We recently asked our readers to write about a moment or realization they had where they truly felt horses were where they belonged.

We’ll be bringing you their entries over the coming weeks, but we’re thrilled to announce that Emily Sutherland has been randomly drawn as our winning entry! Emily will win a show setup from Kensington Protective Products, as well as a gift pack of Knotty Horse haircare products. We’d also like to congratulate Laura Callaghan for being our runner-up. Laura will receive a gift pack of Knotty Horse haircare products – and stay tuned for her essay coming soon!

By Emily Sutherland

Photography courtesy of Andrew Grant.

Throughout our lives, we come across many experiences that help shape and define who we are. These occasions can be made up of the people we’ve just met or whom we already know, travelling, events and just about anything in between. All of that has paved way to a “made it moment” for each of us to fully appreciate every aspect of it. In the horse world, where it is hard to find moments like those because we keep thinking that we could do better or that there’s always somebody better than us, it can be quite disheartening. Finding any small glimmer of hope and positivity can make a world of difference in attitude and appreciation.

I am definitely no stranger to the underdog world, as I started riding in my teens before I went off to university. I constantly felt like I was just a terrible rider compared to everyone else my age, but I really just didn’t have the knowledge there yet in my riding “tool belt”. So, I took lessons multiple times per week to try and make up time that I had lost from just starting riding as a teenager and took extra shifts just to try and cover the fees. The couple of small summer schooling shows I attended didn’t go too bad – I didn’t fall off nor was I last place – so I was getting better.

Then came my first year of university. The university I attended had a varsity equestrian team that was consistently top ranking in the Atlantic Intercollegiate Equestrian League circuit every year. I was determined to make the team, even though I hadn’t been riding long. I rode a sassy little pony in tryouts for walk, trot, canter. I stayed on and was in control the whole time, and I was quite happy with my ride but did not make the team. So, all winter I practiced, and practiced, and practiced. The team did wonderfully of course that year and I was proud of them.

The following year came with tryouts and I knew what to expect during them. I rode another pony who was powered by gas that day and gave quite a performance, showing off for walk, trot and canter. Unfortunately, my name was not called as the team list after everyone was finished riding.

I thought about what I could improve outside of the saddle during my horse-less winter semester to help me prepare and besides auditing clinics, fitness was major key. I was already fairly fit overall, but I did not focus on any specific areas. I usually compete with a cross country running team, so that helped immensely, but it isn’t very focused on muscle groups for riding. Over the year I trained for the saddle while out of the saddle, and in the saddle, I perfected hunt seat skills. I got more show experience competing against trainers and staying right up in the placings with them.

September rolled around, which meant tryouts yet again for my university’s equestrian team. I was getting frustrated and most people would have given up by now, but I was just so determined to do well. I learned so much because I had to work extra hard and cram so much information and experience in within such little time, but I was ready. I rode a pretty palomino gelding and his smooth canter just complimented my position in the saddle. Walk, trot, and canter were called on each rein to demonstrate skill for over forty riders trying out for twelve spots.

At the end of the tryout, names were called one-by-one for each spot. I held my breath the entire time clapping for everyone who made it. Near the end for advanced walk, trot, canter my name was finally called. I’ve never felt so relieved to breathe! I had a new team, new family, new friends, and new experiences. Being rejected did not stop me from pursuing what I wanted and learning valuable lessons. In this case, third time was the charm I guess!