The Realization of Equestrian

Sometimes things don’t go the way we planned.

Over the weekend, I went with my school to a Pony Club mega rally for the first show of 2018. I was so excited. I’ve been riding my horse, Time, for weeks in preparation, and every single time I jumped he had been a saint.

This weekend was different. It shattered any self confidence I had in my riding skills when Time threw me off over a simple cross rail in the warm up arena and bruised my back so much that it currently hurts to breathe as I’m sitting here trying to do my homework after waking up at four am every morning this weekend to get to the show grounds.

I had fallen off just the day before when my horse stopped right in front of a jump. Now, I have to admit that it was my fault that I was in two-point way too early, but that’s besides the point. Not a single scratch was on me, and I shook off the dirt from my helmet, got back on, and finished the course I was set out to do.

Photo Credit: Jerry Mohme Photography

However, that was not the case on Saturday. When I hit the ground, I was certain that if I moved even just an inch my body would shatter into pieces and I’d be sent to the hospital in an ambulance. I couldn’t get up for minutes, until I was rolled onto my back, then I stood up, and I slowly walked foot by foot back to my stall without even getting to do that course.

I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to ride the next day either, and that weeks of training would’ve gone to waste. But the next day I ended up getting back on my horse and started jumping, and though my entire body was shaking every time I thought my horse would refuse a jump, we ended up clearing both courses.

But I guess there’s both pain and pleasure in horseback riding. There’s the sense of accomplishment when you jump a new height or when your horse comes to say hi to you and nuzzles his nose into the palm of your hand when he thinks you have treats. But there’s also the hours of pain whenever you fall off or when a horse steps on your foot. There’s the moments of self-degradation whenever you see a person with better position or better clothes, and the constant thoughts that plague your mind thinking that you’ll never be as good as them.

I’m not going to lie and say that my confidence in my jumping is back, because it’s not, and I don’t think it will be anytime soon (or, at least, until all the bruises go away), but it was a learning experience to some extent.

I’m going to fall off, and probably more times than I wish, and I’ll get back up, and fall and get back up, and that’ll keep happening, but I’ll still continue riding until I no longer can.

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Pissage off

If I hear just one more person saying that “horseback riding isn’t an actual sport,” I will literally rip out their eyeballs and stuff them in their ignorant mouths. Maybe not literally, okay, but seriously, figuratively.

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I don’t think I can handle another baseball or golf squirt trying to explain to me that “the horse does all the work,” because all I do is “sit on it.” Well okay, Richard, I don’t really see you doing much exercise when you walk along next to your caddie. Have you ever tried even holding a horse, a living being that weighs like a thousand pounds and usually really isn’t in the mood for cooperation? I bet your baseball bat doesn’t step on your feet ten times a day.

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And how about the fact that riding horses literally consists of trying to control a usually gigantic flight animal that could probably kill you if it really wanted to, and to do so you literally have to use every single muscle you posses in your tired, half dead body? Then try doing that for like an hour a day, without getting 100% frustrated, or, you know, dying.

But you’re right. It’s not a sport. My bad.

I Don’t Know

With SATs only a couple days away, only one question has constantly tainted my mind.

Where do I want to go to college?

These last several months I thought I was certain that NYU was the only school for me. I would apply early decision, and then I’d wait to see whether I’d be accepted to the university of my dreams. There, I’d immerse myself into the greatest city in the world. I’d study journalism or political science on a pre-law track. I’d study in artsy coffee shops with a group of my best friends during early mornings, and I’d go to Times Square during late nights. I couldn’t imagine a better city to spend the next several years of my life.

It’s been my dream since I was a little girl.

But the more I thought about it, was that really what I wanted? Yes… Well, maybe. I thought so.

I thought I was ready to leave all my friends and family on the west coast.

I thought I was ready to leave my horses behind while I blindly chased my dreams in the biggest city in the world. I never wanted anything more in my life. My horse would be waiting for me when I came back. He’d understand. I have dreams I need to follow.

But was I ready to go from the small towns I’ve known my whole life to the crowded, noise deafening streets of NYC? I dream about it every night. I dream about never being bored; never running out of exciting ways to spend my nights, even in the most minimalistic ways.

Was I ready to move from a small, rural school with only 120 students, to a large university with over 20,000 students? Yes. I want to walk onto my campus and see a new face I’ve never seen before. I want to meet a new person with a completely different life than mine, and I want to learn from them. I want to be in a place so large I can meet a new person everyday, where I can learn a new thing about a new topic from a new person everyday. I want to be another face in the crowd, but I also want the outlet where I can become a memorable face in that same crowd I merely pass through.

But was I ready to give up everything I’ve known my whole life? The only thing I’ve known my whole life? I don’t know.

Photo Credit: bgia.bard.edu

I thought I knew. I always liked being the one in my friend group who could proudly say I had my whole future planned out, but now I don’t know. I can’t tell if I’m willing to settle for FaceTiming my friends instead of seeing them face to face. How could I possibly give up horseback riding for months at a time? The one passion that has made me excited for the end of the day. The passion I have put hours of tears, sweat, and money into in return for infinite feelings of happiness and an invaluable bond with another animal.

I thought I had the answers to all the questions I’m asking myself right now, but I realized I don’t, and there’s still so many questions that I haven’t even started comprehending yet.

What I do know is that I’m ready for college. As much as I love OVS for shaping me into the person I am today, I’m ready for a new chapter in my life. I may only be a junior, but I’m ready to go out on my own and find out my purpose in this world. Maybe I’ll find out NYU won’t be the school for me, or maybe I’ll find out that there’s no better match, but I’ll find that out sooner or later.

The Deadly Truth About Love

I’m not necessarily a person who trusts easily. It takes me a long time to open up to someone, to let them know what goes through my mind or what makes me tick, what makes me happy or sad. But somehow, I manage to put all my trust into a creature who could kill me if they truly wanted to.

I don’t consider myself a daredevil. In fact, I have irrational fears of even the smallest spiders in my room. People question how I manage to be brave enough to get on a 1500 pound horse and ride around an arena galloping over jumps with no anxiety, and honestly I don’t know. The sport is dangerous. Just last year, my roommate had broken her back falling off a horse, and I’ve been close to falling onto a boulder when my horse bucked me out of the dressage arena.

Even then, this didn’t phase me at all. I brushed off the dust, laughed it off, and got back on with no problems. My trust with my horse was still secure even though my luck could’ve been way worse.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

For the past year, since my back surgery, I was constantly warned that one wrong fall would potentially break my back and leave me hospitalized for weeks with the chance I wouldn’t be allowed to ride for a long time.

But I still took the risk, and it’s because my love for the sport was stronger than my fear of pain and injury. Every day I still ride, and every day the fact that horseback riding is considered one of the most dangerous sports in the world barely passes through my mind as I work with my horse.

But that’s the thing about anything everyone loves. Everything is deadly to us in some way and form, and that same exact thing gives some of us life. So horseback riding may be dangerous, but I feel like others can agree with me when I say a rider’s love for their horse is worth devoting their time and trust into these animals despite the threat that floats through the air every day someone steps into an arena.

The 10 Horsey Commandments

(Totally ripping off infamousdolphin)

Hello all equestrians and non-equestrians alike.

To the equestrians; these are some rules and/or commandments that I am very sure you follow already. If you do not (guilty as charged), then you should start following them.

To the non-equestrians; I’d like to, hopefully, open a little door to the world of the horse people. Some say we’re a different species. I sure have been called that before.

1. If thy horse poops in the barn isle thou shalt CLEAN IT UP
2. If thy horse is a sporadic nutball in the arena thou must LUNGE THY HORSE
3. If thou aren’t wearing tough leather boots prepare to have thy toes RIPPED OFF by thy horse
4. Cleaning thy horse’s hooves before riding is a MUST
5. If thy horse bites you BITE IT BACK
6. If thou falls off thy horse ye must GET BACK ON
7. Horses will try to buck thee off so thou must EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
8. Unless thou wants to clean thy stall twice, cleaning thy stall BEFORE LEAVING is the wise choice
9. If thou feeds another’s horse expect to be SHOWERED WITH FLIES
10. Saddle soap and saddle oil are the best smells ever

Death by Bucking Horse

There was this one horse. His name was Houdini, and he was solid, pure black. I had always wanted to ride Houdini but I was always told that my skill levels weren’t high enough, or that he was too “green.” When I got to riding Layla and a pony called Dixie my mind wandered away from Houdini.

When sophomore year came around, I had first seen Houdini during my freshman year, I saw much less of Houdini, but occasionally I would still see him around. I wasn’t sure where he went at all, but I slightly remember someone telling me that he was either out in pasture or being trained by someone else.

This year, my junior year, he’s back, and I continued to ask to ride him. For two months I got continuous no’s but with promises of “wait until we ride him for a week,” or, “once you’re able to keep your back straight.” I kinda gave up hope by the second month, really.

Winter sports started, and the current horse I was riding was needed by another rider. I remember walking into the barn and then being jumped upon by an instructor. “I have exciting news for you!” she said. For some reason I had literally no idea what she would have said. “We’re gonna put you on Houdini!”

Internally I was jumping up and down like a little girl who had finally gotten a pony for her birthday, but on the outside I just took a couple breaths and said “wwwwwoooooooowwww oh thank gods yes finally…”

Houdini was still extremely green and didn’t seem to understand how large he was. He would swing his head around and try to cuddle (I think) me but would end up knocking me into a wall or the gate. I learned how to move quickly and duck away within the first few days.

We believe that Houdini is part Friesian – Royal Friesian Horse, that is. They look like cousins of Gypsy Horses, and they’re a stunning breed. The way they walk, trot, and gallop is extremely upright and almost stiff, like every step they take is deliberate. In my mind I called them the “soldier horse” because they were so methodical with their steps.

Houdini could hardly walk in a straight line. Seriously, I’d try to keep him on the rail and he’d end up either running into it or turning away from it. He actually ran me into a jump pole once, but he’s learning, I think.

A skill that all riders must know is how to lunge a horse. The gist of it is basically to chase a horse around a little round pen while giving them instructions such as “trot” or “canter.” Houdini would trot and canter for a few circles, buck in my direction a few times, then stop completely and simply stare at me.

What I didn’t understand was what he didn’t understand. He followed my instructions perfectly, to walk, to trot, to canter, yet he would always stop a few minutes in and stand square in front of me, unmoving. Even when I tapped him with our bright, neon-orange whip he would stare at me like “what are you doing I did not sign up for this.”

Oh, and he bucks. Like, a lot. If I keep the reins a little too long at the trot he lowers his head and starts bucking. Or that’s the official term, what Houdini does is more like pronking. Usually done by antelopes, pronking is when they leap up into the air with an arched back and stiff legs.

Yeah, that’s what Houdini does. In an hour he pronks about 4 times and I have yet to fall off. There was one pronk, this one was more like a rodeo buck, where I crash-landed on the saddle and hit my knee on something hard. That was two days ago and I still have a massive yellow bruise.


(Mien gott look at that mane)

I call Houdini my Butternut Squash.

Squash because he likes to squash me against the walls of the stall.

Butter because his coat gleams like melted butter.

And nut because he’s the nuttiest horse I may ever ride.

My Princess

The first horse I rode in OVS was Urbino. He was an old horse, mainly brown, and very tall. I constantly struggled to put his bit on, as he would always lift his head up above the reach of my arms. I’m 5’2 now. I was probably 5’1 or 5’0 two years ago, so I asked to switch horses that would either work with me better or was a tad shorter.

I switched horses maybe one or two more times before settling for Layla. I believe she was at least part Gypsy, tall, sturdy, and one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. Her coat and mane was black and white while her tail was pure black. She was a massive horse, and had not been ridden a lot, so she was quite stubborn and didn’t quite like having the bit put in.

To my great dismay she would also lift her head up above arms reach, and for a while I got my taller friends to help me bit her. Being that short and weak was unbelievably frustrating.

Layla was a complete Princess, for she knew how tall and beautiful she was. The way she walked, the way she swayed when she lifted her feet up, made it seem like she was dancing down a catwalk.

Slowly she began to respect me, and after a while she seemed to understand that I was short and that I needed a little help when brushing her mane and putting her bit on. On the days where she felt good she would lower her head for me and on the days she seemed more stubborn she’d ignore me and let me struggle on my tiptoes.

She was pretty darn lazy, plodding along with her feet picked up high. A whip helped, but I had to teach her that she had to walk at a relatively quick pace and not hang her head. She learned quickly and was probably my smoothest ride ever.

I rode Layla for about a year and then moved on to different horses, but I visit her every day to brush out her mane and maybe give her a mint or a handful of grains. When I leave the barn I always look back, and she’ll always watch me leave with an inquisitive look on her face.

I always wonder what horses do all day, but maybe horses wonder what humans do all day too.