I didn’t choose horse world. Not the early morning ride times, the dirt in my car, the slime on my clothes. Too focused on writing, and my writer friends, I let my riding fall by the wayside. I’d get around to it when I had some free time, maybe. My money went to writing classes, not riding lessons. To travel for writing conferences instead of clinics. Until one day it all stopped. Suddenly, my focus shifted, equally split between writing and riding. But when the dust settled, my writer friends were no longer there.

Riding and writing world aren’t all that different at the heart of things: passion is what drives both, and the need for acceptance and recognition by People That Matter. We keep weird hours and are always looking for ways to improve our craft. Writing and riding are even solitary activities: you with your pen versus you and your horse. Now, instead of knowing who the New York Times Best Selling Authors of the week are, I know who the top FEI Dressage riders are. It’s not that I don’t care about both, because I do. I care a lot. I care about how my writing friends are and what they’re doing, but there’s a distance between us now I can’t figure out how to close.

The thing is, the distance doesn’t have to close. I can still be involved with their lives, support them and their work, even if they’re not interested in what I’m doing. It hurts, sure, to not to be able to text my usual best friends about perfecting some new lateral movement, or lust over a new pair of breeches with. But, it’s pushing me to be more social with fellow riders, bonding over how dramatic horses are when you hose them off post-ride. Or laughing with them about the quirks of the long-time barn residents. Or even giving up writing time in exchange for going on trail rides or checking out a horse show. It’s also making me closer with the friends I had before that are involved in horse world, that I let fall by the wayside when I chose to focus more on writing.

No matter how old we get, change is the only constant. What we’re doing, who we’re friends with, and even what our passions and dreams are will shift as we grow. I didn’t understand what growing pains really were until I started diving deeper into horse world. I also didn’t know how many great people — crazy, down to earth, warm-hearted, genuinely good people — were out there waiting for me to meet. To make new friends with. Because there’s always new friends to make, especially when there are big, beautiful, crazy animals to bond over. Horses might be what drove me away from my old groups of friends, but they’re drawing me into new ones.