Theo and I in our prime.

Theo and I in our prime.

This week I was reminded once again just how small the horse world really is sometimes. While Jen and Luc rocked another two-day clinic with Melissandre Lincourt, I unexpectedly ran into an old riding comrade. She was riding in the clinic aboard her lovely mare, which she purchased several years ago.

Like me, she had also taken a brief break from the world of horses while she finished her education, but her hiatus was nowhere near as long as mine. She is already back showing with plans to move up next season. Watching her ride, it looks like she’s the same great rider she was when we were juniors. And I am completely jealous.

I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t taken such an extended break from the sport. Would I have been back on the show circuit, kicking butt and taking names the way I used to? Probably not. While my former horse Theo was saintly by the end of our time together (he did not start out that way), he lacked the talent to take me to the top.

Selling him was both the easiest and the hardest decision I ever had to make, and something I question on a very regular basis – now more than ever. The thing is, I know without a doubt selling him was the best thing for him. But I’m not so sure it was the best thing for me.

I knew I wouldn’t have the time to devote to him while I was in school, and he was one of those horses who loved spending time with his person. As heartbreaking as it was, I knew selling him to someone who could give him the care and attention he deserved was for the best. He went on to teach a young rider the ropes, and when she advanced beyond where he could take her, he taught her dad how to ride. He was then retired out to pasture where he was allowed to be fat and happy.

If I had kept him, I know I would never have quit riding for so long, and he would have been the perfect horse (sorry Luc!) for giving me my confidence back. And because I never would have stopped riding, I would have continued to make horses a priority in my life, something I haven’t done since I sold him.

It’s amazing how hard it is to get back to a life where horses always come first. As an adult my responsibilities are far greater than they were when I used to ride. Bills, work, family – so many things to pull you away from your passion. It’s hard to put all of them aside and devote everything to horses again. It’s especially hard on the pocketbook, which is why I’m not taking lessons, don’t have a horse of my own, and limit myself to only the absolute necessities for riding (purple half chaps are a necessity right?).

I have huge respect for those who can have horses and still find time and money for everything else. I one day hope to join your ranks again. In the meantime I have to thank my parents for supporting me all those years when I was riding. And I also have to say thank you to all of those special horses in my life – past and present – who taught me invaluable lessons and carved out a place in my heart.

Reflecting on my past, and speculating about the rider I could have been, has honestly been a little painful. But it’s spurred me on to focus harder on the rider I am today. Good or bad, right or wrong, I am the rider I am. I don’t need to compare my riding, my choices, or my life to anyone else’s. I only need to work on being the best I can be in this moment. The rest will take care of itself.