Being Your Own Voice: Pushing Through Your Riding Doubts

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

BY SOPHIA STRAIN

I never really appreciated the taste of dirt. It wasn’t until I came tumbling down, face first, into the ground off a 17 hand horse—quite literally eating the sooty, chalky soil below me—that it dawned on me that it may not be as easy as it seems to “just get back on.”

People have such high expectations of me; in school, in life, and in sports. For the past 12 years, I’ve participated in the one activity that many don’t take seriously since they don’t understand it. Riding horses may not sound like a legitimate sport, so most people don’t think of it as one. Throughout the entirety of my childhood that I’ve been riding, one of the most common remarks I get is, “how hard can it really be?”

Up until last summer, everyone’s criticisms and condemnations consumed my every thought. They made me question everything I wanted in life. I was prepared to go the safe route—keep riding a hidden hobby and try to find a job or sport that people understood—so others would finally respect me. Yet, one day last June, I got that life-changing mouth of dirt.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

As I came shooting off my horse, my body flew through the air and collided with a solid wooden fence. The pain, along with these corrupt thoughts, took over my mind. My friends were supposed to encourage me to follow my heart. But instead, they were disappointed. They said that I was wasting my knowledge on something with no payoff or future.

No matter how much I tried to prove that riding was something I wanted to take seriously, to them I was only a child with dreams too big to achieve. After my fall, I began to wonder if they were right. I came back from it unconfident and scared. I thought I was a joke for trying to make my dream a reality. I thought that riding shouldn’t be this hard and no matter how hard I worked, I wouldn’t get anywhere.

When you’re surrounded by people who doubt you, your ability or, more specifically, what you love, it takes an emotional toll. The change finally came when I got back in the saddle and got over my apprehensions. When I finally had that perfect ride, months later, the pain from my broken ribs, concussion, and nerve damage in my leg all seemed worth it. My trainer expressed how incredibly proud she was of me. She said I deserved to feel that way all the time. All the hardships made me realize that if I commit to something, even through failure, there will be those small victories that make it all worth it in the end. It took a hard fall to the ground for me to realize that.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

The fact is that this sport is completely unpredictable, but that only makes me want to do it more. I love how everything I do is my decision. I am the reason that I am where I am today.

Riding isn’t easy. It’s made me feel both on top of the world and the lowest I’ve ever felt. At this point in my life, I’m beginning to realize that if I’m going to be truly happy with myself, I can’t focus on living up to the expectations of others. I want to feel the way I felt during that perfect ride every single day—even if I get a mouthful of dirt sometimes.

I want the feeling of passion, dedication, and commitment to be what drives everything I do in life, both inside and outside of the ring. The only approval I’ll ever need is my own. Because only I can determine my future success.


Sophia Strain is an 18-year-old college student with an extreme passion for writing, horses, and photography. She is currently enrolled at Centenary University to major in equine communications and writing and minor in marketing. She is very passionate about writing, and hopes she can inspire or touch people with her work.