Being An Equestrian Is Different But It's A Journey You Won't Forget
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Being An Equestrian Is Different But It's A Journey You Won't Forget

What Do You Mean You Don't Just Sit There?

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Being An Equestrian Is Different But It's A Journey You Won't Forget
Michelle Insalaco

In honor of the Regional IHSA show (Zone 2 Region 1) I decided to write about what I've learned in my journey as an equestrian.


1. Nothing will ever be handed to you.

This may be one of the most important lessons I've learned. Sure you can be born with talent but that won't take you to the top. You could be given the best horse but that horse is useless unless you can compete with it or whatever you do. Do you really think anything is handed to any of us? Sure, there are the few who have their parents import them a horse from Europe but without the ability on their end and the dedication they need in order to ride that horse. It's not something mommy or daddy can buy you. You have to fight to become the best. I'm not talking an actually fight, I'm talking an internal battle which I'll get into more later.


2. Respect is given once it is earned (same goes for trust).

This might be a lesson I never expected to learn from becoming an equestrian. Lord was I naive about that. I've been working with horses for about eight years (give or take) and this lesson is incredibly important. I have worked with the insane horse, the green horse, the "do I really have to?" horse, the speed demon, the old horse, the lame horse and the horse with trust issues. Each individual horse is different. They are like people. In order for you to get their respect you must respect them. You must learn to work with them. Once you accomplish that you can respect and trust each other. It's honestly an amazing feeling. By becoming an equestrian I learned the importance of taking the time to trust. To not only rely on myself but to rely on another creature.

3. Falling isn't as scary as you think.

I've fallen off my fair share of times, I think there was only one time I didn't get back on (and that was because I busted my lip open and I was bleeding down onto my shirt). Pretty fair reason not to get back on. Every other time I have gotten back on, though. I've been flipped onto my back, onto my arm (bruised my bone,) hit sideways, fallen on my butt, fallen on my feet. Each time I didn't hesitate to get back on. There's actually footage of me at a show being thrown off but within seconds (I don't think it's on the film) I was back on my feet trying to climb back on by myself. My falls fuel me. When I fall off I become more determined actually. I try to come back stronger than before. A lesson which I've actually carried into my everyday life. When you fall you have to get back up. Like George Morris says...

You gotta carry through no matter how hard it is. Push on and the results are amazing.

4. It's not all about winning.

Not everything is winning or fame. That's not what life is. Life is a learning experience about making yourself the best you can be. Recently I got a 6th place at a show, and honestly I was extremely surprised. I felt as though it had been my best ride ever. It felt pure and borderline perfect. But when I dismounted and heard my placing I accepted it, walked over to my coach, discussed my ride, and decided that it was one of my best rides. So, the judge placed me at 6th; who cares? I was extremely proud of my ride. No, my ribbon wasn't blue, but I learned a lot about myself on that ride, I was confident and I felt free. That's what riding is, and that's what life is. It's about a connection and only improving yourself.

5. Getting dirty isn't a bad thing.

Get your mind out of the gutter. Dirt builds character. Working with horses means dirt. If you just get on a horse after a handler tacks them up for you then you're not actually an equestrian. An equestrian isn't afraid to get dirty. I can't count the number of times I've cleaned stalls, or how many times I've gotten dirt in my eye from grooming. But that time taken getting dirty results in a greater outcome and it builds a bond. Getting dirty doesn't just mean with horses, either; it means digging in deep to what you're doing. It means that raw dedication to do whatever is necessary to make the most of whatever you do.

6. You have to take criticism in stride.

Everyone will always have something to say: your trainers, the competition, your parents, your teammates, literally everyone. These comments they may be said to bring you down or to help you succeed. You have to be able to sift threw them take what is important and use that to better yourself. Applying a thick skin is important as well as taking criticism with grace and then applying it to your life outside of the equestrian world.

7. Asking for help is okay.

This may have been the hardest lesson for me to learn. Growing up I struggled asking for help. I believed I always had to do everything for myself. Asking for help was weakness in my eyes. But over time I learned how to ask for help. I asked questions and learned much more than I ever would have on my own. I have learned new techniques and skills over the course of my time. I began opening up as a result of asking for help in the horse world. I wanted to learn all I could and somewhere along the way it transferred into the outside world. It's helped me grow as a person and create new relationships.

8. Commitment pays off.

There have been a lot of things I have given up to better myself in the equestrian world. I gave up soccer and much more over the years. I have put time and a lot of money into this and I don't plan on stopping. I have seen myself grow as person and watched my skills grow as well. In order to be successful, the animals I work with depend on me to be there for them, to care for them, to be as fit as I expect them to be. I must be committed if I expect them to work with me. This commitment has found it's way into my life and I try to commit just as much effort as I would to the horses I work with.

9. Unconditional love exists.

I'll be the first to admit I don't trust easy and it's harder for me to love. But working with horses has made me trust and love again. I have been thrown and frustrated to the point where I've cried. I have been hurt by people and felt lost at times. But when I'm with horses I forget all about it. Any mistake I've made is forgiven. They have made me believe that I can make a difference that I am loved. I can walk out to the pasture to see them and watch them coming running up to me with their ears forward, happy to see me, and in that moment I feel pure. It's impossible for you not to fall in love with these animals. They are pure and trusting and you can forget about everything that torments you or makes you feel small. I can't count the amount of times when I've sat in the saddle and every single worry has floated away and in that moment I feel free and alive. Horses love you and they give you the wings you could never have. You have a bond stronger than anything you could imagine when the trust is there and it's a pure love that allows you to work together to achieve all your goals.

10. People don't understand that riding is not just "sitting there."

No. I do not sit there and let the horse do all the work. By being an equestrian I have discovered the ignorance of many as to how hard it actually is to ride a horse without making it look like effort. We are athletes. I have gotten off a horse sweating. We keep our bodies in shape just as much as other athletes. Oh yeah, we are in the Olympics, too. So, please for the love of god stop saying it. If you continue to say it I will throw you on a horse put you in a George Morris clinic and then see if you think it's all about just sitting there.

BONUS: George Morris Will Always Have the Best Advice...



Thank you to all of those who have been with me on this crazy journey. It means the world to me that I have your support.

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