What I Learned from a Year Without Horses

Photo © Lauren Mauldin


For as many years as I can remember, horses have always been a huge part of my life. I began learning to ride basically when I learned how to walk. And I continued to learn every day after that—until I convinced myself that maybe I was missing out on something else. 

Throughout high school, my entire life was dedicated to horses. I was lucky enough to have a trainer that allowed me to be a working student and I was willing to do anything I could to make the most out of every experience. My trainer gave me the chance to chase after dreams I had since I was gifted my first pony. Because of how much I loved living out my dreams and getting to accomplish my goals, riding was my number one—if not only—priority. 

I said no to hanging out with friends after school to lesson. I missed numerous school dances and parties for night checks and early morning alarms. I was absent for so many classes, leaving me with constant school work to do. I even tried to miss walking at my graduation because the date overlapped with one of my favorite horse shows. 

There was never a thought in my mind that I was making the wrong decision. Yet when I entered my first year of college, I was bombarded with the idea that maybe I was missing out. Missing out on friendships, a “normal” social life, parties, football games, traveling, jobs, relationships… you name it. So for the first time in my life, I no longer made horses my number one priority. 

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

At first I blamed no longer coming out to ride on my hard class load. Then my new job. From there it was parties, friends, and relationships. Eventually, I was so caught up in the whirlwind of my new life that I didn’t have to make up excuses because no one even expected me to come ride anymore. 

On the days that I thought about getting back into riding, I made up new excuses as to why I couldn’t. I told myself that growing up meant I needed to have new priorities in life. I degraded myself, and said that I couldn’t ever be as good of a rider as I was before I stopped because it would be too hard to get my strength back after time away. I lied to myself, and said that I wasn’t good enough to fund my passion as a college student and newly found amateur. Worst of all, I fooled myself into believing all of these excuses.

I got lost in the idea of finding who I was without horses, and learned a lot of valuable lessons in the process. But the truth is, I am exactly who I am today because of the lessons I learned in and out of the saddle. I am the best version of myself with horses in my life. 

Without horses, I let myself get wrapped up in the toxicities of society. I became all too focused on superficial relationships, appearances, working to make money instead of being happy, and the easy way out. At times I would find myself disappointed in the decisions I made and the life I lived. It was during these times that I missed riding, my trainer, and my love for horses the most. 

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

I do not regret taking time away from riding. It was exactly what I needed to learn that just because I can live without horses, does not mean that I want to. I am grateful for the fun that I had with new friends and getting to check things off of an old bucket list. But I learned that horses and the people that I share them with need to be a part of my life. 

I thrive off of long hours at the barn, exhausting horse shows, and the feeling of accomplishing hard sought after goals. I find passion in watching my friends succeed and watching my trainer give her all to her horses and clients. And I find the purest of love in the horse community and the connection between horse and rider. 

Having horses in my life will always be the hardest thing that I choose to do, but I will continue to choose them from now on because it is also the most rewarding.