In most aspects of life I am an extremely goal oriented person. I am as competitive as they come, constantly striving to better myself. I want to be the best of the best, but more importantly, I need to be the best me I can be.

Yet, somehow, I own horses. And horses have the ability to make even the most type-A, hyper-planned person fail.

I’m sure all of us have shown up to the barn the day before a show to find a 3-legged pony or a stream of blood.

I’m sure all of us have scheduled a plan for show season, only to have the furnace go out or truck tires replaced.

We’ve all gotten back into riding only to start a doctoral dissertation as their salary is cut down to a quarter of what it was—wait, that might just be me…

Regardless of your experiences, we all appreciate how humbling this game is. You might finally find yourself with all the money in the world, only to be forced to spend it on the vet. Or, you might actually find your horse of a lifetime, when you don’t have a penny to your name for lessons or shows.

It is a perpetual ride on the struggle bus.

When you have the money, you don’t have the time. And when you have the time, you don’t have the money. Or worse, your horse decides that time would be best spent soaking his hoof.

Wait..You wanted to go to a lesson today? HA!

I have been there for the past few years and it’s hard to not let the frustration and jealousy consume you until you give up. It is also too easy to use money as an excuse to not set goals. I have done exactly that for the past two years. I am so scared of not achieving these goals because of the reasons stated above, that I simply don’t set them.

Then, I sit back and watch my friends set their own goals and tackle them with gumption. My friends’ goals are what I want mine to be—Run a 1*. Move up a level. Get that bronze medal. Place at championships. Qualify for that show—and I get viciously jealous. Their goals require money. Money I never seem to have.

How can I move up a level without the money it takes for consistent lessons? The money it takes to compete enough at the level below to gain the confidence and skill necessary to tackle the next? How can I prepare myself for that bronze medal when I’m currently unable to exercise my horses on a regular basis? Not only am I not in Wellington, I don’t even have an arena here in Kentucky.

How do I get my horse to jump stadium without that look? Photo © JJ Sillman

It’s easy to focus on what they have, instead of finding contentment and happiness in what you do. It’s easy to get lost in Facebook statuses of success, pictures of XC schools in sunny Florida, or videos of foot perfect jump schools in immaculate indoors. It’s easy to throw your cell phone against the wall after after checking the weather app to see if it will even be warm enough to thaw the outdoor. It’s easy to hang your head after checking your bank account to see if you even have enough money to take that lesson. It’s easy to watch your soul turn into the shade of green that dictates jealousy, before realizing that your XC color is in fact blue, and this will clash horribly.

So this year, I am changing that. You can’t change your entire life, but you can change how you look at it. I’m ignoring the things I don’t have and focusing on the amazing things I do. I am setting goals, and, I am setting goals that are plausible, even without a trust fund and expensive shows.

We look much better in blue. Photo © Kendra Penn

I want off the struggle bus. I want to stop using jealousy as an excuse, or money as a reason. I want to be the best that I can be, even if my best might be your worst. My Rolex might be your schooling show and my bronze medal might not be from the Olympics, but that’s ok, as long as I am still aware of the fact that I am smiling and that I cannot control your frown.

For one horse, this might mean finally achieving that downward transition from the trot to the walk without falling on our forehand. For another, it means cantering a cross country course without swear words and strained muscles. And for another, it could simply mean riding more and staring at less.

“Ride me more, please.”

My most important goal is to strengthen my teams. This sport is supposedly beautiful because of the individualism within it; but in actuality, it is a team sport, and the team is two members strong. So this year, I will become a better team player. I will support my mate when he is weak, and pick him up when he is down. I will cheer him up when he is low…and then pray he helps me when I need that hand as well.

If I can accomplish that, I will consider 2017 a success.

My team. Photo ©Melissa Bauer-Herzog

About the Author

Carleigh Fedorka is a Ph.D. student at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center. A Pennsylvania native, she moved to Kentucky after graduating from St. Lawrence University and has worked closely in all aspects of the thoroughbred industry. She spends her free time eventing as well as training, selling and rehoming OTTBs. Read more about her horse life at her blog, A Yankee in Paris.