Through Instagram I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet an incredible group of equestrians, one such person is Maddie Bricken. You can’t help but be drawn in by her gorgeous bright bay Leah and Maddie’s warmth, honesty and passion for all things equestrian. Maddie is prehaps better known as the women behind The Blonde & The Bay blog, and I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know Maddie better.
How did you find your way into the saddle?
My mother… I still vividly remember her perching me onto her all-purpose saddle, coaxing me to hold mane, and leading me around on her 17.3hh Hanoverian, Bob. I was three years old at thetime. A typical horse crazy teenager, she recalls all the moments she’d ride her Appaloosa gelding with her radio tied to the back of her western saddle, or stories of the sort. Her passion for horses was definitely handed down to me, and my parents quickly realized that horses were simply not a childhood phase. My grandfather was also very involved in the racing side of the horse industry, from traveling to the Triple Crown races to owning a few thoroughbreds through
partnerships. I grew up in a ranching and farming family – horses were also important to my stepfather, from working cattle to leisurely riding throughout our land. My love for equestrianism was highly influenced by my family, and I’m so thankful they encouraged me to find my passion from a very young age!
What is it that draws you to dressage and inspires you to keep progressing as a rider?
So, fun fact: dressage was not my first discipline of choice. In fact, I can tell you the exact time my mom told me we were transitioning to a dressage barn from a hunter/jumper barn, and my firm resistance that came in a flow of tears. Looking back, I can’t help but laugh when I think about my stubbornness. I’ve now been competing and training dressage for almost 14 years! Creating a true partnership with the horse through understanding, communication via numerous different aids, and respect is what draws me into this sport. Technicality and difficulty would be another factor, as interesting as that sounds. We strive to achieve perfection, but any rider will never reach perfection, so it’s a huge mind game… The harder we work, the better we become, and that feeling alone is somewhat addicting. My drive to be a well-rounded dressage rider is what inspires me to continue progressing as a dedicated equestrian. You never stop learning in this sport; there’s an influx of information coming your way each time you swing a leg over the saddle. In order to be successful with anything, you have to be receptive to criticism, both good and bad. Each “tool” I gain from my trainers, clinicians, even judges at competitions, inspire meto turn their critiques into progress within the arena.[bctt tweet=” Creating a true partnership with the horse through understanding, communication via numerous different aids, and respect is what draws me into this sport.” username=”eqballerina”]
You’ve been really busy recently as you work towards transitioning careers. How have you managed to balance riding and your career?
Ah, the elusive question of how to balance life with riding. I get this question a lot, and to be honest, I’m still working to figure out the answer. I made the switch from working in retail to the real estate industry for the flexibility in scheduling and the opportunities to advance monetarily. Joining my family’s real estate firm was one of the best decisions I could have made for my personal growth. Personally, I wanted a career that would allow plenty of time to continue chasing my dreams and passions – real estate just fit the bill. There are weeks when riding is very limited, and I’m thankful that I never have to worry about Leah getting worked. As an Adult Amateur rider, dressage is our hobby and our careers do take precedence most of the time. I manage the balance by setting aside time to ride around my daily tasks or meetings. I take also advantage of my weekends as prime riding time! I think it’s all about time management and staying proactive, even if you only have 25 minutes to ride. A short amount of time is better than no time at all.
What would your advice to other riders be?
- If you want it badly enough, you’ll work hard enough. Don’t make excuses because then people start to not take you seriously. For the longest time, I felt like a lost puppy when it came to setting goals with my riding. Then, something just clicked, and I told myself that no one was going to stand in my way of achieving said goals. I worked incredibly hard (I’ll pat myself on the back for that) along side my trainers and the proof was in the competition arena. No one can take that away from me, regardless of how hard they try.
- Don’t be too difficult on yourself – I need to take this advice, actually! Us dressage riders are self admittedly OCD with a dash of perfectionism sprinkled in our personality. Or if you’re like me, a huge dash. It’s so easy to beat yourself up over the smallest things or mistakes, but that’s an exercise in futility. We’re working with horses that are living, breathing, independently thinking animals. They have days where nothing goes right as well, which inevitably makes us feel like sacks of potatoes on their back. Dressage is an ebb and flow – more times than none, you’ll walk away feeling a bit discouraged about your ride or test. However, it’s how you decipher the good from the bad that determines your character as a rider. I try to take one good thing from each ride and focus on that rather than the negative. It really helps, especially if you have the tendency to walk away feeling defeated. So, don’t beat yourself up! This is a journey, not a sprint.
- Lastly, always thank your horse. They are our partners, not our machines.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Maddie where we get to know Leah!