Resolutions and Horse Dreams

It’s the twilight zone between holidays, meandering like a long, slow-motion hangover. I have no idea what day it is and I’m staring at the horizon, pretending it’s staying light longer. I’m eating leftovers and watching old movies I’ve seen before. Social media is age-shaming celebrities for not looking like they did decades ago, as if gravity doesn’t work on all of us. I confess I worry about sixty-year-old women half killing themselves to look like they’re thirty. Youth is a race we all lose, and it undermines the value of earned wisdom. And jeez, now I’m nostalgic about when I was only sixty.

It could be worse. There are long lists of famous people who died this year. Like a profit-loss statement accounting of their lives, but I do the same, counting the loved ones no longer in my barn. Mortality is all puckered up, waiting for a New Year’s kiss at midnight. I’m overthinking everything, wound up about this next birthday that’s nine months off, and sleeping badly already.

Back in the day, I took on the arduous task of making New Year’s resolutions as seriously as a type-A, horse-crazy, workaholic could. I wrote all my longstanding faults in a detailed list. Then I added all the soul-killing boot camp makeover plans to transform myself into a better person, on the surface at least. It all fell to bits in days, of course. Year after year, I reached for the stars and stubbed my toe out of the gate. What else would you expect from a plan based on self-loathing? 

I have a brag. I recently managed three naps in one day. Nowhere near the dog’s record, but excellent for me. Now that the tinsel has settled, do you ponder how it happened that we end up being this age? Gawd, we’re lucky.

I’ve been downsizing. Not just the external clutter. I’m sorting through dreams that haunt me more than help me. Time to let some go. I guess I won’t be riding in the Olympics. Wave buh-bye.

Ten years ago, I met a woman in a writer’s group who told me she was going to quit writing because of me. I didn’t know what to say or what I had done. I told her I was so sorry, that she wrote so well. It was true. She said the goal of writing a book had weighed on her for decades but after meeting me, it dawned on her she really didn’t want it anymore. Had my enthusiasm sucked all the air out of the room? Should I have feigned a polite detachment, and bit my tongue when my book, Stable Relation, was stuck in my throat so tightly that I couldn’t breathe?

My guilt over ruining the woman’s imaginary literary career softened in the next months as I got up every day at 3:30 to write. Like most writers, I had a day job. When the first draft was done, I sold a decent saddle to pay my first editor, who didn’t like it. After months of re-writes, I sold my grandmother’s sterling to pay the second editor. Two years, three editors, and a few thousand dollars later, my book came out. Meanwhile, I followed that dream-change woman on Facebook. She was only working part-time, she vacationed in tropical places, and she got a wonderful new horse. I thought she was the one who deserved congratulations.

I gave up some things to make room for that writing dream. She gave up the same dream and other good things filled in. Not to judge, but just to say we all pay for what we get. It only becomes a problem when we blame others or if we wake up one day not packed for the trip we want and then don’t take the risk. I’m in awe. About half of my clients got their first horse in their fifties or sixties. Talk about a facelift!

Looking around, it’s easy to see our priorities, but at New Year’s we think we need resolutions. It’s like fear-based training; we punish ourselves more than encourage. Please, can we all spare ourselves from resolutions that sound like a cranky mother complaining that we should do something with our hair? Can we outgrow catcalling our shortcomings? What if we finally give up all the resolution drama? Even if it means buh-bye to owning a two-thousand-acre horse ranch in New Zealand.

Instead, how about making some popcorn, kicking back under an old quilt, and grabbing some wine in a coffee mug? Let’s do some remembering of how far we’ve come. There is profound value in reflecting. It’s a crazy world and maintaining our out-of-step individuality takes some commitment just to hold our own. We’re blessed to be on a chosen path headed in the right direction, even if it is uphill. There will be big decisions to be made, but at this moment, we don’t have to rush out to meet them. Let’s soak in the satisfaction of our dream accomplishments.

We are open-minded, compassionate, and all-around good horse owners. Rest assured that we will always do our best and our best will always be good enough. Beauty will rise from our muck boots. Sure, our hearts are so full of dog hair and hoofprints that we end up a bit misshapen. But smile big enough to show your old teeth, squint those smile lines until your eyes are barely visible. If they judge us harshly for looking like we were born in a barn, well, that’s fair. We are the lucky ones. We have always preferred the judgment of dogs and horses. 



Dreams are only
transparent. On this
routine day, let my
eyes close in simple
praise for ordinary
moments of wanting
what I already have.   

                            ~From Horse Prayers


I know how precious your time is. Thank you for following along with my writing and training. Thanks for being part of this odd herd of misfit horse lovers. Every best wish to you and your barn in the New Year. 

Available Now! Undomesticated Women, Anectdotal Evidence from the Road, is my new travel memoir. Ride along with us on a clinic tour through 30 states, 2 oceans, and 14k miles with me and my dog, Mister. It is an unapologetic celebration of sunsets, horses, RV parks, roadkill, diverse landscapes, and undomesticated women. Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and signed copies from me.

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Anna Blake

52 thoughts on “Resolutions and Horse Dreams”

  1. Hi Anna Thnx for sharing this. Loved your statement: We are open-minded, compassionate, all around good horse owners. Yes, we are! And, we often listen to the wrong lines, beat ourselves up, try to compare our feelings to those of others, etc. In the end, we’re still the same! We need to just go on and realize that we’ll make mistakes, do things we shouldn’t or should.

  2. Just a beautiful and honest way of looking at things, as usual. Wanting what we have because we followed our hearts to get it. Being willing to release beliefs that make us unhappy, including the guilt and shame that underlies it all. Finding peace with how things are, not resigning ourselves to feeling inadequate.

  3. I appreciate your ability to say what I think more often than you’d guess. That and the realization that we are not the only ones with this view. Thank you.

  4. Apart from always preferring the judgement of cats and horses… Amen.

    When a friend calls to me from the road
    And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
    I don’t stand still and look around
    On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
    And shout from where I am, ‘What is it? ‘
    No, not as there is a time to talk
    I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
    Blade-end up and five feet tall,
    And plod, I go up to the wall
    For a friendly visit.

    R. Frost

  5. Anna
    you speak the thoughts and words I think
    thank you for your continued encouragement for myself and all horses
    You make a difference in this world
    best loves your way

  6. There is no way you crushed someone’s writing dream. Sadly, we crush our own dreams, sometimes looking around for someone else to blame. I think I did New Year’s resolutions twice in my life. It’s exactly what you said (for me) punishing myself for not being enough. It’s hard enough to face the losses of the year without putting the cherry of punishment on top of it. Why is it so difficult to apply positive horsemanship to ourselves? I’m closer to 70 now than 60, and I feel it through the lens of our society. Inside, I see other women my age…I see the layers of child to middle age to now, and know they likely don’t feel their age either. But oh man am I frustrated my pants dig into my waist, no matter what size I buy. You give me hope, in choosing to rely on the judgement of horses and dogs. And be proud I look like I came out of a barn. Thanks for affirming the horror of resolutions (not the same as plans or goals) and reiterating whose judgement actually means something to me. A few good people, a lot of good horses and dogs. ❤️

  7. Anna, yes, and then our boots are ruined by water-logged pastures and mud. There is duct tape on one boot.
    Jackets are torn, clothing is old — and there are no new outfits: there are new horseblankets, sheets, and neck-wraps.
    And the bills come in.
    Abscesses, cellulitis, vet visits, treats to cheer a little.
    Soft Ride Boots…antibiotics. PPID and its attendant infections.
    The barn owner leaves a note: “The rain sheet is no longer waterproof. You need a new one.”
    And the bills come in.

    Anna, you have been through it all, over and over again.

    Yet, we do all make a difference. One happy snort, exhale, ears forward when you arrive.
    One exciting gallop around the muddy pasture and a mess to clean up later.

    Yesterday, I spent almost three hours hand-washing rain sheets, neck wraps, blankets.
    Now forbidden: washing them in the new washing machine. The last word was given.

    So, it’s the hose (before it freezes), a bucket of hot water and soap.
    Then rinse and transfer into the unused massage bath.
    It’s now a center for horse blankets (after the initial wash). It does the job.
    There is laundry everywhere.

    What a good day. Didn’t Scrooge himself note, when referring to Mr. Fezziwig’s good heart and kindness: “It’s the little things…”

    I think horses appreciate all the little things we do for them. We are all traveling together, after all.

    My husband said, recently, “You…didn’t always look like this.” We were sitting in Starbucks warming over Chestnut-Praline lattes.
    I shrugged my shoulders. I noticed some fellow-latte drinkers were staring at us.
    He, with this rubber boots and old, slightly torn jeans, his dusty jacket and old hat (a horse had taken a little bite out of the hat).
    And myself, with the old Dover boots (once beautiful), repaired breeches, dusty jacket, and probably unkempt hair from the barn.
    He didn’t always look like this either, he was one of the best-dressed physicians I had met. Now, he’s happier in his old togs.

    My husband said, “You have hay in your hair.”
    A passer-by said, “It looks like you two have been to the barn!”
    How perceptive…if not very kindly said.

    I’d rather be there than anywhere else.

    We tidied up our table, replaced the chairs in their former positions, and did not leave any hay on the floor. I promise.

    I am so proud to be a member of this community of horse owners.
    No riches could replace what we have.

    Happy New Year to all and in the words of Tiny Tim, “May God bless us, every one.”


  8. “Looking like you have been to the barn”? Might not be meant as a compliment but it IS one!
    All those years ago (more than 20 now) leaving the barn after turning out & going to “dinner” at a local restaurant – horse hair, dirty boots & likely hay somewhere on my body, were the absolute BEST!
    Grubby New Year to all of us indeed! I wish that for all of you.

  9. Wonderful blog, as always! Yes to hay in our hair, popcorn, wine in a cup, and a warm blanket. But first, out to the barn to blanket my late-in-life, dreams-come-true. It is below zero here this morning and they deserve a warm mash and extra hay to bring in the new year. Here’s to many more years of affirmative training for horses and humans both. Thank you Anna for all you do to make the world a better place.

  10. I have nearly quit killing myself trying to look like I did when I was 30, now I worry about half killing myself trying to DO what I could in my 30s. I’ve also quit making New Years resolutions for the same reason, I have no will power which only leads to self loathing! There is a lot to be said for just being content with what we already have and have already accomplished, which is why this year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I am going to make a list of all the cool places I have been, all the interesting things I have done and all the special people I have met along the way. Looking back over all these years, its going to be quite a list! When I was young, all I wanted was to have a horse and draw and paint; Now, in the December of my life I have both, what a blessing!
    I love the prayer at the end of your article, I am going to print it out and put it on my desk as a daily reminder to be thankful for all the ordinary moments.

  11. Another wonderful and heart achingly raw and truthful blog. The stanza of your poem is the perfect ending. I’m going to join you with popcorn, but I’ll have Balvenie instead. 😘

    Happy New Year, my friend. May 2024 be filled with many adventures.

  12. Oh wow Anna, I wonder if you are able to fully realise just how much your sacrifices of “other joys” to enable the liberation of all of your so-very-succinct thoughts, benefits so many others? (Sorry.. Sentence structure😛)
    This latest, timely offering actually produced several moments of actual physical sensation in my heartular region! There is so much gratitude and other feelings of well wishes I would convey to you if I were a writer, and I am sure I am not alone in my sentiments.
    Thank you SO much for all that you have given up to be able to send your writings out to the minds that need to receive them!
    You are one of only a few authors whose words feel so genuinely undiluted, it is almost as though you were talking directly to your reader.
    Thank you!!!!

    • Your “heartular region”? You are a writer! Thanks Khat. Writing is a passion, like riding. I don’t suffer, I just get up early and work at it. Oh, I am not much for dinner conversation. Thanks for reading along.

  13. Anna I am blown away with your word-smithing when it comes to our emotions. I read this article as if I’m reading my thoughts and emotions. Having just escaped from the hospital after a horse accident at 74 I am re-evaluating my horse life. Do you know what? The only thing that changes is that I slow down and ENJOY the journey more. My entire family is trying to get me to leave the horses behind. In my mind that means leaving LIFE behind. I’m not ready to give in yet. My horses ARE my life and these rail/jail-birds don’t understand. Too bad. My 2024 New Years resolution is to enjoy Liberty training – Ha. At least until I can get back in the saddle -Ho Ho Ho

  14. You are so wise and relatable. Keep doing what you do, you are an inspiration and a realist. That is why I appreciate you, you inspire me to be a better horseperson and horse advocate.

  15. My terrier turns 16 tomorrow, and I know he’s still happy most of the time. Both of us have old injuries that slow us down from time to time but so be it, we’re still learning.
    My book is still umm, gestating, and it’s your encouragement Anna that is keeping it alive. My intention stands firm, even if it has to be in longhand due to power issues in my lifestyle.
    So thanks always for your lead.

    • I love that feeling of gestating. Best wishes to you and your very good old dog. We know that the older a dog gets, the more whatever they do is good. And Annie, thanks always for YOUR lead.

  16. Anna, I have read this twice already. Thanks so much for writing this essay/blog. Perfect timing obviously with the New Year overtaking us this week. Now that I am two years past the 70th birthday, I am looking forward to having you join the club !! It is a frightening one to contemplate, but just keep breathing and I bet you’ll find it’s quite all right after all. I am sorting through some dreams myself these days.

    I talked with a non-horse friend yesterday; she is reading your latest book, and commented that your writing reminded her very much of Natalie Goldberg’s writing ( clear and with conviction) , of which she is a fan so definitely a compliment. I hope your writing brings you the comfort many of us find in your words.

    • Thanks, Sarah. This age might be the most awkward age ever, which is saying something considering I was a teenager with a few too many causes. I hope this book takes a bigger lap than the ones before, which is challenge enough. I am glad you are helping it find new readers. Thank you, Sarah. For all you’ve done in our friendship. Meow.

  17. As I sit here reading this on the last day of the year, I am grateful that I too have given up resolutions. They just seem like so much work. I make a mantra instead….something to remind me when I have fallen and need to rise again. This years is to treat myself with grace no matter what goes on in my life. I hope you have a blessed year.

  18. Thanks for inspiring us to be grateful when we look in the mirror and see – ourselves – as we are. True and real. And reminding us that our best is okay. I appreciate and enjoy reading your posts, always. Thank you. Happy New Year!

  19. Well I had to wait until I was 30 to have my first horse, but can never remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by them. Then I had to wait 25 years to fulfill a dream of owning a property where I could have horses living with me. That happened in December 2022. So last year was a bit of a journey, but I kept reminding myself to take the time to enjoy it. Summer saw me purchasing a pick up to help with all that needed doing, and as I was sitting in the dealership signing papers, I suddenly remembered that owning a truck was something I had hoped for as a young girl (no idea WHY anymore!) and now it was happening at age 57! I can honestly say at this point that I can “let my eyes close in simple praise for ordinary moments of wanting what I already have.” …except for the mortgage…that I could gladly do without, but it has allowed that long-time dream to happen. 🙂


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