College decision day was this past weekend – I remember when I first wrote a post asking for advice about an eventer looking at colleges! It seemed incredibly far away, but it’s here now (along with coronavirus…)
In making my decision, I have done a lot of reflecting about what role I want horses to have in my college experience and beyond. I looked back to my essay for the common application, and it reminded me of how I started this process, (and what a complicated process it has been!) and what riding has meant to me these past 12 years. It is also a look into the future of how riding has shaped my childhood and how it will continue to play a big role in my life through the transition I’m making into adulthood.
Here is one of the many essays I wrote about how horses have shaped my identity:
I don’t know why my 6-year-old self decided, “I want to ride a pony!” But now, I’m so grateful I made that decision to get on a horse and never look back.
Horses have always been in my life. I plan my week around my riding schedule without a second thought.
As a young equestrian, I had lofty riding aspirations. I was planning to go to the Olympics. What could stop me?
I learned that so many factors go into making it to the top. Even with the best riding skills, not everyone is so lucky to have everything fall into place at the right time.
But, I’ve realized that competing isn’t my main motivation anyway.
I may never understand why I had the urge to get on a horse for the first time, but I do know why I haven’t stopped. I’ve come a long way from the little girl whose only drive was to win medals with the horse she trained herself – the fairytale that hardly ever becomes a reality. I know now that the best moments in riding happen out of the spotlight.
In my mind, there’s nothing better than setting out on a trail ride on a perfect fall day with only my horse, my thoughts, and leaves crunching beneath his hooves. Not even a blue ribbon can top that.
I’ve come to love the intricate process of building relationships with these 1,000 pound animals and taking time to figure out their complicated little quirks. It’s the most satisfying feeling to figure out a way to communicate with these animals that speak a different language.
I’ve had plenty of first-hand experience with this, because I rescued and trained my off-track-thoroughbred myself. He has given me some of the most frustrating times of my life, and some of the best times of my life. For every good ride we had during that process, there were 20 bad ones, but that one perfect ride is what fuels me to keep going. Even though he hasn’t been the horse to take me to the top of the sport, he’s taught me more about life, and about myself, than I could’ve learned anywhere else. From patience, forgiveness, responsibility, humility, to teaching me how to live and let go, I owe everything to the horses who have shaped me into who I am today.
I also love teaching younger riders about horses and encouraging their passion for riding. Recently I sold my first pony, Saucy, to a little girl named Emma. Her eyes grew wide and lit up with joy and a smile spread across her face when she saw Saucy for the first time. I was dreading letting Saucy go, but when I saw the joy in Emma, for a brief moment I saw myself in her. I knew that she would create memories and learn lessons from Saucy just like I did. It’s hard to let go of a piece of your childhood, but moments like these remind me that this is why I ride. Every time I see Emma she still has that big smile as she tells me about her latest adventures with Saucy.
Most importantly, I’ve created friendships and memories through riding. I’m surrounded by an amazing group of supporters who will have my back no matter where I decide to go in life. One thing is certain – I will always ride because it keeps me motivated, humble, and ready to face the next obstacle in life.
For years, I’ve been seen as the “horse girl” by people at school – to some it might mean a girl who canters around in public, and to others it’s a girl who goes to the barn instead of the mall. But for me, horses have shaped me into who I am today, and riding is so much more than a sport – it’s a part of who I am.
If I had never made that decision to get on a horse, my college decision most likely would’ve looked quite different. I am excited to spend the next four years at Randolph-Macon College where I will continue both my academic and riding career.