April 27, 2010

How it all got started...

Unlike most of my horse friends, I did not grow up riding and showing. I was nevertheless obsessed with horses, and did learn to ride during the 6th grade. A friend of mine at the time, who's name I can no longer remember, owned a couple ponies. We bonded over our love for horses, and often spent our lunch hour in the library drawing pictures of every type of horse breed we could find in the encyclopedias.

That October for my birthday she took me out to her barn to ride. We were just a couple of lower-middle class kids, from the wrong side of the river, and as such her family didn't own any tack other than bridles. Yes, the first time I really rode a horse was bare back. We didn't take it easy either. I can still remember my elation, as I asked my pony for a canter and flew up a big green hill. Nothing I had ever done in my 11-years even compared to the feeling. The adrenaline rush was amazing, the wind blowing past my hair on my non-helmeted head was refreshing and when we rode into the woods down a trail and jumped some downed logs I was in heaven. Unfortunately for my parents, six relentless years of asking for a pony would ensue. Six years of being told no. I knew why I couldn't have a horse and I accepted it for the time being, the relentless begging being mostly in my head. After that first ride, I probably rode a couple times a year, always on a random friend's horse or on a vacation trail ride. By no means did I ever have formal training, I just had natural skill, balance, and apparently no fear. I was just plain lucky.

I graduated high school at age 17, and won a scholarship to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Although I did apply based on my desire to be a medical doctor (at the time), I was aware that there was a riding program at the school. It was not my influencing decision to attend MHC, but horses were definitely the icing on the cake. That fall I enrolled in riding to satisfy my PE requirement, and by the spring semester I was on the IHSA equestrian team. I was also wining my classes. I spent my summers in training with my coach, CJ Law, at Forest Acres in Maine. I taught camp kids to ride, and in turn got to ride twice a day one of which was a lesson. I advanced my skills quickly and developed a love of teaching at the same time. At the end of my Sophomore year, I even won the IHSA nationals in the walk-trot division (although I was schooling 2-6' fences by that point). After my win, which also happened to be the first time my parent's saw me ride, I recall my Mom mentioning to my Dad that perhaps they should have gotten me a pony! I continued winning and moving up in the IHSA ranks. By the time I graduated, I was showing in the IHSA novice flat and over fences division, placing 6th over fences my senior year at Nationals, and locally I was showing 3'3" - 3'6" over fences, and schooling up to 4'-6". Following graduation, I decided to follow my passion and tried to forget about my fancy degree. I worked for a while teaching lessons and training at the Lake Oswego Hunt Club and then did a brief stint for a trainer back in Massachusetts before moving on to manage the Greenwich Polo Club for many years.

Many years later, my day job no longer involves horses but I continue spending my spare time pursuing my love of riding, advancing my skills, and endeavoring to become the best rider I can be. A quest that I will no doubt spend the rest of my life trying to achieve!

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