The equestrian community is a world of contrasts – a realm where passion and challenges collide. My journey into this world began when I was just five years old, when my mother gifted me my very first horse. It was a blessing, a dream come true, and yet, it was also a struggle.
Growing up in sunny Florida, I delved into English riding, primarily focusing on dressage from the ages of 5 to 14. In the beginning, my love for the barn was boundless. But as the years passed, I found myself grappling with an overwhelming pressure. Everyone around me seemed to possess the latest tack, supplements, new horses, and all the newest clothes. It was as if I was in a world of constant upgrades, and I felt perpetually judged and left out. I feel as though there are plenty of horse people who are condescending and look down on you for what you don’t have and how you ride.
You see, my mom was a single parent, doing her utmost to scrape together enough money to cover the board and lesson fees. As I watched my peers acquire the latest gear and horses, I often felt like the odd one out. I remember getting my first pair of knee high boots and I was over the moon. The weight of judgment from peers and adults wore me down, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d ever truly fit in.
Those early days were filled with a profound yearning to simply spend time with my horse, showering him with love and care. The act of bathing and grooming him was my favorite activity. Slowly but surely, the world of horse shows began to pop up in my life. These were small, local events at our barn, far from the high-stakes competitions you might envision. However, what adults often fail to grasp is the immense pressure that young riders place upon themselves. We yearn to fit in, to prove ourselves, to make our parents’ sacrifices worthwhile.
I’m inherently a timid and reserved person, finding it challenging to assert myself. The only time I could truly be myself was alone with my horse. I yearned for days of carefree riding in the fields, where there was no one to critique my form or scrutinize my performance. I longed to groom and bathe my horse, to engage in quiet conversations with him and only him.
I didn’t want my mom to invest all her hard-earned money into my riding education without witnessing tangible progress. Countless post-barn days ended with tears streaming down my face. Eventually, in my early teenage years, I made the heart-wrenching decision to part with my horse and step away from riding. The expectations of the equestrian world felt like I could never measure up.
It wasn’t until I turned 19 that I mustered the courage to return to the saddle. Resuming riding after years of absence was a huge mental challenge. There was so much fear involved the nagging self-doubt of not being good enough, the anxiety of fitting in with fellow equestrians, having no confidence, and financial constraints.
With all these doubts about myself, I discovered my authentic self through trail riding. In the serenity of nature, I found myself. I no longer had anything to prove to anyone. I could gallop my horse up mountains and eat lunch beneath the shade of a tree. I could leisurely stroll along the trail, free from all the worries of life. Lots of self discovery and revelations occurred at the tops of mountains. I realized I don’t have to fit into the bubble. I discovered that there are plenty of horse people out there that don’t care about having the newest this or that. They just want to love horses and have fun just like me.
Finding my passion again wasn’t enough to ignore what goes on in horse communities all over the world. The online horse community was awful with judgment and hostility. People relentlessly criticize and berate each other for the simplest questions. It saddens me to see so much bullying and hate within a community that should be built upon a shared love for horses.
I don’t do as much riding these days. I’ve learned you don’t have to be riding to enjoy the company of horses. Becoming an Equine massage therapist has shown me a world where I can just be there with all of these beautiful horses and help them feel their best. We are all just individuals, often women and girls, seeking to love horses and find our way in this complex world. Horses make life both simpler and more challenging, but every moment spent with them is unequivocally worth it.
So, this post is dedicated to that inner child within each of us who once abandoned their passion for riding. Perhaps you feel too intimidated or judged to pick up riding again, or maybe you’ve never ridden before and want to start. Perhaps you own horses but are lacking the confidence to saddle up and go for a ride. Whatever your reasons may be, know that you are not alone on your journey.
If you want to ride again, do it. If you sense the need to switch barns or trainers, go ahead. If you feel judged or intimidated, take that brave step anyway. You won’t regret it. Your equine journey, in whatever form it takes, is uniquely yours. You deserve to be that little girl again who is just in awe of every horse they meet.