Tattoos. Whether they’re hidden deep beneath our ratcatchers, breeches and stock ties through a hunter course or Dressage test or they’re showcased in an arm sleeve bared beneath a polo on the XC course, tattoos bedazzle Equestrians everywhere.
Some will never understand the practice of injecting ink beneath several layers of epidermis for the sake of a permanent memento and some simply can’t fathom the concept (or the pain) of intentionally allowing ourselves to be needled over and over again. Others wish they could have some ink of their own though moral, ethical, civil or other reasons prevent them from taking the plunge.
It’s been years since I received my first tattoo and though I’m most certainly a big girl now, capable of making my own unruly choices, my parents still insist I’m intentionally defacing a precious commodity, not unlike graffiti on the walls of a pristine chapel. When I ecstatically posted the photo of my second tattoo on Facebook, my mother’s only comment was a sad-face emoticon :(. My intent is neither to specifically champion the cause nor convince the naysayers and tattoo opposed. It’s simply a statement of what is for those of us who choose the way of the ink and why, from this equestrian’s perspective, it is that we do it.
I believe that a tattoo is never a thing to be taken lightly nor inked on a whim. I fully respect their permanence and in their longevity lies much of their importance and meaning for me. I live and breathe the life equestrian and in tattoos of my own design I am able to carry that with me wherever I go. Every tattoo I wear has its own meaning, an individual story and the significance behind each holds a special place in my heart and my history. Each is a thing I wish to carry close to me always, to show off when it’s appropriate and discuss in depth when the opportunities arise.
Currently I have 2 tattoos with a 3rd in the “conceptual design” phase and the idea for a 4th still rolling around in the gray matter. The first is a snaffle bit on the inside of my right wrist.
The purpose of this bit is several-fold. First, it is a testament to my love for the English disciplines, particularly hunters. Secondly, in a world so often over-complicated it is a daily reminder merely to simplify.
Over the years, I’ve concluded that few horses truly need more than a simple snaffle to do their job effectively. I like to believe that a mere snaffle, when paired with a soft hand, strong leg and a steady mind can achieve the level of communication, teamwork and excellence that is so often forced through harsher means and forceful, unforgiving tools.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule for a variety of reasons but personally, I have come to find a certain verity in the sheer simplicity of a soft hand, strong leg and a steady mind. It’s a mantra I repeat to myself often, especially when a ride becomes particularly frustrating or my tendency to over-complicate matters begins to overwhelm my psyche.
The placement of this snaffle on my wrist where I see it daily, often only catching a glimpse when I sign my name or shake another’s hand, encourages me, in all facets of my life, to simplify what truly need not be so complicated.
My second, tattoo on the outside of my lower left leg, is a variation on the horse symbol seen on the banners of the great hall of Rohan. Yes, THAT Rohan of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings epic.
I’ll refrain from geeking out too much on the history of this one. In truth, I could probably fill a few hours and several pages with my musings and reasonings of inspiration behind the piece but in short, it is just sooooo me.
When I decided on this piece and the knowledge that it would be permanently affixed to my lower extremity, it was vastly important that it be inherently unique though still recognizable in its origin as the banner horse of Rohan. With a little help from my favorite tattoo artist, I modified the original design into what it is today (though the piece remains unfinished as it’s waiting on a bit of fill work).
Nearly everyone with a tattoo, equestrian or otherwise, will tell you their ink has a meaning and purpose beyond its initial impression. Most of us love to talk about them and to relate, to anyone who will listen, their significance in our lives and thus why they’ve earned a coveted spot on the canvas of our bodies. They are a part of who we are, often signifying where we’ve been, what we’ve done, what’s important to us and who or what we aspire to become.
Here’s what some of our other bloggers had to say about their own ink:
“Have a Holsteiner logo on the inside of my left wrist. I keep my boy close to my heart.” – Geri
“I have a horseshoe with a maple leaf in the middle on my lower left hip! Have had it since I was 16 . . . and, I want another one!” – Carrie
“My son has the large head of my horse on his left back shoulder, I have not gotten brave yet!” – Cheryl
“I have a diamond on my wrist for my first horse and the Uffington white horse on my shoulder.” -Allison
“A sparrow on the back of my neck was inspired by my trainer growing up!” – Justine
And as for the needle and pain factor . . . I think Allison addressed this one best: “It’s nothing compared to a good rib crack after a fall!”
So ink onward equestrians! And readers, share with us the stories behind your own tattoos!
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