For Love of the Horse

My horsey “origin story” as it were, is not all that exciting. My mother has been a trainer since she was a teenager, so it was inevitable that I would ride and have them in my life. Around the time I was nine or so I thought that maybe I didn’t want to ride, and I bounced around a bit. I tried figure skating for a month, and I actually did martial arts for a couple of years, and got pretty far. But by the time I was 11, I was asking to go out to the barn again, and I started doing more lessons. By the time I was 12 I was helping teach ponies to jump, and my involvement and obsession only grew from there.

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Smiling even then (with mama/trainer in the background).

I was a barn rat through and through.

When I was dropped off at college, my parents left the state as well, and we sold my horse. I couldn’t afford to board a horse, and I didn’t have the time to work off the board like I had in the past. so I was back to catch riding. I searched hard, and reached out to a lot of barns, and finally found my current barn, where my trainer was willing to at least see me ride before she turned me away. Fortunately she was pleasantly surprised and I got to stick around to help exercise horses and work with greenies and sale horses again.

So for me, it was always going to be horses. Even when I tried to get away, I always came back.

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And as much as I love winning (if you don’t know me personally let me tell you–I really love winning) that’s not why I love this sport; as much winning as there is involved, there is also a lot of losing, and there are a lot of crushing disappointments.

I do this sport because I love the ride. Because even when it seems like I can’t do anything else in my life right, riding is something I’m pretty good at, and sometimes I just need to feel like there’s something I can do right.

This sport takes so much time, and energy, and resources, but when I really commit and put all of that into it, what I get out is immeasurable. There’s nothing like the feeling of putting in an amazing trip at a show, where not only did everything go right, but you were the reason for that. Or when you have a lesson where everything clicks, because you’ve been putting in the time outside of lessons. Or maybe you just have a really great hack, with a happy and listening horse, and you know your hard work is the reason they’re going that way.

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The reason I always want to jump bigger, bigger, bigger, isn’t because I want to compete at a higher level and have more impressive wins, but because I love the challenge, and I love the way I feel like I’m flying when we jump a big oxer.

I love the way my horse and I feel like one unit and like we’re tackling the course together, rather than me pointing my horse at jumps and making him do it. When I’m in sync with the horse I’m riding, there’s not a feeling like it in the whole world.

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I do this sport for the love of the horse more than anything. For all the times a boy broke my heart, and a horse was there to put it back together. For all the times I lost my joy, but a horse knew where to find it. For all the times that big challenging course had me scared to death, and a horse had heart enough for the two of us.

Though I hated it at the time I’m sure, I love that whenever I got too big for my breeches, a horse put me back in my place. I love that they’re steady, and kind, and I love that they’re also unpredictable. I love that I learned how to be a better person by spending my life with horses, and if I missed out on some experiences and had to give up on some dreams to make this one come true, I know I’m the better for it.

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Photo by Lauren M.

So despite the commitment it takes, and despite how much I know it will also continue to break my heart, riding makes it whole again. Knowing that, and knowing that these amazing animals put their trust in us, even more than we must trust them, I will always do this for the love of the horse, and never for the love of a win.

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