|Giant Dover jump in front of the Chantilly, VA store|
I started riding when I was 11, at the beginning of middle school. That's a difficult time for anyone, and I was a very shy, awkward kid. But riding became especially important to me during my parents' divorce at around age 13. Their relationship was never good so I had always sensed they would get divorced, so in some ways it was a relief, but even after the divorce into my high school years, there was a lot of enmity between my parents and situations where I'd get caught in the middle as the older sibling.
When things were really bad I would count down the days until my weekly lesson and that would always make me feel better. It was the perfect combination of quiet comfort and challenging myself to improve. It was something constructive I could focus my energy on, rather than getting in my own head. And of course a good canter or jumping round can cure a lot of emotional ills...as can just spending time quietly grooming or enjoying the smell of the tack room. I grew to enjoy doing things slowly, correctly and fairly.
So my love of horses grew out of how intense my need for an escape was then, but it has blossomed into an area of my life where I feel accomplished and proud of myself, but still like I have a lot of room to keep improving. I really can't overemphasize how lucky I feel to have been around horses for half my life, and to have such a wonderful, talented horse right now that is (sort of) mine. It's an area of my life where I feel like I know what I'm doing, or at least I know where to look when I don't. It's really comforting to have something so comfortingly predictable when you are 23, and plopped into the "real world" of work, money and relationships without a roadmap.
Anyway, that was just an avalanche of cliches and sappiness...but I'm sure many of you feel the same way.