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,
I want you to know that no matter where life takes you, through amazing highs and challenging lows, horses will be and have always been your light.
I know you’re afraid because you’ve spent some time away from the horse world, and you’re thinking about taking lessons again.
You’re afraid that you won’t be the same rider as before, or that it won’t feel the same after losing your first heart horse. You’re afraid that just too much time has gone by. As much as you want to resist it, you have to get back to doing what made your soul so happy. What brought you peace. What you loved so much. You have to get back in the saddle.
Remember how it all started with a Badge Day for Girl Scouts? You visited a horse farm, learned about horse care, got to ride, and loved every second of it! You started lessons soon after, and your life was never the same.
You used to eat, sleep, and drink all things equine. Your bedroom walls were a collage of horse posters. You had bookshelves filled with every type of horse encyclopedia and magazine. You watched every single episode of The Saddle Club, multiple times, and had every horse breed memorized. You had the opportunity to ride at many barns, take lessons in a multitude of disciplines, learn from amazing trainers, and build relationships with many different horses and people.
Horses have brought you so much happiness and joy. Remember that feeling? Always continue to chase happiness and joy in all areas of your life.
At your first horse show, you won a blue ribbon! You accidentally caught your correct diagonal and it worked in your favor! (Diagonals were your nemesis for longer than you’d like to admit.) You were nine and really shy, but you were just beginning to blossom. Horses gave you the confidence you struggled to carry when you were young. During the countless hours you spent at the barn, you were able to develop a confidence and courage that has stayed with you throughout your whole life.
Remember when you had the opportunity to help train a Standardbred? You showed him at the national show and received a 5th place ribbon in the Figure 8 class. You felt so accomplished in that moment! You spent so much time going around the ring trying to figure out how to keep him trotting instead of pacing. When you finally figured it out, remember how proud of yourself you were? I’m still proud of you today.
Cherish the little wins and opportunities you are given in life.
The wins that have nothing to do with actual ribbons or awards. The tiny moments of progress that mean so much more and are far more impactful than the ribbon at a show. You have had, and will continue to have, so many amazing and unique opportunities in your life. Do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. You will not regret the times you choose not to.
Then came Stephen. What a joy it was to experience his gentle, loving, old soul. It gutted you to lose him. He was your first heart horse, and I know the hoof print he left on your heart still feels immeasurable.
You will continue to remember Stephen like the back of your hand. He was the most kind and giving horse. He never got mad, was always reliable, and allowed mistakes as you both grew into taking lessons, jumping, and showing.
Most importantly, Stephen was the calm, quiet, dependable presence that you relied on so much as you navigated a challenging set of losses throughout high school.
Your time spent at the barn riding, caring, grazing, and talking with him meant the world to you. Stephen was your guiding light through life’s difficult moments.
You will always deeply treasure all the amazing highs you had together, and fondly remember the quiet moments in between. Know that you will never forget your first heart horse and the lasting impact he has made on your life. You are so grateful to have had the opportunity to cross paths with Stephen. Horses give us their entire hearts. It was a privilege for us to experience that, even if just for a short time.
We can fast forward a bit, since this is what you really want to know.
You’ll become brave enough to say, “I want to take lessons again.” You’ll find a barn close to home and work. After the first few lessons, you immediately realize this was what had been missing from your life. That feeling slowly comes back – the joy, the happiness, the light that only these amazing animals can bring out in you.
A few months into weekly lessons, you’ll ride a Thoroughbred named Vegas. Vegas has quirks (to say the least), but you liked that about him. You saw his personality deep within. Other people would say he wasn’t the most fun horse to be around, but you saw him differently. You see a horse that wanted to be so brave, but would jump away at a sudden movement. He had confidence that so badly wanted to come through; but he needed time, consistency, and partnership for that to happen.
You will have an option to half lease so you can get more riding time. You will go for it, viewing Vegas as a little project, and wanting to bring out the best in him that you saw so deeply from the start. At some point, you uttered the words to multiple people “I would never buy this horse.”
….And the joke is on you because **SPOILER ALERT** you buy him on your 25th birthday. It was the best (and most expensive) gift you have ever bought yourself.
Stephen may have been your first heart horse, but Vegas will be one too. I know you’re thinking how can any horse ever compare to what Stephen had done for you. Just you wait.
You can, and will, have more than just one horse love.
Vegas will bring you back to the beginning; back to the little girl who fell in love with horses. He will help you regain the joy, happiness, and light that you had lost. The two of you will develop into an amazing partnership. Vegas will blossom into the best, bravest, and most entertaining horse you have ever come across. He will always keep you laughing.
When 2020 happens and we are faced with a worldwide pandemic and experience one of the largest movements against racial injustice, Vegas will be a calming constant for you.
You will cherish the quiet summer days spent riding and grazing Vegas as a reprieve from the ignorance and ugliness of the world. The moments spent standing around while he lays his nose on your shoulder will become a sort of daily meditation for the two of you. He’s given you more than I can ever explain—you will just have to experience it. He will have a forever home with us, no matter what.
I am so excited for you to experience all that is to come. You are so much more braver and more confident than you think. Believe in yourself because you will accomplish things that seem like wild dreams to you right now.
There will be moments where you will feel down and defeated. Keep going.
So please, take that plunge back into riding and into the thing that brought you so much happiness and light throughout your life. You will find such an amazing grounding and feeling of center. Not just in Vegas, horses, or long hours spent at the barn, but especially the quiet moments spent outside, speaking gratitude into the universe for allowing you to always find your light and your way back to horses.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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