Being an adult amateur rider is hard.

It’s a constant struggle. I wish I had more time to ride. I wish I could afford to compete more often. I wish I could afford to train regularly with a professional.

But I appreciate the small victories.

Much to my surprise, my horse and I won top honors for the 2016 season at our local circuit. We only showed a handful of times and was always the only pair at the showgrounds without a trainer.

It wasn’t easy to trailer in and compete on my own. But luckily I had a lot of impromptu help from other competitors and show staff — they were always happy to set jumps for us and offer me water at the side of the ring. Strangers cheered us on at the end of each round. Those strangers eventually became acquaintances who became friends.

When I got an email from the show staff that said my horse and I had won grand champion for the year in our division, I knew I’d be by myself if I decided to go to the awards ceremony. What I learned was even though I only bought “one” ticket for the event, I was hardly by myself. The familiar faces from past shows were there to cheer me on and offer congratulations.

I work hard to be able to show when I can. I try not to put too much pressure on myself, but it can be tough when I know I can only afford to attend a few events a year. Winning that blue ribbon for the season meant a lot to me for this reason. It made me feel like all the hard work I put in when I ride and when I’m not riding, paid off.

My horse, Belinda, is the best. I am forever grateful for having her in my life. Belinda is the perfect partner for where I am in my adult/ammie/riding career right now. I had a young horse for some time before I got her, and the stress of trying to train and care for a young horse that needed to be in a consistent program while working full-time just wasn’t fun nor realistic for either of us. Belinda is talented, kind and at 18 years old, still always up for the challenge.

It’s been a great year. We’re both healthy and fit enough to compete when life doesn’t get in the way. Hopefully we can continue the streak in 2017.