Since launching #AdultAmmyStrong only three short months ago, I have had the pleasure to "meet" and get to know an incredible set of equestrians through their social media posts and other online conversations. One such adult ammy is Brooke Taylor. When I called for anyone who was interested in being a guest blogger her email was one of the first I received. We discussed a few topic options and soon settled that she would share how her horse came into her life and what impact he's had.
She has been a supporter of #AdultAmmyStrong pretty much from day one and I am honored that she's shared her story with me. Thanks Brooke!
How my horse came into my life and the road that surrounds the moment…
It’s as though the entire world is paused. Your adrenaline slowly begins to pump, trying to hold back your “ear to ear” smile, shaking a little, left foot first, right foot second, and then you slowly melt. Your entire body sinks and your smile slowly breaks through. There is no relationship, and so you begin to feel every movement, finding the new rhythm. Your focus is at an all time high as you begin to lift up looking straight ahead, and that second in the air you feel a calm pause. You slowly feel yourself and your new partner come down and you sink back, holding your connection. time speeds up again and the moment is repeated, once, twice, three times. This is a feeling, a moment, and opportunity that I have become all too familiar with.
It was a stretch for us, but we managed. As I grew up and became older I said goodbye to my first horse and started to catch ride once again, unsure of where I really wanted to go with my riding. When I made the decision to compete in the Big Eq for my final year, my parents made a large sacrifice and allowed me pursue my dreams and run with my passion. They gave their all to purchase me the most incredible horse, Camelot. I ran, and ran, and ran, until one day there was a blind turn, and around it was a red light.
After retiring my Big Eq horse, finishing a working student position, and transferring to a fashion merchandising school I continued on the path that made me into a great ride. It was October 2013 and I was at New England Equitation Finals mounted on an incredible horse, Chataro. I rode my heart out that day with my dad standing by the in gate. He stood that entire day just to watch me for what would be his last time.
That winter I was suppose to return to my favorite horse show, the Winter Equestrian Festival. I was excited to be able to catch ride down there, and have the opportunity to lease Chataro for the season, but in December I chose not to return.
It was a long winter, very cold, lots of school work, I hadn’t ridden in about three months, and my anxiety was at an all time high. That's when the phone rang and 24 hours later I found myself unwillingly on a plane heading down to Wellington. Yes most people would be jumping out of their socks and I was excited, I was, but was this the time to really be going down. When I arrived I was thrilled to see everyone and that's when I met Sarge, known in the show ring as Common Sense. One of my trainers, Sandy, had imported Sarge in December from the Netherlands as a sale horse, he was only six, had a little mischievous look in his eye, and boy was he big. I will never forget the first time I sat on him, I was so excited, it was as if nothing else was on my mind. Finally I felt like I could breathe and my anxiety dwindled away. Three months of not riding and Monty put the jumps right up. What better way to try a horse then taking three months off and jumping liver pools, triple bars, bounces, ranging from 3’ to 3’6”. I always loved riding new horses most of the time they weren’t mine, so I was almost honored to be on such a gorgeous horse that could possibly be mine. I had saved up money for years to lease myself a young nice horse that could go respectably in all three rings and I finally found him. I was ready and excited to commit to the horse on my own, taking the pressure off my parents. It was all a go and the lease was set, and then I received a phone call from my dad. “Tell Sarge welcome to the family for me.” For a second I didn’t understand and then all I could do was cry. When I got home my dad and I went to the bank and together we made Sarge a member of our family. Yes we purchased him that day. “I know you will be ok, because you have Sarge.” That’s what my dad said to me as we left the bank on April 1st, 2014.
Sarge and I showed all summer long, derbies, equitation, he could truly do it all. A horse I never dreamed of owning. Since my trainers are out of New York, I spent most of my years out there riding and so that summer I did as well. We all have our routine in New York. Lessons in the morning, lunch by one, and the extra hacks if there are any left when we return. It was the beginning of July and we were seated at our typical lunch table. My phone rang so I stepped outside for a couple minutes. It was my mom. I walked back in, sat down, we all payed the bill and I hopped back into the truck with Amy and Monty. I am extremely thankful that my trainers are and have always been my family. It’s something that seems to be rare. I held myself together, and when we got back to the barn Sandy called me over, so I got into her car and I lost it. It was like the past nine months were hitting me at one time, but I wouldn’t have wanted to had anyone else by my side at that moment in time. The next day I drove home and didn’t leave my dad’s side until that early morning July 6th, 2014 just before my dad took his final breaths.
Less then a week and I was back on the road, I accomplished my goal of qualifying and competing in the $250,000.00 Platinum Performance Hunter Prix and I became stronger then I had ever been. Sarge kept me going, he turned out to be more then another horse, he was a gift.
I brought Sarge closer to home for the winter and something was just wrong, we weren’t clicking and so that summer I told myself I needed to take a step back from Sarge. It had been a long year and I never took a moment to breathe. This was a decision I made in the best interest of the horse and myself. It was also a first for me and a shocking revelation. After three months of questioning our partnership I made a decision to move him to a different barn in Massachusetts. A friend of mine rode there and as I observed her trainer at the shows I had this feeling, not one I can really explain, just a feeling I knew I had to act on. Within twenty four hours arrangements were made and Sarge and I moved. As much as I love my New York family and wanted to be with them, I knew that with being a college graduate I needed to find another family close to home. I wanted the best of both worlds, something that seemed impossible at the time. Dina rode Sarge once and off to Vermont we went to try to sell him. She told me I was going to show him when we got there. I hadn’t told her the history, nor did I feel the need too. When I got back on Sarge at that show after three months apart I reminded myself of that first day he and I clicked. I reminded myself of the months of training and lessons Sandy, Monty, Amy, and Shaine had given us. New trainer, new barn, new horse. Dina was a combination of the four of them, I saw that when she told me to be on and at the ring for a 6:30am lesson before I showed. That week I was champion in the adult eq and second in the Ariat. Sarge was taken off the market and four weeks later with Dina we were champion of the SEHA adult medal and I had the best indoor season I ever had.
Now Sarge and I are preparing to head back down to Wellington to compete for the winter with Stepping Stone Farm and from there we will head to Kentucky with Fair Harbour Farm. I can’t tell you how we managed, how we looked forward, I can’t really even explain how we have made it to today, but we have. If I can tell you anything, I can tell you that it won’t always seem OK, but you can make it through. There have always been great misconceptions of the comfortable life I have lived and truth is that it hasn’t always been, and for the parts that have, there is a reason. I have found something I truly love and with great support I have made sure that it has worked. Horses are incredible and the sport that surrounds them is it's own form of therapy. Remember everyone has their story and this is just a fraction of mine.
This winter my mom and I head to Wellington in honor of my father, we live each moment as if he were here and share our story to help others in understanding that they are never alone and that there is nothing that is impossible. When life begins to unravel and you find yourself unsure and anxious about tomorrows unknown, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and smile at even the smallest of moments and build off those. Then go to the barn and do what you love.
I dedicate this blog to the incredible trainers who have given me endless opportunities, the people who have never left my side, all the horses that have made me the rider I am today, and my parents for being everything and more.