An Attitude of Gratitude: in horsemanship and life

―Cathy Woods

As Thanksgiving rolls around, we tend to become more mindful of gratitude―’tis the season for giving thanks! Though, wouldn’t it be nice if we maintained that attitude of gratitude throughout the year and wove it into our horsemanship as well?

As part of being on the yogic path, the practice of gratitude is one that I implement year-round and it’s a custom that I also include in my horsemanship.

There are so many good reasons to bring gratitude into daily life!

For one, it just simply feels good to be grateful! It’s also important that we recognize gratitude as part of self-care and creating abundance. Why are we asking for more if we are not already grateful for what we have? There’s a saying, “an attitude of gratitude is a prayer in action.”

Cathy Woods practicing gratitude in prayer pose on a chestnut horse in a field with historic farm buildings in the background.

Abundance and gratitude go hand-in-hand. Abundance begins with a sense of self-worth, self-love, and an attitude of gratitude. But what does the term abundance really mean? In our society, it is often measured by the quantity of material goods and wealth. This surely is one aspect, but there is also a simple abundance that we feel when we have inner contentment, and gratitude can help cultivate that type of contentment.  

If you’re reading this in EQuine AMerica Magazine, I’m guessing horses already fill your soul! But do you take time to really be grateful for your horse(s) and the fact that you get to be a horse person? In the mix of daily horse chores (especially with the challenges of winter weather) and the expenses of owning a horse, it can be easy to let gratitude fall by the wayside. Also, for a long-time horse owner, it’s not uncommon to become complacent to the fact that we get to share our lives with these amazing, sentient beings! Besides simply loving my horses here are some reasons that I am grateful for them.

My horses…

Dan and Sampson

Cathy Woods walking her two chestnut horses.
Me and my boys, Dan and Sampson. We are always grateful to be together and in sync (all walking in step on a left leg lead ?). As they are getting older (now 28 & 31), I am grateful for each day that we have together―each day is a blessing.

I am grateful to them because…

  • they are teachers who school me in present-moment awareness. When I am around them, I do my best to operate in the present, too.
  • they offer opportunities to give and receive love, to trust, to feel compassion, and to form heart-connections with other sentient beings.
  • they inspire me to be kind to all creatures—they all have feelings.
  • they teach me to face fears and rise up to meet challenges.
  • they add a healthy structure to my life.
  • they help me to hone my own instincts.
  • they remind me to respect the profound power of nature.
  • they are a gift to me and a great honor and pleasure to care for.
  • they are my friends and my family and part of my story.

As a simple, exercise in gratitude, I invite you to examine the reasons you are grateful for having horses in your life and create a list of your own. Maybe even post this list in your barn or at your arena as a gentle reminder in those moments when you may not be feeling especially grateful or running around on autopilot.

A Mounted Gratitude Exercise:

When I lead my Yoga for Riders and Body, Mind, Equine™   programs, I include a, Mounted Gratitude segment. This can be a supportive and sweet way to begin and/or end a session with your horse. Perhaps, you’d like to give this a try with your own equine partner?

How to:

  • While mounted, take a few deep breaths, collecting yourself and becoming present in the moment and present with your horse.
  • Then, bring your hands to Prayer Namaste position at your heart-center. This is an opportunity to become centered and grounded and not just in the physical sense.
  • Once your hands are pressed firmly together in Prayer position, gently fix your gaze and focus ahead or perhaps close your eyes (if you have someone to hold your horse).
  • Take several deep breaths and clear your mind as best you can, being in the here and now where life is happening.
  • At this point, take a few moments to reflect inwardly and call to mind some things you are grateful for right now, including your horse.
  • When complete, take a moment to bow your head in gratitude as symbolic gesture to the Universe.

Since horses are such in-tune creatures, I like to believe they can feel our vibration of gratitude.  

Gratitude in daily life

Keep a Gratitude Journal: Seek and notice things you have each day to be grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal is a powerful technique. Every morning or night, write down at least three to five things you are thankful for. This practice helps you notice how much there already is to appreciate in your life, from the roof over your head to the warm smile of a friend or family member.

Keep a Gratitude Jar: If you’re not the journaling type, making a gratitude jar can be a fun and creative project, especially around the holidays. Maybe even consider doing this project with family or friends over the holiday season or give one as a gift! Craft or find a cheerful-looking jar, creatively decorate it if you’d like, and leave it in a place where you will see it often (like on your kitchen counter or desk). Keep a small notepad next to it and each day spend a couple of minutes writing down anything that invokes gratitude. On days you are feeling down, pull out some of your entries and remember all that you have to give thanks for.

May you enjoy the beautiful path of gratitude and abundance, and may you love the life you live.

Peace, Gratitude, and Happy Holidays,
Yogini ~ Cathy Woods

For more from Cathy Woods, check out her other articles and check out her programs at Cathy Woods Yoga.
For more articles on Rider Wellness, go here.

Author profile

Cathy is a yogini and horsewoman, author of Yoga for Riders, creator of Body, Mind, Equine™ and The Mindful Equestrian™ online courses, and national retreat leader/clinician. She has taught and led retreats for equestrians and non-equestrians since 1991 at distinguished locations such as Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Yogaville Ashram, and Mount Madonna Center. As an equine enthusiast and avid rider, Cathy combined her passions to create a program called Body, Mind, Equine™ that focuses on the use of yoga principles and postures to improve horsemanship, from ground to saddle. She offers retreats and clinics at ranches, resorts, equine centers, and expos—including Equine Affaire and Equitana USA—as well as for private groups and equestrian organizations like USHJA.