Lately I've received questions from some of you about #AdultAmmyStrong and why I decided to launch such an endeavor.
So. . .here's my story.
I was like many horse-crazy young kids. Magazine clippings of professional riders filled my walls and a pony or horse always topped each birthday and Christmas list. One year I even sat on Santa's lap and specifically asked for the '10-year-old gray mare easily coursing 3 ft. with tight knees and smooth gaits that would always get a piece of the hack' I had seen a sales ad for at a local tack shop. I remember getting the 'yeah, sure kid,' look in return from the big man in red.
I spent many days from the time I was seven or eight cleaning stalls and water buckets, feeding and blanketing horses (many at times that were much larger than me), and being as close as I could to every farrier and vet appointment to learn as much as possible. Honestly, riding was the icing on the cake. I was the epitome of a #barnrat. I look fondly on the time I spent with the other girls at the barn and wouldn't want it any other way - sleep overs at the barn, the 'dirty breeches club' where you became a member after your first fall and many summer camps. I believe my time spent at the barn as a kid shaped me into the woman I am today. Thanks Debi!
Fast forward a few years. I finally got my own pony!! I had been working with, along with my trainer, a QHx pony for a little while and had completely fallen in love! He was all I talked about and to my surprise on my 12th birthday I found him in his stall with a ribbon tied to his halter - I'll never forget that feeling.
I worked tirelessly at the barn working with this adorable, but flighty, pony. All while still feeding, bringing in/turning out, blanketing, mucking stalls, the only difference was that I had now graduated to exercising some of the other school horses. Lots of round pen and ground work established our relationship and soon the under saddle work began to come together. He was a natural jumper and truly enjoyed his job. After moving barns a few times during my teenage years, we became quite the pony hunter pair. Winning a few classes here and there against some tough competition.
As high school went on, playing volleyball started taking up more and more of my time and I was given the ultimatum: ride horses or play volleyball. I chose volleyball because at the time I believed it was more beneficial to help me get into college than riding was.
My advice? Always follow your passion, no matter what. It may be hard at times, but in the end it'll all work out. If it hasn't worked out, it's not the end. Hindsight is 20/20.
The day came to sell my pony along with my sister's pony - who were both aged at this point in their lives - to a family who was keeping them as pasture pets with the occasional pony ride for their grandkids. It was really important to us to keep them together. It was the hardest day of my life.
I didn't ride again for ten years.
Life happened. I grew up, and the real world hit. I found myself in Augusta, Ga. living with my now fiance (who's in the Navy) working at an advertising agency. Life was good but I missed riding. I found a barn and began taking lessons again. I am SO glad I did! After my first lesson I remembered why I loved riding so much. It wasn't easy getting back into riding shape as an adult ammy. Muscles were sore, but it was fun shopping for a helmet, breeches, and all that stuff!
Shortly after I started riding again, I leased a fantastic OTTB named Follow the Leader. He taught me so much and brought back so many memories all at the same time. I took him to his first show, and he packed me around my first show in more than 10 years like he had done it 100 times before. I couldn't have asked for a better experience!
My return to riding was all I could imagine and more because of my wonderful trainer, Nicole!
Again, real life hit, and it hit hard. Life circumstances moved us from Augusta, Ga. to Jacksonville, Fla. and my search for a new barn commenced immediately. I didn't want to waste any time before getting back in the saddle. It was so hard to leave my barn family at Rock Creek Stables, but I found a new barn family at HaddenLoch.
Working a full-time job, dealing with military life and deployments (BOO, but BIG thank you to all military and their spouses for doing what you do!), planning a wedding, and buying a home all combined with wanting to ride as much as possible and show, is a lot to handle. After talks with former barnmates and more time juggling life in and out of the saddle #AdultAmmyStrong was born. I want this to be a way to connect all adult amateur riders balancing life in and out of the saddle and show ring.
I'd love to hear from you about your experiences as an adult amateur. What would you say is the hardest part about being an adult amateur? What are some ways to overcome that? What do you wish people better understood about adult amateurs?