More On Where I Come From…
The significance of me owning and showing horses since I was young has truly impacted me for the better – teaching me many valuable traits and lessons that I’ve incorporated into an everyday lifestyle. I’m not going to tell you every little detail of my life while showing horses, but I will give you a little insight on how it’s made me a better person. I was raised around horses since the day I was born, sitting atop of one before I could even walk. Most little girls dream of owning their own pony, fortunately I was lucky enough to get mine when I was the young age of 5. However, Cody wasn’t the pretty little white pony with the long, flowing tail and mane that would nicker at every sight of you. He was actually brown with the cockiest of attitudes and no manners – certainly not right for a young girl like me. BUT, he was the stem of the love and passion I had for horses, before they quickly they became my life.
One quick year later my mom bought me Blue, a much too ignorant, strong headed and stubborn gray mare. It didn’t take more than a month before Blue proved to my mom and I what challenge she was going to be for us. But I can definitely say that it was through dealing with her that I became such a strong and confident rider, and person in general. This was a horse which taught me many lifelong lessons as well as how to achieve any goal through patience, persistence, confidence and love.
I came across a blog the other day Why Horses are Good for Little Girls in which the author revealed a main reason why little girls have a love for these amazing creatures – and I couldn’t agree more with her thoughts. She says that it’s the feeling you have once you’re atop a horses’ back, viewing the world at a much taller height – it truly is exhilarating. This feeling along with with the feeling of being able to run faster on a horse than what you ever would on your own two legs – is addictive – hence why the little girl never wants to dismount.
The funny thing is – horse back riding is much more difficult than many people think it is. There’s definitely a science to it all. Horses don’t just stay on the fence line when showing in the arena, they don’t know how to pass other horses, they don’t know that their poll (top of head) needs to be level with their withers, or that their nose must be tipped in-creating a vertical line with their face, or that a collected trot is slower than an extended trot, these are all things that must be taught. And in teaching that, that’s where a rider like myself learns about practice and patience. If it was up to the horses themselves they’d have a riot in the arena with 25 others, crossing each others paths, sniffing noses and kicking up their feet.
Lessons I’ve Been Taught
All of which are completely relatable to the work world
Confidence Comes From Within:
There’s no doubt in my mind I started out riding as a timid, weak and fearful little girl. The whole idea of owning my own pony was a lot different than actually getting on and attempting to ride the thing. To be honest, it helped not having that perfect “push-button” horse (that’s what they call it in the horse world). I was constantly challenged and because of that I became confident. After a few years of consistent work and training with each of my horses – it always payed off for me. I was in the top 3 placings at the majority of my shows proving that I was becoming a more confident and intelligent rider, trainer and person. What I was doing with my time and my horse was working – I was winning both physically and emotionally within myself.
Learn to Trust:
One of the most important lessons I learned, especially with Blue – was that in order for her to trust me I had to gain her trust first. She was never owned by someone whom she trusted – and I think that’s where her stubborn and rebellious nature came from. After two long years of countless battles with that horse, Blue and I became one, we rode and showed in sync and it was obvious in the show ring. I took a 12 year old backyard horse and within a few years together, we took multiple 1st places at the Michigan State 4-H show, quite an accomplishment for a mare like herself. But as soon as we trusted each other 100% – that’s when our success and partnership blossomed.
How To Be a Leader:
Leadership stems from trust. In order for my horses to learn how to follow me they need to trust in my ways and everything I ask of them. Like I mentioned earlier, if horses were allowed to – they would plow their way through the show ring any where they wanted. I had to take the initiative to guide my horse through the pattern, over the tarp and through the woods – literally. Communicating effectively and consistently with them in the show ring, and even outside the ring was a must, especially if we were in pursuit of a “successful ride.“
Responsibility is Crucial:
Like any other child I had the same responsibilities – do the dishes, clean your room, fold the laundry, vacuum the house – but I also had chores that went above and beyond your typical ones. I’ve been taking care of four 1,500 lb animals for as long as I can remember. You think chores are brutal, try cleaning stalls 7 days a week, devoting weekends of the summer to loading and unloading 500 bales of hay (75lbs each to the upstairs of my barn – in 90 degree heat), getting up at 5am on Saturday mornings to bath horses and get to the show by an 8am start time and then the occasional feeding my mom would ask me to do at 7am and 7pm on a weekly basis. I was fortunate enough where my mom was just as passionate about these animals as I was – we did a lot of it together. But raising and training my horses definitely gave me a huge taste of responsibility outside of the traditional bedroom cleaning.
Prove Yourself with Pride:
I hate to admit it, but looks went a long way in the show world – both yourself and your horse. Pants and shirts needed to be ironed and crisp, outfit needed to be fitted to a T, hair needed to be slicked back into the perfect bun (no frizzies), boots polished prior to just entering the show ring, pins all needed to be centered and my mom’s main priority – making sure I had lip liner and lip gloss on my lips at all times. As far as the horse – looks were even more of a concern, any white socks on the horses leg needed to be patted down with baby powder, baby oil needed to be applied around their nose and eyes, black or clear hoove polish was to be applied, tail and mane tangle free, and all tack was to be clean and polished as well. How you presented yourself outside the barn was extremely important when showing horses. Stay classy and flash a smile that proves just how truly honored and excited you are to show off you and your horse’s new look.
Goals are Reached Through Perseverance:
My mom was adamant about setting goals for myself. And because of that my mom is one of the most intelligent woman I have ever met. I had a notebook in which I would literally write down weekly, monthly and yearly goals for myself and my horse. Duke for example I bought in March at the age of 3 – barely broke out and at the beginning of a show year. I set extremely high goals for myself and that boy for the Open Show in July, just a mere 5 months later. I wanted to be top 3 in my classes. Not only was I top three in many of them but I took a Grand Champion placing after my judge had recognized the fact that I had a young horse on my hands. He praised me for the patience and gentle hand that I had with a young horse – which is honestly all I wanted out of the weekend. Setting goals makes the end result much more exciting and gratifying – knowing you’ve really achieved something you set out to do.
Get Back Up After You Fall:
The only way you’ll get better is if you get right back on. This last and final lesson learned is a feeling I think any horseback rider walks away with. I can count on two hands how many times I’ve been tossed off – which I consider a good thing – and I can tell you every one of those times I got right back on (except for one because I got taken away in an ambulance :/). I regained my confidence, trusted in my horse, chose to be a leader again, stayed prideful and knew I had a goal in mind – all of which encouraged me to try again. I think this lesson relates most closely to life in general – there’s going to be multiple times in my future in which I fall – not necessarily 5 feet – but in my career, and I’ll hopefully learn from it and it’ll only make me a better, more knowledgeable and stronger individual in the end.
Why Duke Was the Perfect Boy in My Life 🙂
1. He was always there to listen to me.
2. He always looked me in the eye when talking to him.
3. He would never talk back to me.
4. He was always there to fall back on, literally.
5. He always warned me when a disagreement was coming, allowing us to settle it before it got out of hand.