My trainers taught me so much in and out of the arena and even though I no longer ride, the lessons that I learned will stick with me forever.

1. Keep your heels down, and your eyes up

My trainer always told me to keep my eyes fixed on where I want to go, and unless where I wanted to go was the ground I better keep my eyes up. Just like in riding, I always remind myself that unless I want to end up on the bottom I need to keep my focus on where I want to go in life.

2. Sometimes less is more

There are times when riding a horse when less is more, as riders, we sometimes think we need to go faster or pull on the reins more but ultimately that can cause more harm than good. There are moments in life when we assume we need to go all out in order for something to work when we really just need to find the right balance.

3. If you fall down get back up

The first time I fell off my trainer asked if I was ok and when I said yes she said: "ok good, get back on". I was confused assuming I would just stop for the day considering I just fell off a horse, but she made me get back on to finish my lesson. I honestly think that if she wouldn't have made me get back on and finish I wouldn't have become the rider or person I am today. Just because something goes wrong doesn't mean you give up, it means you try again and fix the mistakes you made the first time.

4. Practice makes perfect

When I started riding I was by no means talented. There were multiple times I wanted to quit because why would I do something I'm not great at? For some reason, I continued to ride, and when I say there was blood, sweat, and TEARS I mean it. There were times I would be on the horses back for 3 hours bawling my eyes out, but my trainers refused to let me quit. I started practicing more and more and it began to pay off, I started winning more and more 1st place ribbons.

5. There is always something new to learn

When I first started riding I thought "How hard could it be? All you gotta do is stay on the horse", but boy was I wrong. Even after years of riding thought, I had learned all I needed to know. I figured from that point all I had to do was perfect what I knew, and you bet I was shook when my trainer started talking about techniques that I had never even heard of before.

6. Life isn't fair

Sometimes life sucks and there's nothing you can do about it. There were multiple times when I rode to the best of my ability with completely clear rounds and still got 2nd or 3rd place. I had to learn that my placing didn't always mean I rode bad, it just meant that someone was simply better than me, or there was a fancier pony or something out of my control that I just had to accept.

7. Sometimes you need to let go

Something I heard a lot while riding was "let go" it was usually referring to someone who was holding the reins too tight. When you're holding the reins too tight it is hard for the horse to do it's job and makes it difficult to get where you need to go. When you let go and give the horse a little freedom it makes both you and the horses lives easier. It's the same way with people. sometimes it's better to let go.

8. Respect

My parents always taught me to respect the people around me, but when I started riding I gained a whole new meaning of the word. I had always correlated the word respect with adults, " respect your elders" or "Show your mom/dad some respect", but riding taught me it extends so much further than that. When you're riding a 2,000lbs animal there needs to be a certain level of respect towards it. At any point that horse could throw you off and do some serious damage.

9. Tough Love

There was a point in my riding career when I was so scared to fall off I would literally be curled up in a ball on the horses back. My trainer would beg me to do something and I would literally ignore her because I thought my way was better. It got to the point where she was so fed up with begging me that she got the other scary trainer to try and teach me. Now I'm a hard-headed person, but I have nothing on him. He would have me in tears every lesson (which sometimes lasted hours). At some point during the yelling and tears, he managed to make a decent rider out of me and I realized that sometimes a little tough love is all someone needs to breakthrough.

10. Let the sunshine in

Something I will never forget is the song Open Up Your Heart. My trainer used to play it as a joke to remind us to sit up and "open up (our) hearts and let the sunshine in". Most of the time he played this song and it meant that we had to drop our stirrups (if you're a rider then understand the torture) so it was only ironic that the next lyric of the song is "face it with a grin, smilers never lose, and frowners never win". Even though we were doing something most of us despised it was something we needed to learn and sure enough learning to ride without stirrups saved my butt so many times.

P.S. If you are looking for a hunter/jumper barn in the New Orleans area I recommend Tavia Equine Center they offer lessons for all ages and abilities.

To all my TEC friends past and present, I love and miss all of you. You all taught me so much throughout the years and I'm so thankful for each of you.

With love,

Thoody