I remember the day as if it were yesterday.

It was at a barn on the side of the highway with a crooked sign reading “Trail Rides,” a barn full of bored ponies and hand-me-down western saddles. It happened right there atop a bay gelding, aptly named Slowpoke. I was bitten. I wasn’t bitten by something literal, no flying pest or maniacal canine. I was bitten by what every equestrian recognizes as the infamous horse bug.

It did not matter that he ambled along 10 strides behind the group, or that he skillfully rammed me into a dozen thorn bushes on our 30-minute ride. I was smitten. All of us have a different story, but the same outcome, an unexplainable connection.

For many of us the riding lessons begin, and with it the privilege of being a barn rat.

The years of having no care in the world other than getting on any and every shaggy pony within sight. The beginning of a lifelong obligation of perfecting a sport and cultivating an art so little understood. The dirt covered pants from being tossed to the ground on a daily basis. The courage gained when you hop back up and get right back on. Your little heart didn’t know that where there were bruised limbs and cracked helmets, there were even more life lessons learned.

©Jamie Marin

©Jamie Marin

You move to the teen years and find yourself more aware of the world around you.

Life is less carefree. You find yourself in pieces from the boy who hurt you, but you see trust in the eyes of the rescue mare who has only ever known pain before you. You have family tension that never seems to quit building, but you find a sense of peace when you bury your face in that lesson horse’s mane. You’re so shy you wonder when you will ever be seen by your peers, but you shine in the show ring.


©Jamie Marin

Then you’re an adult and you begin to wonder how to balance it all.

Between jobs and classes and family obligations. The horses have given you so much, yet you seem to be moving away from the very thing that helped shape you, helped build you. Sometimes other things must take precedence, but you’ll never forget how you got here. You see the cart horses in the city and your heart skips with delight. You smell the scent of leather boots and you have flashbacks to the hours spent prepping for a show rather than a homecoming dance. You see the horses in the pasture by the street and daydream of the days spent galloping through open fields.

©Jamie Marin

©Jamie Marin

Then, if you’re really lucky, you have a child of your own one day and when you set them on a horse for the first time, you see it…the starry eyes…the endless smile…it’s happened.

They’ve been bitten too.

Jamie MarinAbout the Author

Jaime Marin grew up riding horses after discovering her passion for them at a young age. She currently owns an OTTB named Miles and after finishing her nursing degree, she is hoping her nearly four-year hiatus from competing has ended at last!