My Riding Journey (Inspirational)
I had always been that one little horse-crazy girl, as far back as I can remember. I loved horse stories and had at least 15 toy horses. In April of 2007, when I was six years old, I made a friend named Michelle. She loved horses, like me, but there was one difference- she took riding lessons. Michelle told me how fun it was, and I went home that very day and begged to my parents to sign me up for riding lessons. In June of 2007, as a 7th birthday present, my parents signed me up for a horse camp at a local barn, created and organized by my town's summer camp program. My first ever lesson was on a puny, good-hearted little pony named Ping, who took care of me and was perfect for beginners. It was instant love, and after that week long camp ended, I started taking riding lessons at the barn where the camp was, called Sterling.
At Sterling, it took me a while to find a horse I could ride regularly. For over a year I alternated between hot-blooded Phantom, lazy OTTB Song (who did not have a drop of racer blood left in him), snobby Kate, and sweet little Ping. Around spring of 2008 I began riding a rather large and chill guy named Riley, who I learned the extras of trotting and steering on (yes, I still hadn't cantered yet!). In fall, I had a near-accident on Riley, accidentally almost taking him over a three-foot jump. Both my trainer and I were really upset (well, I was upset, but my trainer was pretty angry), so I then switched to a squishy little pony named Izzy. I rode her happily until January of 2009, when she acquired an abscess and was put on stall rest.I then began riding Clancy, a huge TB who I learned to canter on. I adored that horse! I progressed insanely as a rider on him, and we had a lovely time until he died in September. I was brokenhearted, but continued riding and switched back to Ping. We weren't clicking like we used to, so after a few slow weeks, my trainer suggested I switch back to Izzy. I fell in love with that pony, and learned to jump on her - up to 2 feet.
Near the end of 2009, things started getting rocky. I had a friend who rode with me who also adored Izzy, so I began riding her less and less. I began alternating again between Song, Phantom, and Izzy. I was afraid to jump the first two, so I began jumping less and less, then began being afraid to. My trainer put me back on Izzy, and although I jumped her, things were still pretty tough. I had a scary/nasty first fall off her,and I had a jumping lesson where I couldn't get her over a little cross-rail. After that, with severe confidence issues and a grudge against my trainer,I switched riding facilities.
I began riding at two equestrian centers: Pine Trails and Historic Nelson. Pine Trails came first, in which I began riding a bold and kind Arab named Kiro. Although I loved Kiro and and his god nature, my progress was not only slow, it was almost nonexistent. I spent months in the round pen, learning to canter properly. After that, although I could trot and canter just fine, I was deathly afraid of jumping and even had issues over poles. I spent a lot of time crying and struggling to work with a trainer who didn't understand me. It broke my little heart.
But, at Historic Nelson, miracles began happening. I rode a blue roan quarter horse mare, Rona, whom I loved dearly. There wasn't much crying here - riding was fun and my trainer was a kind, beautiful young woman named Bristol, who I developed a fiercely close bond with. She told me it didn't matter if I couldn't jump, and that I was a talented little rider anyways. I quit Pine Trails and began riding with Bristol full-time.
At HNR, I tried riding Bristol's flashy and sensible show-jumper, Snowball, but we didn't click. I was getting tired of riding Rona, so Bristol put me on an adorable, multi-discipline trained little horse named Lad. He had a lot of fun buttons to push, and I enjoyed riding Lad for a few months. By then Bristol decided I should try jumping again, and because Lad was too complicated to jump, she put me back on Snowball. This time I tried harder to connect with Snowball, and suddenly I connected with him and we developed a close bond. I trusted that horse - and Bristol - with my life. I even jumped him! They were only eighteen inch cross-rails, but it was still a huge step for me. And when I confessed to Bristol that I had jumping issues and that things might get tough, she just smiled and said, "We'll get through it." I simply adored her, and she adored me too.
The happiness I found at HNR was short-lived. After six fantastic months, Bristol called my mom the day of my riding lesson that Snowball was for sale. She was moving to Kentucky.
I had one last happy week with Bristol until she left. And it was all gone. My horse, my trainer, all the things that made me love riding. I missed all three terribly.
A mere week later, my friend who was also a rider recommended a ranch to me called Sunfire Equestrian. I looked it up online, then had my first lesson there a few days later with Alana Henley. Alana was a breath of fresh air - positive, kind, and straightforward. I rode a pony called Lady a few times before I switched to stocky, adorable Templeton who I started jumping on again. I didn't get too far, and although I loved Temp, we weren't right. I was too frightened to jump higher than a few inches on him. Oh, and in general.
That was when I met Thistle. After a few lessons, I knew Thistle was the one. She was sometimes energetic, sometimes lazy, cute, kind, and stubborn. I loved that pony! I learned to jump again on her, and over the course of a little over a year, I began jumping courses of 2 feet and even 2'3"! It wasn't easy, though. There were still tear-filled lessons where I thought I was a failure, a bad rider, and that I could never make it. It was hard.
Although I gained quite a bit of confidence on Thistle, I was still a pretty weak rider. And after the summer of 2011, my riding took a backtrack and I was jumping Thistle over puny little cross-rails again. I was jumping her almost 2 feet when I realized I needed a change, and began riding a challenging, talented pony named Sammy. Although I had issues with him, we were jumping about 2'3" and doing alright when he had a long spot. This long spot changed my riding forever.
I fell. Twice. Four times. Six times. And then, I was done. Over. I was terrified of jumping. The very thought made me feel sick. I was convinced I would ever jump again. I began riding dressage only, and wanted to cry whenever someone mentioned jumping. I was determined to be a good rider, even if I didn't jump, but I still felt like a failure and a waste of Alana's time. Which I know now I wasn't, but at the time, that was how I felt. Sometimes, I just wanted to quit riding.
I think Sammy got tired of bending, shoulder-ins, transitions, and all the other stuff we were doing. I don't really know what happened, but he got sick of it and bucked me off. It became painfully obvious things weren't working out with Sam, so I began riding an old, wise gelding named Casanova who had been a superstar eventer in his earlier years. This pony took care of me, and in summer 2012, in the Sunfire horse camp, I jumped him.
It wasn't exactly planned, but that's what happened. I was doing a "cross country course" during the camp, essentially poles with flowers sticking out of them in the field. Every time Casanova saw a pole, he cantered like a maniac up to it and soared over it. He loved it, and so did I. The final pole had a two foot box jump next to it. At the last minute, Cas swerved to the side and jumped the flower box. All I can say was it was fun!
After the camp, I was excited to maybeeeee jump Cas. But it turned out he was lame, so my trainer put me on a 6 yr old mare named Pixie. Pixie is absolutely gorgeous- a Welsh Pony/ Quarter horse palomino cross. But I'll admit, I was terrified of her- she had almost trampled me a year ago! I decided no way was I going to jump her, ever. Not this scary, green little mare!
I am embarrassed to say I completely judged Pixie. She was the most delightful little mare I had ever ridden. Responsive, cute, affectionate, smooth, and energetic. I fell in love with her. My confidence soared. And in October of 2012, under the guidance of my new (and fantastic) instructor Tatiana, I jumped her. And I have been jumping her since- our highest is 2'6" and our best is a course of 2'3" jumps (including oxers) at the canter. I LOVE jumping this horse!
I'm not quite sure what happened. 3 months ago I was deathly afraid of jumping and felt like a failure of a rider. And now, I'm a confident, happy jumper who loves her faithful steed more than anything.
Okay, okay, I think I know what happened. Pixie happened. <3
If you're struggling, or afraid, or feel like a bad rider, don't EVER give up. As long as you work hard, sit up, look ahead, get back on, trust your horse,take risks, keep trying, trust your trainer, and trust yourself, you can NEVER fail. Horses give us the wings we need to soar... all you need to do is try to and learn how to use them. After all, isn't this why we ride in the first place? So hang on and enjoy the ride! <3 :)