“Why do we do this?” A first hand account on why we do what we do, and why the rest of the world thinks we are crazy for it.

By Megan Wharin

“A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves – strong, powerful, beautiful – and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence”  ~Pam Brown

I am sure we have all had that moment in our lives where we ask ourselves; “why do I do this”? We sincerely ponder our reasoning behind being so financially strapped, emotionally drained, and yet still so driven to succeed.. Through all of the setbacks, injuries, and other issues, we push further and further, addicted to those amazing moments in our ride, and the years spent preparing for them.

The financially strapped individual I am referring to is usually young, perhaps in high school or the early years of university. She has always ridden horses; she has always been dedicated and driven. She works multiple jobs and gives up nail appointments for farrier bills, high school prom makeup for a new bridle. When I say she is dedicated and driven, it’s not just in regards to horses. This girl could have given it up, she knows that she would be a lot less stressed and a heck of a lot richer if she did, but there’s something inside her that pushes her to keep on going. The thought of living a “normal” life sounds unappealing. In their heads shopping, partying, going to school, getting a job and starting a family is not how they want to do it. They look up to their equestrian idols that not only are professionals, but also amazing mothers and successful businesswomen, and think, why can’t I do this? We must accept that these amazing careers don’t come with their own stressors and struggles, but if we worked that hard to get there, wouldn’t we accept that and be ultimately happy?

It’s not that we don’t sometimes wish that we could be without horses, I am pretty sure we all do, but in giving it up, we give up who we are as a person. You can’t spend your entire life living and breathing it, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on it, just to throw it all away. We give up years of “average” teenage experiences to spend our evenings at the barn, and our weekends at horse shows. It’s just in our blood; I like to think of it as a healthy addiction. Our parents (god bless them) put up with the financial stress and a lack in family vacations because they know deep down they would lose their daughter, or at least the very best version of her, if she didn’t have horses in her life. Their comes a time when parents may finally break down, finally succumbing to years of marital and financial stress, they try and tell us to think about all the success we have had with riding, how lucky we have been, all in the process of telling us to “give ourselves a break for a while, focus on school, go and travel, get married, have kids”. If you are this girl, you’ve heard it before, you know the feeling of devastation when you think about how to everyone else “giving it up” sounds so easy, but inside you are crumbling into a million tiny pieces. People can say you are being selfish and spoiled, but in my opinion this is the farthest thing from it. We put blood, sweat, tears and more money than we would like to think of into a lifestyle that shapes us as human beings. At the end of the day, money is money and life is too short.

To the non-equestrian reading this, picture if you loved soccer, hockey, or basketball; to your benefit (seriously you have no idea how lucky you are) society views common sports as potential careers and if you have a gift, you get sponsors, free rides and ultimately a hefty paycheck. You don’t have to consider giving it up, because if you are good enough, and you work your butt off, you will be not only successful, but also financially successful. If riding could become a mainstream sport, think of how much more respect and recognition we would have as athletes!

And yet….in all of the stress and unease you are feeling, you can go sit in your horse’s stall, listen to her soft breathing, and let the smell of hay and shavings quickly bring you back to that happy place. For that time at the barn, you can forget about every stress you have. As you pick shavings out of her tail you think “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here”, and it dawns on you that one way or another you have to make it work, and the crazy thing is, we often do figure out a way. I am not saying that each and every dedicated horse person is going to go to the Olympics, it doesn’t work that way, but without crazy dreams none of us would be doing this. We all just keep working towards meeting the right people, riding the right horses, and being in the right place at the right time, in the hopes of one day, maybe, making a name for ourselves in this crazy sport. It really does come down to grit, motivation, positive thinking, and luck. Although it would be wonderful to have this sport fall under mainstream views, it will never be the same because this sport involves another team member, an animal that psychologically has no need or drive to go into that ring and be the best. They do it for us, and we need to be eternally grateful to them for that. My trainer told me that when Steffen Peters retired Ravel he said “We owe him everything and he owes us nothing”, this really hit it home for me because here we are getting so upset about “making it” when at the end of the day we must remember that the reason we do it is because we are so in love with these animals. When you fail, or your horse becomes injured, its not because you didn’t try, you will keep going. I strongly believe that if you want something badly enough, you make it happen, even if the end result is slightly different than the initial goal, it happened because we worked hard and didn’t give up.