To My First Horse, My First Love: Thank You

To My First Horse, My First Love: Thank You

Thank you for all of the memories, I will always love you.

Everyone has a hobby that they grow up loving for some, it's baseball, others it's basketball, for me it was horses. I've always had a soft spot for the loveable creatures that they are. I credit my lifelong passion to my first horse, Woody. I fell in love with Woody at age three and loved him until he left us eleven years later. Woody was the start of a lifelong passion for the horse world. Without him, I wouldn't be where I am today as a collegiate rider, and just as a person. I want to thank you for everything that you taught me.

Thank you for being just spunky enough that riding you was always enjoyable, but calm enough that I trusted you to take care of everyone who ever sat on your back. Thank you for being around to teach five children how to ride, and putting up with our crazy ideas. Thank you for being there until you knew I didn't need you anymore, even if I thought I did. Eleven years with you only began to teach me the inner-workings of a horse's mind, and I'm thankful for every minute. Thank you for always being there as a backup as I was growing into a more advanced rider. Your spunk taught me never to quit trying. With you, I knew if I let you win that I wouldn't hear the end of it. Thank you for being my partner in crime at the county fair for seven straight years. We may have never won, but we sure looked good doing it. Thank you for all of the crazy memories, from moving cattle, Halloween costumes, ride-a-buck, barrels, poles, and the never-ending amount of rides we took just for fun. As I was growing older, and riding you less and less, you patiently waited for me to come back- even if it was just to love on your for a minute. Without the confidence and experience, I gained from riding you; I wouldn't have been ready to receive a new horse, one that I was supposed to love and cherish as much as I did you.

Not only were you my first love, but you were also my best friend.

Being able to grow with such a free spirit taught me that I never need to be anyone but myself. Each horse you own leaves behind a different lesson for you to learn, but those from your first horse are always the biggest. Without Woody, I don't know where I would be today, and frankly, I don't want to know. Owning a horse teaches responsibility, we have to learn how to care for a life that isn't ours. It also gives us the opportunity to learn how to prioritize. There were plenty of afternoons that I spent brushing him out instead of doing my homework and suffered the consequences later. Most importantly though, having a horse teaches you how to love. Being a kid, I wasn't planning on having a boyfriend anytime soon; I had a horse instead. The bond that you create is one that can never be broken.

Eleven years you were with us, and I wish every day it had been just a bit longer. Thank you for leaving such a lasting mark on my heart. I will never forget the boy who taught me how to love.

Cover Image Credit: Andersen Gillespie

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Remember To Be Kind To Theme Park Cast Members This Holiday Season

They make the magic for you.

For those of you who have traveled to a theme park during the holidays, you know what you are in for.

The weeks right before and after Christmas are some of the busiest times of the year to visit, making the parks extremely crowded and wait times higher than usual. Yet, this time is so popular since it is fun to experience the magic of the season with your family during the special Christmastime celebrations at the parks that bring something extra to your holidays.

One of the most important things to remember during this time of year is to be nice to the cast members!

Families that come to the parks during this time have so much to remember and so much to do; unfortunately, something that is often forgotten during a vacation is to be thankful for those who have to work during this time of year.

The cast members and team members who work during the holidays are doing so at the expense of spending time with their own families. They are sacrificing their Christmas celebrations at home to be at work making your vacation magical.

Some of these workers are hundreds if not thousands of miles away from their families and may not have seen them for weeks or even months. Yet, they are here in Orlando working in a job that they are passionate about because they love making happiness for their guests

Making magic and spreading happiness is something that is important to us and why we love what we do. However, it is still really hard to be away from our families at Christmas.

Think it is hard to be a guest when the parks are crowded?

It's even more difficult for the cast members who are working as hard as they can, for 8-15 hour shifts, when things happen that are out of our control. We too dislike long waits, telling your child that he is too short to ride or the fact that a ride is temporarily closed. These things make our jobs difficult too, just as they may be a huge setback in your vacation plans.

So focus on the positive things and appreciate the time you can spend with your families and friends rather than dwelling on the things that may be small setbacks during an overall wonderful holiday vacation. Please be patient this holiday season. Give the cast members a smile and a pleasant "thank you" or "Merry Christmas". We are here for you and we want you to have a wonderful vacation, but it still makes an incredible difference to know that our work is appreciated.

At this time of year, it is important to spread Christmas cheer and we are excited to celebrate with you and your families!

Cover Image Credit: Park Troopers

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12 Classics That All College Students Should Read

Reading is important — yet many people forget about books.


These are the classics that I think all college students should read.

1. "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

This classic by J.D. Salinger is a staple for many high school kids. Yet, I believe college students should revisit this novel, as it's a great portrayal of adolescence.

2. "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Love him or hate him, Jay Gatsby is one of literature's most recognizable characters. "The Great Gatsby" is a tragic story of a man stuck in the past, and a grim warning of the empty happiness money buys.

3. "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells was far beyond his time. His novel, "The Time Machine," explores what would happen if time-travelling could happen. It's both an evocative and frightening tale, full of important philosophical questions.

4. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde 

This novel is about the degradation of Dorian Gray, and his descent into depravity. It showcases one of the greatest character declines in literature. By the end, Dorian Gray finds his life to be empty, his hedonistic lifestyle pointless.

5. "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami 

Haruki Murakami is famous for his surreal novels. "Norwegian Wood" follows a college student in Japan, as he navigates life after a tragedy. It's both beautiful yet melancholy. If nothing else, it'll get you listening to the Beatles' Norwegian Wood.

6. "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte 

I consider "Jane Eyre" to be one of the first feminist novels. It's a fantastic Gothic novel about an independent and strong woman — Jane Eyre — who meets the mysterious Mr. Rochester. It's more than a romance — it's a commentary on Victorian societal expectations of women, with Jane representing objection to it.

7. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

This novel is a beautiful story about a girl in Nazi Germany. Liesel Meminger knows the importance of books, and uses her knowledge and kindness to save a Jewish refugee. It's a poignant novel that expresses the importance of literature and books.

8. Any Sherlock Holmes mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

If you've watched the Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch, then you should definitely give the novels a go. The mysteries are exciting and intriguing, despite their old age.

9. "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

This is one of my absolute favorites novels. It follows a young boy named Pip, who befriends a beggar, meets the depraved Miss Havisham, and falls in love with unattainable Estella. This novel is at once a bildungsroman and a tragedy.

10.  "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov 

This controversial novel by Vladimir Nobokov follows the perspective of Humbert Humbert, a depraved man who falls in love with 12-year-old Lolita. Nobokov showcases his mastery of the English language, while writing a depraved and tragic story following two terrible people.

11.  "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

Perhaps one of the most famous novels of all time, "Pride and Prejudice" stands the test of time by showing how two outwardly opposite and contrary people can come together and form an amazing love. It's about accepting one's flaws and getting to know people beyond surface level.

12.  "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque

This is a fantastic novel that depicts the absolute horrors of war, particularly World War I. If this doesn't enlighten you about the realities and horrors of war, then no book will.

Reading is important as it broadens one's horizon. Literature is one of the greatest inventions of mankind.

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