Amateur Hour

What I Learned Bouncing from Barn to Barn

The day I began riding was the day I began begging my parents for a horse of my own.

With a mother who’s highly allergic to horses and just a few lessons under my belt, the odds weren’t in my favor. Still, I held on to hope that I’d get a horse of my own one day.

Throughout my years of schooling I bounced from one barn to another as trainers moved and prices skyrocketed. By the time I was halfway through high school, I had connected with plenty of lesson horses and even fallen in love with some hot-blooded ponies.

As college visits began, I crossed my fingers that I’d get my own horse, but the reality that I was going away soon set in and I decided my dream was best left on the back-burner.

My college career didn’t bring horse ownership into my life, either. But as my skills grew with each new mount I began to realize that bouncing between horses and farms may not be the disadvantage I thought.

The buttoned-up hunter/jumper farm where I took my first lesson instilled all the basics of riding in me. Keep your heels down, your eyes up, and don’t forget to sit tall. I hit the ground more times than I can count at that farm, but I got back on each and every time.

The laid-back schooling barn from my early high school years taught me how to teach myself. I got my first taste of dressage and learned that I was, in fact, capable of riding without the constant supervision of a trainer. I competed in and got eliminated from my first show all in one day.

At my next barn, I fell in love with eventing. I flexed my muscles in hacking, goofed around in wide open fields, and competed in my first event.

Through college, I competed in IHSA and mucked, fed, cleaned, and schooled to get a chance to be in the saddle. I invested time in a new farm every year, networking with barn managers and boarders to soak up the knowledge I missed as a child.

As much as my inner barn rat wanted a horse of her own, the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve come to appreciate the innumerable skills that bouncing from farm to farm has taught me.

I’ve gotten a leg up in dressage, hunters, eventing, and fox hunting that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I learned to take direction from all types of trainers, and to stand up for my equine partners when need be. I learned horse care hacks I may never have discovered, I fell in love with my fair share of chestnut mares, and I rode a Friesian I never would’ve been trusted with had it not been for my eclectic background.

Though I still haven’t given up on the little girl from my past begging for a pony, I’ve learned to appreciate the circumstances that told her no, and all that’s been gained from them.

About the Author

Karina Pepe is a recent graduate with a double major in Journalism and Spanish. She’s loved horses ever since she could remember, but found her real passion in the eventing world.

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