I’ve been an equestrian most of my life.   As a child, I begged and pleaded for a horse.  Finally wearing my parents down when I was 9.  Horses have been a passion of mine ever since.  The other day, I was asked why horses are so important to me.

It would be difficult for me to put into words everything being an equestrian has afforded me.  The love of a horse—the ability to develop teamwork without words—the trust involved with doing so.

It is common for children to want a pony.  A select few are privileged enough to have their very own.  I’ve been honored to have some amazing equine friends, confidants, team members throughout my life.

Horses have given me the ability to have a conversation —mediate—argue—and love— all without words.  It is a quiet communication based on loyalty—trust—patience—without it, you could have 1700 pounds of breathing, thinking power crushing down on you.

Most of my friends, I met through the stable.  My horse’s home gave me my human counterparts.  When you share the love of a horse, you understand the bond.  That understanding bonds you to others as well.

Responsibility came quickly when there were stalls to clean, mouths to feed and bodies to exercise.  Learning every quirk in each one’s personality.  Whether it was freezing cold or blistering hot, I looked forward to every moment in the stable.  The smell of the cedar shavings.  The unique scent of alfalfa.  The calming sound of the noise horses make.

Quickly I began to compete.  Going into the ring gave me purpose.  A place for my partner and I to test out skills together.  Each competition giving new skills to work on.  My goal, to win.  Eventually, that goal was toppled over and I began to compete against myself.

Lazy weekends became an anomaly.  There was always work to be done.  Hard work.  However, you see more sunrises and sunsets than you ever thought possible.  Of course they are from the alleyway of the barn.

There were mornings I ran late for school, but my horses were well fed and taken care of.  At times, reaching into my pocket to find remnants of the hay I fed earlier in the day.  My father doing random inspections of my car to make sure all was clean and tidy.  Having horses, chores and work did not lend excuse for an unkept vehicle.

My weekends were spent freezing or burning to death on the back of a horse— in the stable or in the show ring.  I gained confidence and friends, learning new skills —having fun and getting dirty!  Enjoying the work involved to become an accomplished equestrian.

I can’t remember my first date— but distinctly remember the day I took my first few steps of a canter, the first taste of a jump, first rosette, first win.  The day I met my first trusted friend who would remain my confidant, partner in competition— who would frustrate me the most—let me down the least and return the love I had unconditionally.  We won together—lost together—and my trusted friend held me up when my world crashed around me.

My human counterparts went to parties, on dates and attended homecoming dances.  I worked on my goals for the next competition.  Before I knew it I had transformed from a child begging for a horse— into an exceptional young rider fighting to qualify for ranked shows—fiercely competing on every course in every arena I entered.  The adrenaline from flying on the back of a horse —intoxicating.

Horses were more than just something to take up time.  It became my sport—talent—grounded me—gave me footing—put me through college—landed my hopes and developed my dreams.

Parents ask me what riding did for me and should they start their child in lessons.  When you give your child a pony, you give them more than just something to ride. You give them a sport, a talent, hope and dreams. Friends, a new family, a place to learn about life, room to grow as a person where they can push their limits, bravery, courage, and memories. They will have ALL of these things, simply because you gave your child a pony.

I can walk into a classroom and tell you which little girls ride.  Horses give them the ability to think on their own—make good solid decisions—compromise when necessary—never give up—believe in yourself—and never follow anything but your instincts.

I cherish my lifelong friendships as well as new friendships developed solely from the same passion for the sport.  I have an equestrian family with a solid grit and an understanding of the love only received from a horse.  We know the work involved, yet find it enjoyable.

One day, when I was home, my parents had several trophies they had found while going through boxes. I picked one up and realized instantly that my bond with horses ran through my veins with memories—both past and yet to be created.  It was in that moment I realized that everything given up and sacrificed along the way was worth it.

And it all started with the desire to have a horse.

Stay Healthy!