Like many equestrians, I’ve been surrounded by horses my entire life. I was raised in a horse family- both my mother and grandmother being horse lovers. That being said, it’s hard for me to pinpoint when exactly I started riding when people ask how long I’ve been involved in the sport. It seems like I’ve always known how to ride a horse, that I’ve been riding since I could walk.
I started taking real lessons, not just back yard riding, when I was about 10 years old. Right away, I fell in love. I had no idea there was so much more to riding than what I had been doing in my grandparents back yard! This is also the same time I found my love for dressage. I took lessons for a few years, and would compete in an occasional schooling show on various lesson ponies. On my 13th birthday, I received the best surprise ever- my very own cream colored pony, straight out of The Sound of Music song. Pippen was my first horse, a stubborn yet sweet haflinger pony. I loved Pippen more than anything else in the world. He taught me so much, and gave me the confidence I needed to become a better rider. We competed a little bit together, mostly in intro level tests because his little legs and chunky little body could only be so dressage-y. Regardless, I loved that horse. He especially became my saving grace after a life altering event that caused me to have my right arm amputated.
One of the few things I remember from my time in the emergency room is trying to keep myself positive by saying “Guess I’ll have to switch to western pleasure now” and my surgeon who we found out later is a fellow dressage rider telling back, “Over my dead body will you do western!”. Sure enough, after a week of recovery in the ICU, the first thing I did after my hospital release was visit Pippen. I wasn’t cleared to ride for a while, since my risk of infection was so high because of my large wound. That didn’t stop me though. My mom would cover my bandaged nub with a plastic bag, then lead me around the pasture on Pippen. Once I was able to start riding again, I was faced with challenges I never thought I’d face. Learning how to ride with one arm? Hard. Tacking my own horse? Impossible at the time! Pippen was an angel for then, once again giving me the confidence I needed to ride again. However, once I got the hang of it, we realized that I needed a horse that was more fine tuned than Pippen, and one who would respond better to lighter aids. Enters Charlie, my heart horse. I remember the day I met Charlie, and the second I gave him his first of many face scratches. I knew from the get go that he was the horse for me, but it took the people around me a little longer to come around. After all, Charlie was a paint and a hunter! Not necessarily the warmblood most have in mind when dressage horse shopping. Regardless, he was the one. And to this day, I know I made the right decision. Charlie retaught me mostly everything I know, working together from intro level tests all the way to the Para grade 5 intro tests, which have 1st and 2nd level movements. What I love most about Charlie is that we can have serious rides where we really focus, then the next day go out and ride bareback around the field and he is the exact same horse. Even though he may not be a fancy warmblood, he’s really the best parter. To me, he seems like even more than a team mate, he’s a friend! And he gave me the confidence to further myself as a para equestrian. Overall, even though my riding journey has had its fare share of ups and downs, I wouldn’t change my experiences (the good and bad!) for the world. My journey made me the equestrian I am today.