BY LAUREN MAULDIN
Every year, my loving mother asks me for gift ideas for Christmas and my birthday that lands two days before (what up December babies!). Because I’m a lifelong equestrian, the request often comes in with a caveat, “Please include at least one thing that’s for you, not the horse!”
Over the years, wrapped boxes have revealed breeches, sun shirts, martingales and my favorite guilty pleasure—all kinds of different boots for my horse. I’m so lucky to have a mother who supports my hobby and doesn’t ask questions when it comes to the difference between open front and all-purpose boots. But this year, I thought about gifts on a deeper level.
In a few weeks I turn 35. There is a lot of distance now between the teenager who thought she needed French Blue Tailored Sportsmans to be a real equestrian and the woman who realizes how fortunate she is just to get out to the barn and ride after a long work day. Though I dutifully sent my mother a few gift ideas (stirrup leathers please!), I thought about the things I really want this year. They can’t be wrapped up in a box or bought with a gift card. It’s a little more complicated than that.
Please Let the Judge Be Looking Down The Next Time I Blow a Lead in a Flat Class
I’ve been riding for over twenty-five years. I know myself. I’m going to blow a lead in a flat class. I’m probably going to blow it when I need the points for a tri-color, and it’s going to make me feel really stupid when it happens. If the judge could miss the next time I do it, that’d be amazing. I know I’ll make up for it during all the times I badly chip into the first fence when they are for-sure watching my every move.
365 Days Without Colic
I have not recovered from losing my heart horse on the table for emergency colic surgery, and probably never will. Please one year without feeling my heart drop any time I watch a horse rolling or acting a little bit agitated. This request will be renewed every year that I own a horse, and then some on behalf of my friends who share the same fear.
For My Young Horse to Gray Out as Slowly as Possible
This is the first gray I’ve ever owned, and he’s beautiful. White head, dark legs, and sprinkled with snowy dapples. You know what is less beautiful? A fat, white horse that’s covered in poop stains. This is my horse’s future. Please make this future be as far off as possible.
A Good Year at the Shows for Me and My Friends
We don’t really need ribbons, although we like ribbons and will not turn them down. What I’m more concerned about are smiles all around for me and my adult amateur crew. I want to share post-show margaritas to celebrate our victories, not commiserate the hardships. Please let our ponies jump all the jumps, spook only when appropriate, and get their lead changes. It’s okay if we lose to nicer horses. It’s okay if we go off course and laugh about it later. It’s okay if (and when) we make mistakes in the pursuit of learning. But I want us to have fun through all of these moments, and overall have there be more smiles than frustrations.
To Have Opportunities to Learn From as Many Equestrians as Possible
Please fill my stocking with opportunities to clinic, lesson off the property with new faces, and enough dry months during the winter to keep up the program with my trainer at home. Sometimes hearing one sentence from a trainer can open up an entire new level of my riding, and I’m addicted to those moments when it all comes together. May I never lose that enthusiasm, and keep finding new ways to learn.
For One Pair of Bell Boots to Last All Year
I know, I know, I’m just being greedy, but my extreme affection for horse boots does not apply to bell boots. Every time I got to the barn to find my gelding’s soft, Italian rubber boots maimed or missing, I can’t help but calculate all the other ways I’d prefer to spend that $30. Realistically, I hope for one pair of bell boots per fiscal quarter, but a gal can dream during the holidays!
A Supportive Significant Other
No, I don’t want him to ride. No, I don’t want him to pay for it (although let’s be real, I would not turn down a tycoon who just insisted that we should go shop in Europe…). But someone who gets the passion behind this sport, even if they have no idea why I’m so hung up on lead changes. Someone who is willing to occasionally show up at a hot horse show for a six hour window to watch me ride for three minutes at an undetermined time. Someone who wants to feed my horse a few treats, pat it on the shoulder and is willing to occasionally take some video. While I realize it is more realistic for me to ask for a sound, 10 moving, 10 jumping, auto-change amateur-friendly hunter on a $10,000 budget… I still have to ask.
Above All, to Keep Riding
May I always remember what a privilege this sport and horse ownership is. That going on a journey with a horse is a gift, even on days when things are not lining up exactly how I want. May my body, bad knees and all, stay healthy enough to keep riding through fistfuls of ibuprofen and sore muscles. I will always feel a little poor in this sport, with the fancy (expensive) tack and amazing (expensive) horses to drool over, but any amount of money that affords me the opportunity to take lessons and care for a horse to the best of my ability is enough money.
If I can keep riding for another twenty-five years, and I certainly plan to, that will be gift enough.
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
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