My parents signed me up for multiple sports growing up to try and find my niche. Since my older sister had already been down this road and fell in love with competitive swimming, my parents tried this first. I swam for 10 years on our neighborhood team and was known to be great at the breaststroke. Although I was dragged to swim meet after swim meet up through high school, I loathed it all. Knowing that I did not enjoy it, I was also signed up for tumbling, gymnastics, diving and karate just to see if I would find a sport I enjoyed.
Besides swimming, none of them lasted very long.
The only thing that stuck for me was horseback riding. I’d get dropped off for my western riding lessons and end up staying at the barn for the entire day mucking stalls and grooming horses just for the heck of it. The barn owner would even let us horse junkies trail ride as a thank you for our volunteered work.
However, it was not until more recently that I really discovered the sport of equestrianism. Yes I did ride in lessons for years as a kid, but these lessons were very simple. We learned to keep our balance at a walk, trot and canter. We learned to steer, use our aids, and the basics of barrels and poles but that was the gist of it. My childhood riding barn did not go far past introductory riding, so thereafter I simply leased different horses and rode on my own. About 5 years ago I finally dove into something more.
My husband (an active duty soldier) and I were stationed in Germany for about 3 years. I fretted a lot about finding a place to ride in a new country where I did not speak the language. Luckily one of our neighbors was also a rider, much more experienced in international living. She had already looked into and found a place to take dressage lessons with a German instructor. I had not officially taken riding lessons in years, and had never seriously ridden in an english saddle in my life, but knew I couldn’t go very long without riding at all. Therefore, I made the decision that learning a new discipline could be fun! I can honestly say now that I am hooked even more into the world of horses and riding than ever before.
The technicalities of riding amazed me, and riding different disciplines helped me to understand the art of riding on a deeper level. It made me realize how little I actually knew as a rider and made me hungry for more. I have since continued to lesson in dressage and have more recently taken on jumping. Through dressage I have learned how important the subtle movements of my entire body are in communicating with the horse. Through jumping I discovered the team spirit between horse and rider to master our strides. I’ve learned that like any sport, I have to condition myself outside of riding to keep my body in top condition. I take the constructive criticism of my coaches seriously, as well as the praise of fellow riders.
I chose equestrian sport because I love the feeling of having a 1,000 plus lb teammate. I love how we can communicate without words and do something great together. I love how proud I feel when my four-legged partner and I make progress together. I love the bond that horse and rider develop over time. I love the challenge of creating that new bond with a new horse. I love how even if we fail, I still feel good about our ride because we learned something together.
I could go on.
The 2016 Olympics started the Two Hearts campaign to communicate about the unique bond between horse and rider. I have felt this bond since beginning my equestrian journey as kid, but it was not until I took on lessons as an adult that I truly felt the horses and I were a team. I’ve ridden very confident horses that would carry me even when I failed as a rider. I’ve ridden horses who were still learning that needed my guidance. It is an amazing feeling, no matter which discipline, to feel you have accomplished something together with an animal you’ve essentially made up a language with. That is why I chose and am addicted to equestrian sport. That is why I ride!