All For This

Beep Beep Beep. It’s 4 am and my alarm clock is blaring in my ear signaling that it’s time for me to leave my comfy bed. Now most of you are probably wondering why someone would get up at the butt crack of dawn on a Saturday, well you see the reason is simple…

It’s horse show day!!

It’s the day we work for all year, the day we prove that all of our blood, sweat and tears have been worth it, that it means something, it’s the day we get to show how hard we’ve been working, the day that shows everyone who we are at the top of our game.

While showing certainly isn’t everything, it means the world when you succeed and that’s all anyone really wants is to succeed in the show ring and out. Success is not always the ribbons you win but also how we compete, how we compose ourselves, and how we support our teammates, and treat our horses.

The show day starts, we arrive at the barn dressed in our best breeches, clean white show shirts, and polished black boots.

I walk into Darla’s stall to say hello and give her a good morning kiss and treat, she immediately comes over waiting expectantly and puts her warm nose to my chest in greeting, she knickers softly to say hello back, I give her a pat and go to get all the feed so that I can then begin getting them all cleaned up, wrapped and ready to be loaded onto the trailer.

It’s now 6 am I’ve washed 12 horses times 4 legs which makes 48 legs I’ve scrubbed and wrapped, but now we can finally begin the process of loading all of them onto the trailer. One by one we walk them up the ramp and coax them back into the stalls on the trailer, we lift and pull the hay nets looping them so that they don’t fall. When all the work is finally done our white show shirts are a bit of an off white (but that’s ok our show jackets will cover it) and we all jump down from the trailer, wave a final goodbye to our horses before we shut the door and head off to the show grounds.

Once we get to the show grounds it’s immediately go time I’m doing ten things at once putting my show coat on, tying my hair back, getting Darla’s bridle on, so that we can make it up to the ring on time. She’s all tacked up, I look her in the eye and whisper “we’ve got this” she just shoves her face into mine in response telling me to get a move on.

Darla’s hooves thudded the ground in an even beat, I sang row row row you boat to keep my mind clear and steady, all that mattered in that moment was this course and getting all the correct distances, I count down to each jump and smile each time we fly over them, the feeling never gets old going over a jump never gets any less fun and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. I guide Darla around the course, and finish with my closing circle, and it’s only then that I register the clapping around me and the smile my trainer and friends give me as I walk out of the ring while patting Darla’s neck for a job well done…

This is home because home is where the heart is and my heart is always with Darla (my horse), and my equestrian friends because of they joy they bring me everyday.

 

Lessons Learned

I was never one of those girls who was handed anything, I worked 6 days a week 8-5 over the summer so that I could have the opportunity to show and lease a horse. I was never handed the opportunities I received I always had to work for them. As cheesy and cliche as it sounds, it’s true, I worked for every show I got to compete in, every hack I got to ride, and every lesson I got to take, and to be honest I couldn’t be more grateful.

As a working student at Knightsbridge Farm, I was responsible for all the behind the scenes of what went on at the barn. The floors were swept to perfection, all 12 horses for the show the next day were bathed and ready to go, the trailer was packed, horses were fed, jumps were all moved, the barn was clean, all that was the working students. There was a group of us who worked every day together, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with, those girls were my best friends they taught me what it meant to work together, to delegateĀ and what it meant to accomplish goals.

Being an equestrian is not only about riding, and that is what people need to understand. There is so much more to riding than simply getting on the horse, there is everything that goes on after you get off the horse. You spend more time taking care of your horse than actually riding them, and that is what I learned as a working student, I learned the importance of horse care, I learned how to give back to an animal that gave everything to me.

By working for everything I ever receivedĀ in this sport has made me a better person it has made me more grateful for everything I have, I never take anything for granted because I know what it means to work for something.

I woke up at 3:30 am before horse shows to get to the barn by 4 so that I could lunge 6 horses by 5, wash legs and dirt stains on all 12 horses and wrap their legs to ship them to the show by 6:30 so that we can load them into the trailers and be on our way to the show by 7:30. Now on a normal day, I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn but I was up earlier than all my friends who would start their day around noon meanwhile I had already ridden 3 horses, washed 2 horses and swept all the aisles by then.

I loved every minute of my behind the scenes work as a working student because it taught me so much and made me a better person and I’m only one of hundreds of working students around the country making theses sacrifices to care for afford their horses so I hope you remember this next time you call equestrian a sport for the elite. Remember the girls covered in dirt, sweat, and god knows what else from their day working at the barn remember that they have worked for every opportunity they were given and that is what this sport is about, it’s about working for what you want and never giving up.