Riding Tips

Letter to My Rookie Self: Milan Berry

milan berry riding horse
Written by Milan Berry

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 小米兰 (Little Milan),

Do you remember that old video tape player that you had in your room as a small child? You had around a dozen or so video tapes with a box TV, and every so often you would play Black Beauty on VHS.

Do you remember watching Beauty as a foal, taking his first steps and hearing his narrator say what he was thinking? Do you remember the training scene, where he described the cold, hard steel of the bit being placed into his mouth and how tightening the girth pinched him?

Thinking back, as a four year old understanding the concept of animals having full autonomy and not being human was insane. Animals can have feelings? Wild at the time, but finally seeing Beauty full speed run across the field with the trainer on his back was always and will remain the icing on the cake. Watching it now literally gives me chills, as it probably will for the rest of our lives.

That magical feeling that you imagine to be on a horse, that flying feeling, well it’s real. It is everything that you imagine it to be.

When you finally begin to ride as a freshman in college, it will quickly become a part of your life. You will go to horses in your darkest moments, but will also experience some of your best with them as well.

milan berry equestrian team

Photo: Georgia Southern University Equestrian Team

Please remember, your worth is not defined by the amount of years that you have been riding or the amount of blue ribbons you win. It is not defined by your ability to own a horse of your own or your ability to afford lessons by yourself. It is defined by the time and effort you put into your riding.

Every moment in the saddle is valuable, as you leave the barn with one more ride under your belt than when you first arrived.

Horses are a privilege. Money doesn’t have to buy success if the talent is already there; and you are bustling with it. Your presence in the horse world will often cause controversy and your experience and skill will intimidate even some of the best.

milan berry

Photo courtesy of Milan Berry

You will doubt yourself, your worth, and your place in the world many times. You will get angry at your lack of progress by comparing yourself to people who were given things and experiences years before what you have earned now.

Let those doubts and those insecurities melt away when you are in the saddle, as nothing else matters in those moments but you and your horse.

It is cliche to say, but you are braver than you feel and much stronger than you think.

If you truly will not remember what they said about you a year from the day that it was said, it DOESN’T matter.

milan berry

Photo courtesy of Milan Berry

Do not allow others who are threatened by you to silence you, even when silence is often your greatest weapon. Speak clearly and loudly, even if you only manage to say it as a whisper. You are not defined by the negatives of others, and although life will harden you, remember to have compassion for all things and all people.

And above all else, LOVE YOURSELF.

Love your differences and your quirks, the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you ride. Above all else, love the way your presence shakes the room and the people within it when you enter.

So with that being said, Live. Ride your heart out with every chance you get. Trust the process, even if you don’t know what it is. Remember what Dad always says, even to this day—“Life is good, and it only gets better!”

With love, from the not-so-distant future,


小米兰 (Little Milan: Xiǎo mǐlán)
米兰 (Milan : mǐlán)

Fun fact: Milan was the first OYES Award winner!

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:

Love it? Share it!

About the author


Milan Berry

The first winner of the OYES award, Milan is a senior at Georgia Southern University double majoring in International Studies and Chinese Language. She's also Secretary of the Georgia Southern Equestrian Team.