After selling my junior mount while in college, I had to get creative to find ways to keep horses in my life.
As a recent college grad with an entry-level job at a newspaper in a new city, money was tight. But that didn’t stop me from perusing horse advertisements online and constantly watching videos of my favorite riders. When the horse dry spell stretched on for too long and I began feeling desperate, I even responded to Craigslist ads looking for experienced horseback riders. Somehow, I survived. (*I am alive today to tell you that I DO NOT recommend this).
It would be several years before I could afford a horse of my own again. But those many tireless, horseless years taught me a lot about myself, the sport and about being a horseman.
Horse People Are Crazy. But usually, the good kind of crazy. A trainer friend mine told me recently that it’s all about finding people with the “type of crazy that meshes with your kind of crazy” and I couldn’t agree more. When I didn’t have a horse, I was at the mercy of others to find time in the saddle. Sometimes that came in the form of paying for a lesson, or more often, mucking stalls and helping out around the farm. But almost all of the horse people I met during this period of my life saw that I was eager and a hard worker, and they helped create opportunities for me.
You Can Never Know Enough. Because beggars can’t be choosers, I sometimes rode horses in different disciplines than I was accustomed to. I was a loyal hunter/jumper rider for all my life, until I met a dressage trainer who was looking for someone to exercise some of her nice horses. The eight months or so I spent at her farm completely changed my view of riding. She was generous with her schoolmasters, and along the way, I expanded my horizons on riding and horses as a whole. It made me better.
“I know what that feels like, to have someone looking out for me when I didn’t have the opportunities to afford the luxuries of this expensive sport. ”
It’s OK To Be A Hoarder (to an extent). As I moved from city to city for new jobs every couple of years, I hauled around one tack truck, my saddle from high school, my helmet and my tall boots. I was mostly broke and had little to nothing to my name, but praise be, I was going to ditch my aging, falling apart Toyota before I got rid of that saddle. Just seeing it leaning up against the wall in my bedroom motivated me on days I felt discouraged because I didn’t have the money to lease a horse or even maintain a regular lesson schedule. I saw the saddle, and I tried harder.
Make Time For The Gym. I’ve never been a big work out person. I loathe running. CrossFit? I’d rather die, thank you. But I was the fittest and strongest I ever was during this horseless period of my life. The time I spent at the barn and in the saddle was precious to me, and I wasn’t going to waste it or take it for granted. So I ran – a lot. I did yoga. I lifted weights. Not because I wanted to, but because I wanted to be effective when I was in the saddle, and get the most of out it.
Pay It Forward. The first horse I owned as an adult was free. She was a beautiful, jet black hanoverian mare. A woman I met and worked for at her farm for several years gifted her to me. To this day, I tear up when I think about the kindness and generosity of such an act. It made a profound impact on me and my life, and I promised to keep that horse for the rest of her life, which I did.
Now that I can afford a horse of my own and live relatively comfortably as a functioning, real adult, I try to help other horse lovers when I can. Even if that just means letting someone take a lesson on my horse when the lesson pony is lame, or giving away my used breeches instead of trying to sell them in a Facebook re-sell group. I know what that feels like, to have someone looking out for me when I didn’t have the opportunities to afford the luxuries of this expensive sport.