2003 – 2004
For me this was the year that started everything. Before this I had ridden horses, but this was the first year I was able to take formal lessons. My best friend, Lauren, was the one who came up with the idea to start taking lessons. A couple years before this I had gone to a birthday party for my cousin, Taylor, at a local farm. I was so in love with the place that I still had the brochure. The Red Barn Pony Park. I spent most of the next two years here. I learned the basics of riding and made lifelong friendships.
While I rode at this barn I went to my first horse show, where I competed in the walk/trot division. It was the best time of my life, until my horse fell and I broke my collar bone. This was a couple months after breaking my arm from getting bucked off. At this point my parents thought it would be best to find a barn that was a little closer to home. My mom had heard of a lady starting a new equestrian center in our town, which leads us to…
After taking so many falls at my last barn, my confidence was seriously shaken. I was terrified to canter. This new barn came as a breathe of fresh air. All the horses were super laid back, and so was the trainer. While I was there, the trainer even loaned me one of her ponies, Domino. He lived with me, at my house, for a while. I rode with her for about a year, and even did two horse shows. Where I competed in…walk/trot. As much as I enjoyed the short drive and the horses, I knew it was time to move on. I just wasn’t improving. At all. This barn was good for my confidence, and I didn’t fall off once while I was there. Now that I had my confidence back, I needed someone who would push me and teach me how to jump. It was time for riding boot camp!
I wanted to get serious about my riding, so we branched out and looked for a barn a little farther from home. I didn’t have my own horse, so my choices were limited. While my dad and I were at The Tack Room in Camden, SC, a lady that worked there told me about a lesson barn right there in Camden. We called the lady up and scheduled a lesson. This was the real turning point in my riding. I was finally at a hunter barn, a REALLY nice farm! I’m not gonna lie, the instructor was so intimidating, she was loud and she demanded perfection. At this point in my life I had only ever gone over cross rails, but in my first lesson she had me jumping verticals and flower boxes. I was so proud of myself. She was everything I needed!
While I was at this barn, we did a LOT of showing. We rode in a local Camden schooling circuit, we did one show per month. At this time, that was a lot for me but I was loving every minute of it. I did my first show in walk/trot, since it was my first hunter/jumper show. After that I moved on to cross rails and short stirrup. For the most part I rode and leased a big, beautiful Appaloosa, named Diesel. We were so connected and I loved him. One day we had a particularly awful ride, I fell off, he didn’t want to jump, it was bad. The trainer had another rider get on him and jump him over some of the bigger jumps and he looked amazing! Afterwards, I cooled him out and felt terrible about myself. The next morning my mom got a call. My trainer told her that late that night Diesel colicked. The vet tried to do surgery but he didn’t make it. I was devastated. I couldn’t go to the barn, but at one point my mom and trainer forced me to go back out.
I started riding a new horse named Apollo, a white albino Quarter Horse. I hated riding him. I know every horse teaches you something, but at that point I really couldn’t stand riding him. We did a few shows together, just walk/trot/canter, but they were all disasters. I couldn’t control him at shows like I could at the barn, and I was pretty convinced he was mental. While I was at this barn I rode lots of different horses, even while leasing Diesel, sometimes riding five different horses a day. One horse in particular bucked me off several times in one day and I ended up pinching a nerve in my back. At this point everything was starting to get to me; the long drive, my back, Apollo, Diesel, the show schedule, not really having anything to show. I needed to relax.
This was my year of relaxation, or so I thought. We found a barn that was half the distance as the one in Camden. I decided to try it out. It was a sale barn, and the owner gave lessons to a few kids. I loved the ponies and the trainer seemed pretty chill so I decided to move forward with it. The barn was very small, it was in the owner’s yard, in a neighborhood. I didn’t really take lessons here. I would show up and school the sale ponies everyday. Usually several ponies a day. I got into really great riding shape during this year, and it was so nice to not have so much pressure on me all the time.
I took one of the ponies to a schooling show, it was her first year under saddle and her first show ever. After that I just went back to schooling ponies. Towards the end of the year the trainer asked me if I wanted to show his horse at Tyron in NC. I accepted, of course! The show turned into the biggest nightmare I had ever experienced and I realized this trainer was not the right fit for me. It was bad. I left and never looked back.
At this point it was still 2007, and I found a barn in the same town I had previously been riding in, so it was a short drive. This barn became my home, and the people became my family. I can’t express how much this place changed my life. This is the point when I started to feel like a real hunter rider. There are so many stories and ponies to talk about, but I’ve already written this story. If you want to read about my experiences during this time and the pony who inspired me to start blogging, check out my original blog here.
During this time I finished college, started working a full time job, rode whenever I could, enlisted in the Air Force, and got married. I started this blog to write about my transition from the real world, back into the horse world. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about me, please follow my blog to see how the story continues. Thanks for reading!