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#TBT: The Horses That Built Me

Over the years, I’ve learned that horses bring you more than blue ribbons – they bring you lessons that have turned you into the person that you are today. I’ve ridden quite a few different horses in the years that I’ve been riding, and every single one of them has helped turn me into the person that I am today. I could fill up a book writing about all of them, but these four are some of my favorites:

Lessons learned: The importance of persistence, and accepting when it’s not your day.
Dream was one of the first ponies I leased when I first entered the hunter/jumper show ring. After doing the short stirrup division with her, I leased her for another summer to do the 2’-2’3” divisions. I quickly discovered that she had an uncanny ability to be able to count to three in the show ring – three refusals, that is. Many a time, we would enter the ring, head for the first jump, and she would politely refuse it three times before making her way out of the ring.

While showing her could be frustrating, it also taught me two important lessons. One of those lessons was the importance of persistence and not giving up. When I “failed” in the show ring, my only option was to work hard, try again, and not give up. That’s a lesson that I use in my life even now. If I’m struggling with something inside the barn or outside the barn, I know that persisting and not giving up will pay off.

The second life lesson that Dream taught me was accepting when it wasn’t your day. In a world where “everyone gets a trophy,” horse showing was a place where I could learn that not everybody wins, and that’s okay. While learning how to gracefully accept defeat wasn’t exactly the lesson I wanted to learn as a 12-year-old, it’s one that I’m thankful for now.

Lesson learned: Dealing with loss
Samantha, or “Sam,” was my first project pony, but I had only had her for four months when the worst happened: she colicked. It didn’t seem like that bad of a colic at first, but as the evening went on, it soon became clear that she wasn’t going to get better on her own. The vet came out, and it was decided that she needed to go in for surgery so we loaded her up in my trainer’s trailer and headed to the vet clinic. Shortly after we sat down in the reception area to wait, the vet came back out to tell us that he wasn’t going to be able to save her. While we’d lost other horses at the farm over the years, Sam was the first loss that was mine. While dealing with loss isn’t a life lesson that anyone wants to have to learn, it is one of the lessons that I took from my short time together with Sam.

Lesson learned: Never let fear get in the way of opportunities
While I only rode Stealth for a short time, the lesson that he taught me is a big one: overcoming fear. Stealth is the horse that I took my most serious fall on. While none of us know exactly what made him spook that day, he did and I went tumbling down and broke my collarbone. That was my first broken bone and the first time I had ever actually hurt myself while riding, and it put a fear in me that lasted for years after the fall. Learning to overcome that fear so that I could keep doing what I loved without feeling anxious took years of work, but it’s an experience I’m thankful for because it’s taught me to never let fear get in the way of opportunities.

Lesson learned: The importance of patience
While this one isn’t exactly a throwback since Sasha is my current horse, in a way it’s a throwback to the horse that Sasha was when I first got her: an opinionated green mare that was like nothing I’d ever owned before. We’ve come a long way since our first winter together, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons from her since then, too. Of all of the lessons I’ve gotten from bringing Sasha along, the one that I’m most thankful for is learning how to be patient.

Patience has never been my strong suit, but it’s something you need when you have a young horse. My first months with Sasha were frustrating, and it was disappointing when we had more work to do before we could start showing when summer came around. Two and a half years later, I can look back and appreciate that I was forced to be patient. Taking my time with Sasha and not rushing to move up when neither of us was ready has brought me the horse of my dreams. My first years with Sasha will always remind me that good things come to those who wait.

Posted in Stories & Adventures

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