BY KIKI ROSENBLAT
From seven-year-olds rocking it in the ponies to seventeen-year-olds flying around the high juniors and everything in between, this sport is filled with passionate kids of all ages and skill sets. But what if you don’t seem to fit into those groups? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
I hope that just because you started riding at an older age, don’t have a horse, or can only ride every few weeks, that you don’t think it’s too late. You can still make your riding dreams come true. How do I know? Because I did.
I first started riding at twelve, and it took me just about two years to convince my parents to let me ride once a week. Even though I made lots of friends at my first barn, I often felt inferior due to how much more advanced they were. When I left my first barn in 2014, I could barley canter and my confidence level was very low.
Once I moved to a different barn, I improved more than I could’ve imagined. It felt like I had a barn family, and I enjoyed riding and everything else that came with it. However after circumstances changed and my trainer had to move locations, everything that I loved slowly started to fade. One of my trainers left and the pony that had been building my confidence got leased out to someone else. I started focusing on the height of the jump as the way to determine if I had a good lesson or not. I felt stuck, and after finally left when I was sixteen.
In my new (and current) program, I finally felt like I was actually learning. My trainer took the time to make sure I understood. I started riding a chestnut mare named Brandi. Her and I got along well and I had (and still do) a lot of fun riding her. She helped teach me, but challenged me enough to continue learning.
I realized I stopped focusing on the jump height, getting content for my instagram, or any other silly thing besides what I was learning in my lessons. I started to really feel myself develop as a rider and understand riding better.
Back when I was that twelve-year-old kid who begged for riding lessons, one of my dreams was to compete in a horse show. In January of 2018, I finally got my chance. I got to show Brandi in the novice and modified children’s hunters at Ledges Sporting Horses and Showgrounds. I felt slightly out of place, at age 17, showing against people (who I assumed) were way younger than me. I was beyond nervous and my nerves got to me a little more than I would’ve liked, but overall it was an incredible learning experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Even though I made lots of mistakes, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Two months later, my trainer offered me the incredible opportunity to fly down to Ocala, Florida and show at HITS Post Time Farm for the weekend. It took a few days to convince my parents, but four days before my flight was set to leave, they told me I could go. I was beyond excited, and couldn’t care less that I had to pay for half of the fees.
Arriving in Florida, I was so happy to be there and couldn’t believe this was real. I lessoned Brandi the next day, and showed from Friday to Sunday. I showed in a few different classes and placed in almost all of them in classes of 15 or more including earning 5th out of 20 in a classic. On our way back to the trailer after my last class, I was on the verge of tears because I didn’t want this weekend to end.
I was so sad to be going home and leaving this experience, but also beyond grateful. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it felt. I would’ve never dreamt that I would be showing in Florida. For as long as I could remember, I looked up to the kids who got to show in various parts of the countries at a winter circuit – and finally that kid was me.
What I want you to take away from my story is that it’s never too late. I started showing the last year of my junior career, have never had my own horse, yet I was still able to achieve my goals. So, no matter how old you are or what skill level you’re at, I beg you to never give up, because it’s not too late for you. Go and chase your dreams, don’t let anything or anyone hold you back. It’s never too late, trust me!