Horse Care Riding Tips

Letter to My Rookie Self: Abriana Johnson

abriana johnson and her horse
Written by Abriana Johnson

Equestrian Advice: This is part of our Letter to My Rookie Self series, an open letter equestrian reflection project. Learn more and/or submit your own letter here.

Dear Rookie Self,

Girl… we have to have a talk. Aht aht. Don’t stop reading now — it’s not all bad! We’re just going to put some things in perspective because me (your future self) would really appreciate it if you did. I’m going to tell you about the great things you have going for you. I’m going to tell you about the things you need to let go. I’m going to tell you about how far we still have to go. Are you ready for this rollercoaster, sis? Alright, let’s get into it.

Let me set the scene: you are a force of nature.

abriana johnson pony

You turn dreams into realities

You get to do work you are passionate about. You know how you have always been a creative person, but were not able to flex that muscle in a strenuous and targeted professional career track? You finally figure out how to do both — be a scholar and an artist, and that in itself is an accomplishment.

You have a gaggle of animals, just like you always wanted, and have set yourself up to do exactly what you want, when you want. The possibilities are endless — for real.

You have a podcast. Yea girl. You literally talk about horses and your experiences and get to share the stories of other interesting people.

And check this out. People listen! People listen to what you say, engage, and have feedback. Your voice and your stance has become something worth paying for. I mean, sis… you were quoted in the New York Times!


Click to learn about the Young Black Equestrians Podcast

Out of frustration and unhappiness you have birthed some of the most influential projects and resources of your life, and it’s only the beginning.

I realize you don’t know much about manifesting just yet, but you will learn. You will learn that the same power of voice you utilize daily is the same power you have over your own life. You have it already. You embody it.

There’s a problem though. At some point, you’ll feel powerless and “less than.” That feeling will sit in the pit of your stomach for years.

It will fester into an anger that grows and will continue to grow if you let it. It’s not loud anger, like yelling and screaming. It’s quiet anger — the dangerous kind. The kind that has your friends tiptoeing around you so as to not piss you off. It’s the kind that jeopardizes some of the truest relationships you have ever had because you feel as if you deserve to magically feel better.

After all, since your feeling of powerlessness developed externally, the solution would be external, as well… right? This pit you feel in your stomach is a weight you will carry until this very day, when you realized you carry that burden unnecessarily.

abriana johnson flowers horse

Whatever it is, let it go.

(I forgot to mention, we’re living in a WHOLE pandemic out here. Like, wearing masks and lockdown stuff!)

There comes a time that you have to make a choice.

You play defense every chance you get — blocking out the bull and the drama like your life depends on it. Sis, guess what? You have never played a defense/offense combo in your life!

(Yea, you yelled about offense and defense while cheerleading, but that’s not the same.)

Even when you played soccer, you were the goalie and your team was so good you got to sit around and watch the shapes and creatures forming in the clouds during every game. But a very special someone will bring perspective to your life, and I really want you to hear it.

You can’t score points on defense.

You’ve spent more time blocking than learning how to maneuver to score the points for your own team. You’ve built an impressive fortress of defenses that rivals the Great Pyramids, but you are standing guard in there all by yourself. You can shout and drop a line down to your peeps, but at the end of the day, you are separated.

abriana johnson leading horses

You don’t have to go it alone

When I say you had revelations today, I mean it for real. You, as in me, were supposed to write this letter weeks ago. But you didn’t have anything to really say until today.

You could’ve said some corny stuff like, “oooo you get a mini horse,” but that’s surface level and minuscule compared to the message you received today.

I’m writing this letter so WE can get our whole lives together and play the offense we have never played before. That special someone also said, “Look how blessed you are and at the person you have become by playing defense. Imagine what your life would look like if you played offense.”

  • Your talents. Use them to serve the needs of others in your community, the people you surround yourself with on a regular basis. Give, give, and then give more without reservation or expectation. People deserve what you have to offer.
  • Your voice. Speak on what you are passionate about. Speak out for change, and speak up for those who don’t feel comfortable speaking for themselves. You may not please everyone, but that’s not your purpose. Do not wield your voice around like the sword you pulled from the stone though just because it took you a while to find it. Be intentional with every thought and every message as if it was the last one you had to give before leaving this world behind.
  • Your creativity. Sis, FLEX IT. You’ve put boxes and bumper rails up around your creative spirit for way too long. I’m here to tell you that anything you can think of in your mind can and will exist. That is your superpower. That is where you should focus your energy. All of those seemingly “random skills” you are learning right now will become SUPER clutch later on –appreciate ALL OF THEM!
  • Your love. You harden yourself to the point that only the fuzziest of the critters get your unconditional love. That’s not fair. Horses are born and spend the rest of their lives thinking up nifty ways to die (ha!), so don’t follow their examples. You want to give love, but there is no way to open yourself to giving without being equally open to receiving. You deserve love, and so do other people, so make it happen.

You may feel powerless, funneled through a system of unrealistic expectations of intelligence, achievement, and attention that leave you feeling like a bottle floating in the ocean.

But, if you take away nothing else from this letter, know that the bottle floating in the ocean has a message inside — whether it is opened or not. The message you seek is one you already possess, and no one can reproduce it for you no matter how hard they (or you) try.

I hope that in writing this message for myself that it may also be a message for someone else. You never know what people are going through, and although we rely heavily on social media to connect with people during this time, what people show online is a tiny fraction of their lives.

Look inside yourself for wisdom and motivation. Look inside for direction and validation. Look inside for the source of creativity and your genuine goals.

What you see around you is flashy and sounds nice enough, but to find the answers you continually seek, look… inside.

The horse industry can be an incredibly critical world (we literally pay money to be judged!), but it’s up to each of us to change it for the better.

abriana johnson mini horse

You have more power than you realize

Young AJ, girl… you will get it together, I promise. There is a master plan, and each day you wake up, put your feet on the floor and ask yourself “What am I going to do today?” you are one step closer.

I love you! I love us, and if you are reading this letter, please remember that ‘you gotta love yourself.’

Peace, love, and hoofbeats,

Abriana J.

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About the author


Abriana Johnson

Abriana Johnson is an author, podcaster, entrepreneur and personal chef/chauffeur/groom to 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 3 horses. She has over 15 years of horse experience ranging from reproduction, barn management, trail riding and showing her Tennessee Walking Horse, Maestro. Abriana obtained a Bachelors in Animal Science from North Carolina State University where she gain experience in reproduction, foal management, stallion handling and more. She is currently finishing her Masters of Health Sciences in One Health from the University of Florida.