Three hundred sixty-five days. They stretch out before us not unlike the snow many of us woke up to on Christmas on this side of the country--clean, undisturbed, quiet, and full of fun possibilities. (You just want to go careening through it, celebrating its trademark "squeak," right? Or turn the horses out and watch them play.)

Then suddenly it's December 30 and you're wondering where the last 363.5 increments of 24 hours went. When somebody says something about the fall, you actually have a fractured moment of thought where you wonder if fall even happened, or if it's still ahead. I actually had to stop myself earlier this week and think about it. "Fall? [pause.] Oh yeah, fall." When I'm thinking ahead to spring and summer of 2011, I tend to forget where I am on the calendar at times.

Yes, that was 2010 for me. A year full of big changes, big blessings, and colossal learning experiences. A whole lot of big. (I think World Equestrian Games fits into that category, too, don't you think?).

I'll pause to reflect: I learned a phenomenal amount this year, more than I could have even imagined that I'd learn:

  • I've learned just how passionate horse owners are. I've been interacting with readers of The Horse/TheHorse.com for going on 11.5 years. But this year is when I became supremely aware of the passion that each reader, each owner, brings to the table. You are a dynamic, dedicated, enthusiastic group. You don't sit by the wayside. You express, you share, and you hold accountable. I'm excited to be a part of an industry that isn't rife with apathy. You still care. And that is one of the things that keeps me hopeful in an age when there is so much apathy about so much else in the world.
  • I've learned what an entire community focused on the horse can do. I was enthralled with the way Lexington, Ky., our home base, was truly the horse capital of the world (no arguments from any competing cities for those three weeks!) when the World Equestrian Games were held here in September and October. To be honest, most of the media were wide-eyed and blinking at first, not sure how it would all go, but it ended up being the event of the year. Sitting in the stands during the dressage freestyle event, and standing with throngs of people watching cross-country (horsepeople and non-horsepeople alike) I looked around, listened, and absorbed the excitement that I know can exist about horses and the horse industry, even in an economy that has had a lot of horse owners tightening their purse strings in recent years. It was an event that captivated the public, in my opinion, and even revitalized our public transportation system, with the Horse Park Express! It spurs me on to think about how we can market the horse industry to capture that kind of enthusiasm for the future.
  • Finally, I've been learning how to lead. Since becoming the editor-in-chief in March at a brand I know well, The Horse editorial staff 2010I've been learning about management and hiring, leading projects, and monitoring dynamics between groups of people. I'll be the first to admit I'm a work in progress here, but from the way our team has come together, gotten to know one another, and rallied through the biggest year that I can remember, I'm very pleased with the results. I am thankful for the persistence, determination, and teach-ability of my editorial staff: they are truly incredible and I've seen them move veritable mountains this year. They possess a rare talent and really are capable of anything they set their intrepid minds to. Many thanks to them for their dedication.

I don't want to stare into the rear view too long, and I'm going to keep the resolutions simple for 2011.

  • Apply what I learn in my day-to-day. I read a whole lot about horse health, day in and day out. I want it to penetrate the rest of my life, and that means becoming a horse owner again (haven't owned since 2004). I'm planning on bringing one of my family's horses out in the spring (probably the 5-year-old mare that my mom adopted from a PMU farm as a filly). As I blogged a few months ago, the disconnect that sometimes occurs when I write and talk about horses and horse care all the time--but don't have the time or the horse--is excruciating, especially after a lifetime of horse ownership/obsession. In the past six years I've ridden others' horses just when time allowed. That's going to change in 2011.
  • Search for real ways to have impact. We're in an industry that's changed a lot in recent years and continues to evolve. Causes close to my heart include involving and engaging the younger generation so that our industry has future caretakers, and promoting/encouraging a dialogue between the different parties on the unwanted horse issue to come up with practical, real-world solutions. What exactly does impact look like in these areas? I'm not sure, that's what I'm trying to discern, but I'm convinced that each of us has an ability to impact an industry that's changing, in whatever arena of the horse industry we work or play.Icy and Stephanie
  • Remember why we're here. At The Horse/TheHorse.com, I mean. Our mission has been and continues to be to provide education to hands-on participants in the horse industry. It's easy to get caught up in the copious day-to-day details, checking things off the to-do list, getting it all done, and then forgetting the real-world application. Last week I went home to my parents' for Christmas. There, our Icy Edge (our off-the-track Thoroughbred and retired eventer), almost 31 years old, is hanging in there, but showing some clear wear-and-tear from both age and his bout with EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis) last year. He has the same glimmer in his eye, mischievous personality, and arresting presence that he's always had, but the precarious lean that I detect in his hind-limb stance and his more angular frame remind me of his advanced age and the detrimental effects of the disease he's experienced. These are things I edit stories about week in and week out. Watching my mom dutifully crush his medications every day and administer them faithfully was enough to remind me yet again that this is more than just a job. Readers--you--are out there looking for applications for caring for your four-legged loved ones. I don't want to forget that and will continue to put my all into this, knowing that you're out there in your barns, giving every last minute you have to these family members we call horses.

May there be many happy, healthy days ahead with your horses in 2011.

Your turn: What are you going to focus on in your horse ownership and activities in 2011?