I had a conversation with someone the other day that made me take a look back through my life. My childhood. My teenage years. My adulthood. My struggles, my fears, my triumphs, etc. I am going to go out on a limb here and be completely vulnerable to my readers for this post, even though it’s out of my comfort zone and not my normal style. I am going to put some things out there I normally wouldn’t, because I think it’s important. There’s a lot of focus on “mental health” these days, as people come to understand more how bullying affects kids and adults alike. If I can shed some light to anyone, anywhere, about how you shouldn’t care about what everyone else thinks through my story, if I can help even one person feel understood, then it will be worth it.
For as long as I can remember, horses have been a constant in my universe. When all else has gone awry, I can always count on the horses to bring me back to center. They have literally never failed me. Embarrassed me, maybe (haha) but failed? Never. There has never been a bad day that has been spent with horses. All the hard days, frustrating days, disappointing days where work or show doesn’t go as planned, have all still been wins because they were spent with horses.
I was never that kid that was like all the others, never one that was popular or well liked among all the school kids, especially the popular crowd. I was that socially awkward, shy kid that never quite fit in. In elementary school, middle school, and even high school I didn’t have all that many friends. I was bullied and made fun of. I was the target for kids looking for someone to poke fun at a lot of the time, and kids can be so incredibly cruel. Though I tried to stay quiet and fly under the radar, there’s only so much you can do to “hide” yourself in a small square classroom of 20 or less kids. “They” always found me. Don’t get me wrong, I did have (and still do) some AMAZING friends for which I am truly lucky to have, but that fact doesn’t make the other less true.
From my clothes, hair, and glasses to my weight (I’ve never been “thin” although I am not obese either), everything was fair game for mean kids in school. I won’t get into the whole “be kind” movement here, but really ya’ll, would it kill ya as adults to just be nice? To correct your kids if they’re the ones doing the bullying? To teach your kids it’s OK to be different, it’s OK to be themselves, and it’s OK to stand up for what they believe in, and do what they love? To make sure if they’re being bullied, they know they are enough-just the way they are? To make certain they are aware they are loved? To give them something to participate in (no matter what is) that makes them feel confident and useful? My parents did all of the above and I am grateful for that. I am also grateful despite their financial limitations, they found a way to give me an outlet in horses, they found a way to make it happen and keep making it happen no matter what.
I will probably never truly know the hurdles my parents jumped just so I could spend my summers at the barn, get my weekly lessons, or go to horse shows. But it’s important to note that because of that, I knew I was enough. I had great parents and because of them, I had horses. Even at an early age, I had goals for my equestrian life and motivation to focus on meeting them. I had something outside of school and away from the “mean kids” to do, a place where I fit in. I had something that gave me the confidence to tell those mean kids to shove it. I had an activity where my participation was paramount to my success with my partner (my horse). Bit also due to my parents limited financial means, I had to WORK to reach some of my goals. I cleaned stalls to get more lessons, and did other farm work to help offset show costs. And besides that, if I was working, I was learning and I couldn’t dismiss any opportunity to learn about horses.
Horses can be terrifying. Riding large and rather unpredictable animal makes you resilient, it pushes your expectations, it makes you physically tired but emotionally calm. Horses can feel your heartbeat and mirror your emotions, so you have to learn to control your emotions around them. Being an equestrian as a kid gave me an activity that instilled in me many of the qualities and skills that have propelled me though life and shaped my success as an adult: Dedication, hard work, confidence, critical thinking, organization, focus, forgiveness, compassion, and a myriad of other words you would think of when describing a successful person. Being an equestrian as an adult keeps those qualities and skills in check.
Why do I consider myself a successful person?
#1: I have never been in jail. I could have been. There was a time in my life where I had some friends who were “from the wrong side of the tracks” and I could have rode that train right into juvie. But horses took me a different direction.
#2: I am a contributing member of society. I do not expect anyone or anything to be given to me and I WORK for everything I have. Who/what (mainly) taught me that? You guessed it: Horses (along with my parents constantly reminding me that life is full of lemons, and I just needed to learn to make lemonade.) Horses are my “lemonade” complete with all the sugar in the world.
#3: I didn’t murder anyone. There was a time in my life where I possibly could have been one of those women on an episode of snapped. I was once married to a man who didn’t think I was smart enough or brave enough to call him on his crappy actions, who berated me for speaking up, who tried to make me feel guilty for doing things that made me happy, who called me crazy when I reacted to his transgressions. When I finally got the courage to leave, who was there for me, motivating me to keep going? FIZZ. He never expected anything of me (except that I produce snacks when I showed up). He counted on me to show up for him, and that’s all I really needed.
#4: I am now living the life I dreamed of as a kid. I busted my butt to get here. I fell, a lot (and still do from time to time), but every time I get back up. Another lesson I learned from horses. Drag your ass out of the dirt, dust yourself off, and KEEP GOING.
#5: I still have goals. I still work hard. I still do not expect handouts. I still get up every single day and take care of business.
#6: I couldn’t care any less about what everyone else thinks of me, or what they think of my horses. They are imperfect, as am I, and it’s OK. Expectations vs. Reality is a real thing and a lot of people seem to live in some skewed fantasy world where everything is perfect. All that matters in the end is that we do our best and try to do better every time than we did the last.
I could think of a million more reasons, but I don’t want to drone on. The real point here is, a thousand times over and continually throughout my life, horses have saved me. They have gotten me through some of the hardest, darkest days and been my light at the end of the tunnel more times than I can count. They have given me reason to get up in the morning, put on my proverbial boots and trudge through the mud of life to get to greener pastures. (Or you know, actual mud because it is currently mud season here in Kentucky-YUCK-where is summer again?)
I wanted to share this because I am 1000% certain I am not the only “horse girl/kid” that was an awkward child who didn’t fit in. I am also 1000% certain I am not the only one who despite it, grew up to be awesome. Horse people are extremely resilient, and some of the most hard working people I know who are not afraid to be unapologetically themselves. Why? Because the horses don’t care what you wear, what you look like, how expensive your clothes are, etc. As long as you show up for them, they show up for you. Your “school years” or the other kids/bullies who reside there, are not your defining factors in life and overall, they are only a small part of what your life will be. Build relationships with people who love you for who YOU are. Do not change yourself to be who they want you to be. If they can’t accept you, get on your horse and leave them in the dust.
That’s all for now… I’ll post some normal content soon, we’ve had a lot going on over here with Fizz and Duke, just working hard in the background and grinding away toward show season 2023!