Almost every little girl wants a pony at some point in her life and, well, I am obviously no exception to that stereotype. I was practically born into cowgirl boots and a worn black cowboy hat with a rattlesnake band. But, I was not so lucky to have had my first steps be made by a horse rather than myself. Luckily, this didn’t stop me from making horses my whole world today.
So, no, I was not a little girl that got to do pony classes or sport braids and bows. Instead, I had been so lucky as to be a child actor working in Hollywood, all while doing country themed pageants and living vicariously through my family’s stories of trail rides, barrel races, rodeos, race horses, and grand prix jumpers. I screamed “PONY” every time I saw a horse in the car on the way to auditions. Slept in my little pony pajamas on set. And I silently prayed for a movie where I could ride a horse and then take him home with me. Then, when I was seven, I was able to finally get my leg over the side of my dream.
I threw up in the parking lot, but I was there and I couldn’t have been more excited. The trees were swaying, the air was crisp, and there was a magical grey horse named Happy waiting for me. One nose boop and a kiss on the face was all it took for me to realize I had met what would fulfill all of my wildest dreams. However, I was a very confident child and knew what I wanted. After my first jump lesson, I decided I was going to do what my mom nearly did when she was a kid, go to the olympics. Plus, I was dying to make my grandpa, Jay, proud and have stories to tell him in exchange for his. So, naturally, all I could talk about (and demand) was a horse of my own.
Unfortunately, I became so busy working, it wasn’t until I was eleven that I found myself on the back of another flea bitten unicorn and utterly obsessed, again. This time, it was a bad fall and my personal inability to only ride lesson ponies that took horses from me, again.
My family couldn’t afford to get me a horse, and I was far too weak and little for them to even consider just allowing me to do lessons. Every time I got on a horse, I would push myself harder than any other kid, to a fault, getting myself hurt. Out of the saddle, I pushed excessively, demanding financial fulfillment from my parents to get me a horse. Then, the economy crashed; my world changed.
It wasn’t for the worse, though. I didn’t totally understand what was going on, but I remember one day, my mom asked if I wanted to go to school or keep the family house. I chose my little private school; I would choose it a thousand times over again. Having little for a while did more good than bad for my perspective on what my priorities were, and still are. During this season, I learned the value of hard work from my parents and making my own reality through seeing how tough working for someone else is.
I had really started to hate acting around the year that I stopped riding (the second time around), the same year we lost our house. But, when I turned eighteen, I became thankful that I had pressed on with it. As a new adult, strong from high school sports, working and going to school full time, I found the courage to tell my parents that I was going to start riding again and that I had my own money to do it. They told me what they had instilled in me at age eleven, “If you want it, work for it.”
I did and never looked back. To begin my online journey, I became Frugal Filly, sharing the deals I found in order to afford my equestrian passion. Later, I started my blog with fellow Instagramer, Lily Rhodes. This was my outlet to collect free goodies to blog about. I would send countless emails a day for a chance to receive the best stuff for myself and my lease horse at the time, Aiden, in exchange for comprehensive reviews. It was a really encouraging time that gave me my own voice for once. After I nearly ran out of money from leasing and showing, plus Jay falling ill, I quit school for a year and a half. I started working and riding so we had time to share more stories with each other. Now, I think about how he loved my articles and seeing pictures of all the cute horses I was working with. And I hold on tightly to soaking up his stories about his wild cowboy days. Man, I wanted stories just like those with my horses.
After Jay passed away, I found myself nineteen, crumpled, and in the dark. I even stopped riding for a while as I rode the waves of depression and grief. But then, I found Autumn, who reignited my passion for horses and got me chasing after making stories for Jay again. I started Tailored Mane and began to fight for what I wanted. Somehow, I ended up training on GP jumper horses and teaching myself how to work with a deadly baby horse, regardless of what people thought. Nothing deterred me. I was told I was “too stout” to be a hunter, dressage, or EQ rider. “Too inexperienced” to ride horses at fancy barns. Autumn was a “waste of time and money”. My dreams were “too big for my background and family.” But I didn’t care.
I rode every horse I could get my leg over. It didn’t matter if they bucked or reared or bolted. Bloodlines wouldn’t teach me how to ride. I worked day in and day out to help Autumn along. I didn’t care what people said about her or how many times she tried to kill me. I was the last person to give up on her; she is a diamond in the rough. I traded social media work for lessons and blog posts for product. I was not phased if someone said I was too poor or too short or too green to do anything with horses. This was my life. Nothing was going to change my heart for my rescue filly or my work ethic to give her anything and everything she needed, including a skilled owner. And this continues today, age twenty-two and an owner of a 501c3 nonprofit, mama to three previously at risk horses.
I went from pony packers and cross rails to restarting client horses and rehabilitating forgotten animals—I am even able to say no other person has handled, let alone trained Autumn. She will be the complete product of my care. I became a successful blogger despite not having that perfect “equitation body” or funding from anyone other than myself. I have been stepped on, rode out too many broncs, pushed too hard, been a private barn manager, tried many disciplines, and have had countless sleepless nights pulling myself along the tiring journey. Yet, I wouldn’t trade a single second of it. I wouldn’t have the heart for horses had I started as a demanding child. I wouldn’t have had the ability and skill had I not desperately jumped at everything as a frugal adult amateur. And I would not have appreciated the stories I grew up with nearly this much had the sanctuary not become my lifeline and the stories my goals.
People will always tell me I am too ambitious, too passionate, too different. But at the end of the day, that just means I am too much my mom, too much my grandpa, too much a horseman, too much me. My journey isn’t the regular life long rider’s. I was the kid in high school that would happy cry when I got to trail ride with my friends and would hide bruises from falling off when I did something irresponsible. I will always be the huntseat rider that wears cowgirl boots and Levis outside the show ring—and I still don’t care when I get back there. For now, my journey is a trail ride at full gallop ahead to my dreams, aiding high risk horses and teaching people about how special the horses we love are.