It’s happened to most of us: we rode to our heart’s content as children, with time on our side and the bills sent straight to mom and dad—while they secretly, silently hoped you’d grow out of this “pony phase.”
For the truly horse crazy, we continued to ride through high school, watching the sunrise on the weekends at horse shows rather than house parties.
A select few of us even held equestrian careers in college, either on our own or as part of an NCAA team.
But then, graduation happens and with it, the looming prospect of a “career” in “the real world.” Suddenly, horses and riding and everything with it slides to the dusty back corner of our minds.
For a few years, we’re busy enough and poor enough to let our beloved horses remain a part of the past. I lasted seven.
Now, I’m back in the saddle, and as you might imagine, riding as an adult is very different from riding as a junior.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Getting back in shape was actually easy
Real talk: I did not set foot in a gym in high school. Riding was my only exercise and it was all I needed to retain my tall, lanky frame. That is no longer a reality. However, seven years of running, cycling, hot yoga, barre, etc. made my leg more solid and my core stronger than it was at the peak of my junior career.
2. I still think of myself as a teenager
After my first lesson, my trainer asked if I’d like to join a group lesson with “moms” or “kids.” At 27, I lie awkwardly in the abyss between the two but immediately, and perhaps too passionately, chose the junior riders. Some of their moms have asked what high school I go to, so I think I made the right decision.
3. Freedom is glorious! But comes with a price
I can’t tell you how liberating it was to walk into Dover Saddlery and know that I could buy whatever I wanted with my money. I can take lessons whenever I want and drive myself there on my schedule. I can even choose what shows I want to do!
Therein lies the danger—making decisions based on what I want to do in my heart versus what I can do with my wallet.
4. Working a full-time office job is rare in the horse world
Maybe it’s just my barn, but the other adult riders are somehow able to take afternoon lessons in the middle of the week when everyone I know is at work. If you have insight into how this works, please let me know.
5. It’s bleeping expensive!
Of course, this is not actually surprising to anyone. And yet I still had no concept of how much a one-day local show could cost. Neither did my boyfriend when he asked. PSA to partners of equestrian addicts: back away slowly while you still can.
6. I understand and appreciate my parents more
Let’s be clear, my parents are not horse people. I wasn’t the girl at the barn riding every day, or competing in every show. That being said, I did own a horse (after leasing several others) and I know that I trained and showed a good deal more than many young riders are able to. To put it simply, my mother and father just didn’t “get it.” And if you don’t love horses, it’s hard to spend six hours in the ringside bleachers beneath the blazing Texas sun.
Now that I’m funding my own riding, I see how much they did do. They supported my passion at arm’s length and, looking back, I can’t fault them on it.
7. It’s harder than before but more rewarding than ever
If you’ve come back from a long hiatus like I have, you know what I’m talking about. And if you’re still dreaming of getting back in the saddle, you’ll understand soon.
About the Author
Carolyn is a writer in San Francisco. She spends her free time riding, reading about riding, watching videos of others riding, and scheming up ways she can squeeze more riding into her life.