The Gives and Takes Only Riders Understand

Being an equestrian is both a rewarding and devastating role. One day you can be celebrating about the championship you just received at a prestigious event, and the next you can be grieving over your horse’s newly diagnosed injury in the middle of show season. The horse world surely knows how to give and take, the latter being guaranteed to almost everyone involved in horses. But what happens when all we feel is the “take” from the horse world? We all see in movies how overcoming hardship leads to success, and how the underdog can make it to the top by running solely on passion, tenacity and hard work. We all feel as though we deserve that “shot” so to speak. The shot to prove ourselves and to really get a chance to make it to the level we dreamed of achieving.

Through personal experience, I have always been an avid and dedicated rider. I began riding when I was six years old and took lesson at a shabby barn out in Reno, NV. The stubborn ponies and freezing winter lessons never hindered me from riding because because at the time I knew that this was something I loved. I watched friends phase in and out of horses, mostly on a whim of fleeting interest. But I always stayed. As my abilities became more refined, my passion grew with it. For years I had dreamed of making it back east for the Maclay Finals. I would watch videos of the finalists’ rounds for hours on end. I even trained my dog how to jump courses when I wasn’t riding (poor thing!).  I eventually moved to Southern California to pursue this dream. I had the opportunity of training with one of the most renowned trainers in the country. I learned so much and felt like I was just like any of the other riders at the shows. I worked for hours on end at all the barns I trained at. I would ride anything, feed, clean stalls, and any other miscellaneous work just to get experience and learn. With my most recent trainer, we brought up green horses together so I could be able to show something. However, little did I know was nowhere near achieving my goal. At the time it never came to mind just how expensive horses, and especially shows, are. I had friends who successfully went from the underdog to the top (even reaching the Maclay finals). But I was not in a similar position.  With a full time single working Mother, finances were tight. But despite everything, that selfless woman did everything she possibly could to help me reach my goals. She scraped up everything she could to buy a horse, let me train with excellent trainers, and even show a little. She was as heartbroken as me when we both came to terms that getting to the Maclay finals were nowhere near our financial reach. My horse was also a very difficult one who had confidence/trust issues from the previous owner and some past injuries. This caused him to be nervous at jumps and to stop if I didn’t ride him confidently and meticulously at every single fence. Being an inexperienced rider in the show ring didn’t help either of us in the end.  But I still didn’t give up. I kept riding and kept bringing up the babies with my trainer. I never gave up because I knew very well that the fire was still alive in me. I kept pushing and hoping until my junior career came to a close. It was inevitable that I had to give up riding for a while in order to go to college and pursue a career in medicine. I knew I would be out of the game for a while and thats the exact reason why I wanted to do the best I could until the end. Despite the failures I underwent, I am still so happy with how far I came and how hard I worked. I don’t regret anything and can find many good things that came from my riding experience. At the time I would feel the sting of the “take” from the horse world, but in retrospect I received a lot of the giving aspect.

So what do you do? What do you do when you’ve tried everything and feel like you’ve achieved nothing? One thing to remember is that every hard working and genuinely passionate rider achieves something. Regardless if it be titled, USEF approved, or even just a personal achievement. I believe that the passion for horses and riding is a clear indication that your road has not ended yet. I think the only time an individual should throw in the towel with riding is when their passion and love for the sport has been spent[1]. Everyone can always find a way to get the thing they love if they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary. I’ve met a few working students who gave up everything: their social lives, normal schooling, free time, and even their families to pursue their love for horses. And I am happy to say that they have exceeded many expectations and have done exceptionally well. They have shown me that behind every achievement and improvement lies countless sacrifice and dedication. Thus, while the horse industry gives and takes, you must also take as well as give to the horse world.

[1] I’m by no means excluding the fact that finances plays a big role in horses. I don’t want to disregard or cut out the realistic case for some people that simply can’t afford horses.

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