Absolutely. Are we really a whole lot better off than a hundred years ago? A thousand? Ten thousand? We have more access, more education, and better horses than ever in our sport. We are so relatively fortunate and there are so many aspects to appreciate.

Some could say that we’re all living like kings. Or maybe better.

About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
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Originally from the September 2020 issue.