We asked a few trainers and exhibitors to name some of the things they’re thankful for this year. Photo © Kirstie Marie Photography

We Ask The Industry: What Are You Thankful For?

“Thanksgiving is the holiday that encompasses all others. All of them, from Martin Luther King Day to Arbor Day to Christmas to Valentine’s Day, are in one way or another about being thankful.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer

Whether you will be spending Thanksgiving swinging your leg over a few horses, competing at a horse show or taking well-deserved time off to be with family and friends, we are all united in the sense of awe that comes with having the opportunity to surround ourselves with beautiful horses and other people who love them.

This sense of thankfulness often wraps itself around everything we celebrate, from the trophies to the joy of a newborn foal’s first tentative steps.

We at GoHorseShow know that the spirit of gratitude runs deep through the horse industry, so we took a moment to ask a few trainers and exhibitors to name some of the things they’re thankful for this year.

Janae Walker – It is hard to choose this year because I have so many things and people to be thankful for. I have had some challenging horses over the years, but I am grateful for every one of them (even if I wasn’t at the time) because I have learned so much from every single one of them. It makes me appreciate my current show partner, Daisy, (Mito Been Me) even more because she loves her job and is rarely naughty.


Shannon Vroegh
– I’m thankful for 2018. This has been an incredible year, and I’ve never had so much to be grateful for. My family is happy and healthy – every one of them, and I gained a new nephew. My daughter is turning into a fantastic woman. I thought it would be so hard to see her go to college, but it’s even more amazing seeing her grow. I’m thankful to Hannah Lind for putting in so many extra hours this year, so I could study and work on getting my judge’s card, which I was lucky enough to receive. I’m thankful for every one of my clients. Their trust and efforts that made 2018 possible. We had world and reserve world champions, Congress and Reserve Congress Champions. We won many futurity classes and are leading the nation in several events. None of this would have happened this year or would have been possible without the incredible support of my family, boyfriend, friends, coworkers and peers. Thank you, and I’m so very grateful for an incredible year.

Elizabeth “Spike” Brewer –  With all the craziness and terrible things happening in our world today, I simply count my blessings every day for my amazing family, a wonderful husband and daughter and the most fabulous friends anyone could have. I’m thankful to have a blessed life indeed and to have raised a few beautiful babies (horses) is just a cherry on top.


Lainie DeBoer
– I am thankful for all my friends and family. I am so lucky to have the best team that surrounds and supports me. I love them all dearly and you know who you are.



Morgan Ilic
– Something I’m thankful for in this industry is the camaraderie amongst the assistant trainers at horse shows. It’s a comforting feeling knowing that I have people outside our barn who I can call friends and share the highs and lows of horse showing. Whether it means grabbing an extra coffee at the Sweet Shop, holding my spot in the longing line while I run to the bathroom, or lending a fly spray bottle at the warm-up pen when ours runs out; it’s little acts like this that make a difference in someone’s day. I cherish the friends I’ve made since becoming an assistant trainer and I look forward to seeing my fellow assistants make it big in the future.

Amanda Wallinger-Rowan –  A piece of advice that I’m thankful for is if you want to be the best, you have to work to beat the best. I was told this when I was nervous to show in the open against all the big-time trainers. A support person I’m thankful for is my trainer Chris Arentsen. He has so much faith and takes such pride in our breeding program and pushes me every day to strive for excellence.


Kari Craft
– I have been so thankful for the support system I have had this year. They all love “Monkey” and want to see Jason and me succeed in the show pen with him. The Congress and AQHA World Show were so fun this year because of their support. At Congress, everyone would sit in the same section in Celeste…section 311, and we all knew to meet each other there to support our barn mates. When I was in the Amateur Western Pleasure, I was able to watch them as they counted down the placings and saw how excited they all were in the stands when we won. I was so thankful for that moment that I was able to capture while out in the arena. I remember Daniel Haro, one of my dear friends who has been there for nearly every show this year, jumped up and said, “She did it,” and I heard my mom scream and put her face in her hands when they called me out first. It was a great moment because they were just as happy as I was. At the AQHA World Show, Sunni Duke won the Amateur Equitation, and I was so thankful to be there to watch her dreams come true. She stayed an extra four days to watch me show and win a globe in the Amateur Western Pleasure. I couldn’t have been more thankful that she stayed. We had such a great time celebrating those accomplishments with each other. It was always a dream of mine for both of us to go to World and each leave with a globe. Daniel Haro also drove to Oklahoma with my mom, and I was so thrilled for both of them to be there. I am also so thankful for Jason and Jamie [English] who have worked so hard this year making sure Monkey was perfect for me. They have been such incredible support, reminding me to go out there and have fun and to enjoy my horse. I’m so thankful for a great year, a great horse and great friends and family to share those moments.

Megan Vanderslice – A horse I’m thankful for is an all-around Paint owned by my longtime customer, Sarah Clymer. He’s the quirkiest horse I’ve ever sat on. He humbles me and builds me up continuously. He always reminds me that at the end of the day, I do this because I love horses. He’s either going to win or take off with you. It’s kind of up to him on that day. The Limo has motivated me to become better and never to stop learning. A support person I’m thankful for is my husband. He’s not a horse person, and he’s given up so much in life so I can chase my dreams. I would never make it without his support. He pushes me every day to be better and does anything in his power for me to keep training horses.

Lily Anderson – A piece of advice I am thankful for and always keep in the back of my mind is “Fake it ‘til ya make it.” I have always struggled with confidence in the show ring, so when I was told this, it helped me find that show presence that I need to be more successful. By faking it so much, I have started to believe in myself and my horse a lot more. A mentor/support person I am especially thankful for is my sister. Being my trainer and sister, she has always been there to help me and make sure that I am prepared as best I can be. She still wants me to succeed and can calm me down whenever I am stressed out. She has given and taught me so much, and I could not be where I am without her.

Jenna Tolson – I am most thankful for the horse show community. To the “outside world,” we are pretty much the same as a “crazy cat lady,” and nobody understands what or why we do what we do. We are all intense competitors who want to win, but when it comes to someone in need or someone deserving of a big congratulations, the horse show community stands together like no other group. I am thankful for the camaraderie we all share. Beyond that, I am thankful for the things that keep me sane…my horses, my soulmate – aka a 165 lb Newfoundland named “Brodie,” tortilla chips and salsa, Starbucks coffee and champagne.

What are you thankful for this year? Let us know.

About the Author – A native Michigander, Rachel Kooiker is a lover of horses who loves to write. She competes in all-around Amateur events with her APHA gelding, Hoos Real. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a BA in English and Psychology and an MA in Curriculum & Instruction. She and her husband Drew operate Kooiker Show Horses, where they stand APHA World Champion Im the Secret.