On my 9th birthday, my mom said she had a surprise for me, and to dress warm. I immediately thought she was taking me to my first flyers game. I put on my Lindros jersey and some black leggings. My mom blindfolded me and we got in the car. About 20 minutes later, we arrived at our destination; a horse farm. I had my very first riding lesson that day on a horse named Superman. I had no fear, just a big smile and excitement for the unknown. Also, still on the edge of my seat, wondering when I would get to see the flyers play.
I spent the next several years of my life submerging completely into the equestrian culture; riding 3-5 times a week depending on the season. All of my friends were from the barn… I walk, talked and breathed horses. I was a barn rat. In the summer I would ride every day at horseback riding camp, sometimes 2-3 horses a day. I had a tough trainer. Looking back now it was more like boot camp then horse back riding camp but that is what my prepubescent, OCD self needed; structure and direction. My trainer understood my hardships, both at home and at the barn, and forced me to get on the horse no matter what I was feeling that day. When I had a bad day at home and wanted to sit there and cry all day, he put me on the horse. When I complained about my leg sores and used them as an excuse not to ride, he wrapped my legs in leg wraps, and put me on the horse. He was constantly pushing me to be my best, on and off the horse.
I experienced first hand, at a young age, the heartbreak that comes along with being passionate about horses; the loss of a good horse, riders turning on their friends to be the best, serious falls that come along with serious injuries, judges not seeing what you want them to see in your horse. Literal blood, sweat and tears are thrown into this sport and I was mentally on a freight train that couldn’t be stopped.
When I was 11 I had my first love, Daisy. An Arabian/Welch, flea-bitten grey, large pony that I put all my energy into stalking. Any time her owner was away I would beg my trainer to ride her. I would visit her stall every day and on days when I wasn’t at the barn I would look at pictures of her that I had developed off my disposable camera. When her owner went away to college I got the opportunity to lease her. Which is pretty much the same as leasing a car; I get to drive it as my own until the owner came to take it back. When I was 13 or so Daisy’s owner got to busy with life and decided to put Daisy up for sale, I had no idea. My parents worked together to purchase Daisy for me as a Christmas surprise, how lucky am I? Up to this point, this was the best day of my life. Daisy and I had an amazing 6 years together before I was off to college myself. Daisy taught me so much about hard work, dedication, and also friendship.
(Daisy and me)
When I went away to college I joined the college team but was having a hard time balancing social life, school and riding. I decided to quit for a few years. When I graduated college I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding facility. I soon became a part time assistant riding instructor . I was only riding once every few months to school the therapy horses and while this was rewarding and fulfilling, something was still missing. After 7 years of working at a therapeutic facility, I decided it was time to do something for me, to be selfish. I signed up to take lessons at the same barn that I had my very first ride at when I was 9 years old.
I hadn’t had a structured riding lesson since i was 20 years old at college. I showed up at 29 feeling out of shape, nervous, and not quite sure how to… well, equestrian. Each barn has its own ecosystem, and when you enter you have to be very careful not to disrupt it. Young girls with gorgeous, classically trained horses that cost more then your soccer mom’s SUV were literally running circles around me. Yet, here I was on a lesson horse as nervous as I was when I was 9. After several lessons of feeling that nervousness, that lack of confidence, the sense that I was doing nothing but comparing myself to everyone riding in the ring with me or every young person that was some step ahead of me…. I remembered that all I had to do, was put myself on the horse, and ride.