Riding Tips

Letter to My Rookie Self: Martha Figueroa

martha letter
Written by Martha Figueroa

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,

You are old enough to drive a truck with a horse trailer, but not old enough to buy a legal drink. It’s that middle space where you know there are so many life decisions ahead, but the big picture isn’t clear just yet.

I don’t want to give you too many spoilers, but I want to offer some slowly acquired wisdom and maybe a little perspective.

You want a job in the horse world, but you aren’t looking deep enough, kid.

Equine professions exist outside of the two that you are in love with and incessantly read about:

  • Equine Veterinarians
  • Professional Trainers

Eventually you will decide you cannot afford veterinary school and that becoming a professional trainer requires immense sacrifice of your personal time and, even though you might not know it yet, you’d need to be okay with getting injured occasionally.

martha and white horse

Martha and Rambo, the pony she learned to ride on, at their last pony club lesson together

There’s a whole realm of careers you would kick butt at AND keep the lights on. There’s horse show organizers, horse app developers, and horse magazine editors. There are marketing and HR professionals in every single brand of horse food, tack, and equipment company. Shoot, that’s not even including the whole world of equine vacations and hospitality.

If it’s a product or service and someone is paying money for it, there’s a career hiding behind it.

Not owning a horse does not make you less of an equestrian. Ownership is a financial decision, not a measure of how seriously you take this hobby.

In a few months you will have the opportunity to OWN your first horse. It’s going to put you on cloud nine and you’ll even choose buying a little rusted horse trailer to pull with dad’s truck over going on the Senior’s Trip to Spain. It will be an immense responsibility, an absolute joy, and a total heartbreak—all in the course of 20 months.

martha jogging horse

Martha and Midnight, her first horse, at USPC Championships

And then, after selling your first horse, you’ll be horseless for a while.

You’ll use the extra time to explore other interests, grow in your career and travel quite a bit, but in the back of your mind you’ll want to be back in the saddle.

Eventually you’ll find your way back to the horse world through the generous support of other horse folks who are willing to give you time in the saddle.

martha horse selfie

Martha and the pony she is currently exercising, Winnie

Will the imposter syndrome you had since you were 11 come crawling back? Yes. Will you compare your progress to that of other young adults who own their own horses? Own farms? Own MULTIPLE horses? Yes.

Regardless, you have to continue to remember that you are delaying ownership with intention, so that:

  • You can give that future horse a forever home in which they can grow old
  • You won’t have to give up due to finances ever again

All in due time, yours will come again, too. Until then, eyes up and take it one day at a time.

Use that new and beautiful item; it was gifted by someone who believes in you!

Remember that suede saddle pad you got for Christmas at age 13? The one your GREAT-grandmother gave you? The one you put in a box and moved into your college dorm, will eventually move to your first shared townhome (after dropping out of said college) and then slug it over to your first apartment? That one.

Kid, just use the dang saddle pad! It’s silky gold corded edges and deep rust color were not meant to be hidden in a closet forever. You deserve to shine a little, and if everything else you own is second hand, who cares?!

“Um, but I’m waiting to use it on a special occasion.”

That someone who loves you dearly took time to find you this gorgeous gift, that IS the special occasion. You being able to ride HORSES, period, that’s a special occasion! Stopping thinking anything is ‘too good’ for you.

martha ribbon

Winnie after her first Combined Test

Say hello to every Spanish-speaking stable hand you meet. Do it loudly so all the white ladies stare.

At competitions you will continue to be asked if you are here to clean up stalls or sell food. You will continue to be given up-and-down looks. But instead of shrinking into the background, use that big smile to take up space instead. Use it to help others who feel out of place to feel a little more at home.

martha barn

Winnie and Martha hanging out in the barn

Ask the stable hands how their day is going or who they think will win the class. I promise they will be happy to be acknowledged for once.

Ask the jump crew which jump they think will have the most run outs today. I promise they have seen HUNDREDS more show jumping rounds than you have.

And when they laugh loudly at the jokes you tell, but you can feel the blue eyes piercing the back of your helmet? Pay it no mind. This sport is for TODOS (i.e. everyone), and they will learn to get used to it.

I’m proud of you—both the horsewoman you are today and the one you will become tomorrow.


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About the author


Martha Figueroa

Horse-obsessed bachatera living the equestrian life over at https://www.instagram.com/martha.fig/.