For a long time, horses have been my thing. I never meant to hide my sport from the world, I posted pictures and radiated my love and passion for riding over the years, I just always kept the extent to which I dedicated myself to riding to myself. I didn't need the world to understand my sport, I loved it for myself and that's all I needed.
Recently I've had the chance to reflect upon my childhood and the different things that have influenced me over the years. I guess I've always known riding has been a huge part of who I am, but upon this reflection, I came to understand exactly how influential it has been for me. From a very young age, things like responsibility, discipline, patience, and respect have been instilled within me and have been driven into my world by my desire to excel as a horsewoman and rider. I was a part of a sport that while widespread and considered an industry by those who are involved with it, is unfamiliar to the general population. I have learned to expect people to ask me when my next "race" is or how many pairs of cowboy boots I own. Up until now, I have politely explained how what I do is different and tried my best to steer the conversation elsewhere, but I think it's about time that I explain the thing that I have dedicated so much of my life to.
I started riding when I was 8 years old at a hunter/jumper farm that was about 45 minutes away from my house. I went every Friday afternoon after school and spent hours taking care of horses, learning in lessons, and worshipping the "older girls" who handled the barn and its many challenges with ease. When I was 10, I started horse showing but not before I could properly care for my own horse, braid their mane in a spotless manner, clean and bed the trailer, and take apart, scrub, and put back together every piece of my equipment. From the day that I started riding, I was taught that my horse comes before all else. No matter how hot, cold, tired, anxious, or upset I was, I had a horse to take care of and love and that's just how it went. As a year-round sport, I spent hours outside, working hard so that my horses were okay. Once I started high school I transferred to a more competitive hunter/jumper farm in my area where I had to work as a working student every day after school to be able to afford my pricey habit. I went to the barn right from school every afternoon rain or shine, snow or heat to do whatever I could at the barn. Complaining never once in my entire junior career crossed my mind. Working hard to do what I love was all I knew. It was never as easy as putting on my uniform and showing up to practice.
I am trained in the disciplines of jumpers, hunters, and equitation. As an English rider, my saddle is flat without a horn and I wear tall black boots and a black helmet. The jumpers challenge the rider to complete a course of jumps under a certain time allowed without any jumping faults, the hunters judge the horses form as the rider guides it through a course of jumps, and the equitation judges how effectively the rider can execute a course of jumps. I showed for 7 years in the hunters and the equitation before I started doing the jumpers. After I turned 18 and my junior career ended, I went off to school as an amateur where I now ride on the Syracuse English Equestrian team where I compete in the equitation.
My biggest accomplishments have all been "horse" related. From winning my first blue ribbon to being able to jump three foot, to being accepted into the Emerging Athletes Program, to helping my horse become the champion horse of the year in our division. Watching my horse grow from a stubborn, hot-headed jumper to a levelheaded teacher from my own hard work was the most rewarding experience of my life. The feeling of hearing your name get announced for first place or realizing you made it through the timers with the fastest time was addicting to me and the most tremendous motivation I have ever had. The hard work isn't just to do what I love, it's to do what I love and succeed.
Riding wasn't just my sport… it was my home. I spent more time at the barn then I did at home during high school. My trainers are like second moms to me. The girls that I grew up riding with are my best friends and know me better than I know myself. I can't imagine my world without horses and the people they have brought into it. Beau, Lucy, Howdy, Danny, Neo, Timeless, Petey, and Hannah have been my most valuable teachers and my most dedicated teammates, and I can't even begin to try to repay them for everything they have given me. I'm an athlete. I work harder than I give myself credit for. I'm an Equestrian.