I have always liked running. I ran in college for exercise, but never raced. I had a knee that would hurt when I ran often. Doctors told me that I just wasn’t built for running, so I never considered racing, but that is a story for another day….
I did my first race in October of 2014, just for fun and because my best friend from college suggested I give it a try. I thought maybe I could still get through it with my bum knees. Plus it was the Nike Women’s Half & I really wanted the Tiffany finisher’s necklace.
However, at that time, showing my horse was my main focus. You can call it a hobby – but it is more like a lifestyle. My horse lived with a trainer 2 hours away. She would ride him during the week, and every weekend I would ride and practice. I showed all over the country. Every January there was a week long show in Arizona, March was Las Vegas, in May each weekend was spent showing in Southern California, June was Oregon, July & August a sprinkling of smaller shows closer to home, September was Arizona again. This all culminated to two huge horse shows in the end of the year. The Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, and the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show in Oklahoma City. I never took a vacation from work that wasn’t for a horseshow. It was all I did.
This is the part where people always ask, where you a rodeo queen? No. Did you jump? No. Soooo….what did I do? I competed in several classes – both English and Western – all with the same horse. That is called doing “the all around.” Once you had entered a class, a pattern of maneuvers to do with the horse is set and handed out to the competitors. Everyone goes in and executes the pattern. You are judged on the way your present yourself and your horse, the way you deliver commands, and the way your horse receives them.
I would compete in all these events and work to win enough points to go to the World Championship Show – the Boston Marathon of the horse world.
Left: Hunt Seat Equitation (english class), top: Showmanship, bottom: Horsemanship (western class). If you are really interested in seeing more of what this looks like, there are videos on my YouTube channel here.
I loved showing my horse. I started riding when I was 3 or 4 years old and never wanted to stop. I can remember hearing about other girls my age (mid-late 20s) selling their horses and thinking that was insane. I would never do that. My horse was a big, bay roan (that is the color of the horse) named Jack. He was my dream horse. Better than an amazing partner in the show ring, he was my pet. Like a big dog. The day I got him when he was 4 and I was 23, I felt like I had arrived. He was everything I’d ever hoped for in a horse.
Life is a funny thing though – as I got older (I’m 27 now), the enormity of the financial & time commitment was more clear. Having a horse as a pet is expensive enough, but having a horse that is also an athlete, a competitor – that is a whole other story. You think running shoes get pricey? Try horse shoes – and there are FOUR legs, not just two!
On the jumbo-torn in OKC at the World Championship Show
The other piece of this was balance time at horse shows with time off work. As I haven’t won a lotto or powerball, I need to work for my paycheck haha! That said, when you are pouring a huge amount of time and resources into a horse that is a well oiled machine, you should take the time and go show! That left me feeling guilty at horseshows when I was not working, and guilty at work when I was not horseshowing. My parents also helped me to pay for my horse showing passion. I felt it was not fair to ask them to continue to do that when I really couldn’t be fully committed. This was not something my parents ever brought up – but I am (sort of) an adult, and understood the sacrifices they made to let me follow my dreams.
I am often teased that I do nothing halfway – and I fully admit to being guilty.
I began to consider moving away from the horse show lifestyle. I had really loved running that race. With some Googling – I found more and more half marathons just in my neighborhood. Running & racing was something I could see myself doing for years. Maybe, just maybe, my love for that could help me back away from horseshowing. Maybe I could also travel – there were places I had been wanting to see (Thailand, Bali, Greece, you name it). Maybe I could do a lot of things if I wasn’t horseshowing – and maybe that was okay. That still didn’t answer how to say good bye to beloved pet and pass the baton on to someone else to show him.
As showing the horses had always been a family affair, I talked about it a lot with my mom and dad. They really helped me in playing devil’s advocate and put no pressure on me to make a decision I would regret later. As a family, we decided that it was time to make the call sell Jack, but it would only be for the perfect situation. I talked to my horse trainer about my thoughts. She understood and told me a girl who I showed with might be a good fit for Jack. That way, he would stay in the home he knew, with the people he knew, and I could know he would be well cared for and loved immensely. I said yes, and we set up the deal.
Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it was also the right thing to do. Jack will always have my heart, and a special place in my life. I may still go back to showing horses one day.
Like many people, around the end of the new year, I did that “best nine” thing on Instagram. You put in your username and it calculated your nine more liked images from 2015. Mine were almost all of my horse. Initially, it made my stomach drop and made me sad. But then it made me think of all the good memories, and how I still have those, and always will.
On a final note – when I ran the CIM this past December, it was my first marathon. I also had hopes of qualifying for the Boston marathon. You see a trend here, yes? Qualifying for the World Championship Show, qualifying for Boston – like I said – nothing halfway. Even though I knew it would be hard to qualify for Boston, my training times indicated I could do it – I knew it would make me feel so validated in my decision to sell Jack and move away from showing horses. I’m not saying in any way I regret my decision – more I am saying it made qualifying for Boston that much sweeter.
Horses have taught me so much. I do not think I would have half the drive and determination I do without the years of horse back riding lessons. Nothing will teach you patience and finesse quite like a 1500 lb animal. In running, making a training plan and executing that is a very large part of what success you will have. The early mornings, sacrifices to achieve your goal, and delicate balancing act of life & hobby is all something that I learned first through horses.