I saw something online the other day that made me stop and think. The question was, “If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice in exactly two words, what would those two words be?” Hmm, should I be witty, funny, serious? Should I provide something profound? I gave it some thought and the best advice I could give my younger self is “Keep Riding.”
I rode all through junior high school and loved every minute of it. We typically rode in Western saddles sans helmet. Never even gave wearing a helmet a single thought…not even as we galloped the trails bareback. So very lucky to not have any lasting injuries. I even taught summer camp children the basics of riding. For close to 10 weeks one summer, I taught a new crop of students every week. Living the dream for room and board – funny, I believe they call that a working student these days. Huh, I just thought it was fun, but I didn’t exactly have any bills to pay at the tender age of 15. Once I turned 16 and could get a paying summer job, I stopped teaching. Once the demands of high school classes and extracurricular activities started, I stopped riding. If only I knew then what I know now.
Riding and horses have brought such joy to my life that I now cannot imagine not having these amazing creatures as part of my life. Yes, I like to complain about the blinding sweat in the summer, frozen hands and feet in the winter, the sore muscles, and the low balance in my checkbook, but what would I have to complain about without horses in my life?
I think about how much further along in my riding education I would be had I not stopped riding for 20 years. Back when I was a child, I don’t recall any dressage barns in my area, but I feel sure I would have discovered it had I continued with my lessons. How could a Type A personality not discover a sport that requires you to aim for perfection, but even if you ever receive a perfect 10, you are considered to only be “excellent” and not “perfect.” If I had not taken that long hiatus, I might have actually made it out of the lower levels of dressage and ridden a flying change in competition. All I can hope is that Ike and I continue to progress and that we will get to head down centerline for a Third or Fourth Level test before we are too old to compete.
The amazing people I have met would not be part of my life had I not started riding again. Some of my best friends were discovered through our mutual love of horses. We share the ups and downs of horse ownership and competing. We are there to cheer for each other when someone achieves a longed for goal. We share each others victories and help deflect the agony of defeat. We laugh at the absurdity of some of the things we do for our horses…no one else can truly appreciate sheath cleaning, hoof soaking, or walking a colicky horse but another horse owner. We are also there to lean on each other when it is time for the last goodbye.
Without horses in my life, I would have missed some amazing experiences: the Spanish Riding School performing at the Verizon Center, horse shopping and tack store shopping in Wellie World with Ms. C, watching former Olympians perform musical freestyles at PVDA’s Ride for Life in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, the thrill of qualifying for and competing at the USDF Regional Finals, and helping to raise $1000 for a local OTTB rescue by making and selling beaded keychains. Each of these is special to me in one way or another.
And let us not forget the life skills I have learned – perseverance and patience (a VERY hard lesson for this girl), trust, unconditional love, letting go of perfection, and the ability to laugh at oneself. There are still days I get impatient, but Ike never fails to remind me to just breathe and enjoy the ride. We will get there one day in our own time. We just need to keep riding.
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