What my parents didn’t know when they bought me a pony...
They didn’t know, that a life with horses would teach me a supreme level of commitment. From bandaging and hand-walking an injured horse through dark winter evenings, to an hour’s drive after a long day at work to throw an extra rug on before a storm blows in; I know that partnership, trust and rewards are built from these gruelling hours, not those in the competition ring.
They didn’t know, that a life with horses would teach me to control my emotions. I quickly learnt the impact nervousness and fear has on my mount. I know that tension + tension will only ever = tension. I’ve learnt the ability to centre myself and be the calm and steady leader that my horse deserves.
They didn’t know, that a life with horses would teach me rockstar time management skills. Horse people are the most efficient and high-performing I know. Unless you’re brilliantly focussed in all areas of your life, you have little chance of fitting in regular riding – not to mention the zillion other things involved in the upkeep of a horse.
They didn’t know, that a life with horses would teach me understanding of others. I’ve learnt to put myself in my horse’s shoes and work through why I’m not getting the reaction I want. I’ve learnt that dictatorship will never triumph, and that sometimes it takes a deeper level of thinking to see what’s really going on.
They didn’t know, that a life with horses would teach me to set my own goals. As a rider I continually strive to improve, and measure my performance not by the ribbons but by my own ambitions. In a sport where a $40k Grand Prix level warmblood can be competing against an ex-racer, it’s important to keep things in perspective and carve your own path.
They didn’t know, that a life with horses would bring me friends from all walks of life. We’re a weird bunch of people, thrown together by a shared love of horses, and through blood sweat and tears forge friendships that are more meaningful than many outside of the horse world.
They didn’t know, that a life with horses would make me gracious. I am all too aware of the fragility of horses. Any day can bring a fatal case of colic, life-threatening paddock accident or a snake bite. I appreciate the partnerships I have and, sadly, know they won’t be forever.
They didn’t know, that a life with horses would teach me to face my fears. When I feel sick with nerves before a competition, or convince myself I’ll be leaving the grounds in an ambulance, years of managing my fears get me through the ride. I know that nothing worthwhile comes from staying in my comfort zone and that only through facing these fears can I keep moving the goalposts forward.
They didn’t know, that a life with horses would make me forever happy. There’s nothing more grounding than horses. A stressful day at work, an upset with a friend, a down day… all fade to oblivion when you’re in the saddle and connected to your horse and its movements. I have no science to prove this, but bet that mental health issues are lower within the horse community.
The reasons horses have impacted my life are endless. I have no doubt that horses will continue to teach me lessons that make me a better person, and define who I am. While we may be their trainers, they are forever our teachers.