Heels Down. Chin Up. – How Horseback Riding Impacted My Life (For the Better)

Hanging out before our practice with Dennis at the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.
Hanging out before our practice with Dennis at the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.

As a 10 year old girl in middle school I decided to finally “grab the reins” in fueling my horse obsession and begin taking horseback riding lessons. Ten and a half years later, I would have never thought that I’d be riding and competing at a collegiate level. Throughout those years spent at the barn I’ve learned many things that have shaped me into the person I am today. It all began in 6th grade, when I would clean horse stalls three days a week as a trade for riding lessons. While my friends were socializing, I stayed at the barn so I could work for as many lessons as possible. If I wanted something, I would have to work for it. I’ve learned to apply this lesson to many aspects of my life, for example, getting good grades, being accepted to college, and getting a job. I feel that life is very easy (and boring) when things get handed to you all the time; but working hard and earning something makes the results that much better.

Riding also instilled in me the 2 P’s: patience and practice. There’s a saying “if you’re not a humble person, your horse will make you one;” truer words have never been said. Horses help prove to every rider that when something goes wrong, 99% of the time it’s the riders fault. At first I would think, “I fell off because my horse twisted the wrong way” rather than “I fell off because my leg was WAY out of position.” Nobody made me fall off but myself. I try my best to apply this same concept to my life in general. Got a bad grade? It’s not the teacher’s fault. I just need to study harder. Didn’t get the job I wanted? I need to think about what I can do to improve myself in order to be a better candidate. Learning to stay humble and exercising my patience has helped me get very far in life.

Showing at a horse show this past semester. Roo thinks taking pictures is funny and he likes to stick out his tongue!
Showing at a horse show this past semester. Roo thinks taking pictures is funny and he likes to stick out his tongue!

Which brings me to the second “P”: practice. Practice makes perfect, especially in horseback riding. As a rider I am always learning, which means that I make my fair share of mistakes. But learning alongside me is my horse. Neither the horse nor I are born perfect and knowing everything. Whenever I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of something I always think about one of my trainer. She would say, “Nice job!…now do it again,” and then repeat that saying at least 10 more times. Spending those long hours in the saddle practicing the same techniques oven and over (and over) again just to achieve an end result is very exhausting but totally worth it. I would never be able to improve my skills, both in and out of the saddle, without practicing them until they’re almost second nature.

However, I believe that one of the most important things that horseback riding has taught me is to never give up. I can recall countless times when I was riding and getting so frustrated that I’d just want to quit. I’d think to myself “why do I even do this?” But after all of those times where I was so close to quitting I’m really glad I didn’t. Pushing through those occasional hard times is definitely one of the best things horses have taught me. I’ve learned that school, and friends, and, well, life, can sometimes become so frustrating and annoying that I just want to give up…but I can’t and I don’t. As a second semester junior hoping to apply to Veterinary School, I’ve had my fair share of “why am I doing this/is this even worth it?” moments. But thinking ahead about the end goal makes me realize that yes, it’s definitely going to work out in the end, just like riding has for me.

Horses have always been a way for me to get away from the world and de-stress. Riding is something I really enjoy, it keeps me fit, and hey, I learned a few life lessons along the way. Being on a horse and communicating with a 1,000 pound animal in a way that people can’t even fathom is truly an amazing experience. And with that, I think I’m going to go head to the barn!

Showing for the UConn Western Team!
Showing for the UConn Western Team!