By Valentina Martínez
In the beautiful sport that we riders chose to do, more people will judge you than congratulate you. Unfortunately, you will have to learn to live with that. I have a story to tell you. It’s full of learning and filled with moments where I wanted to say goodbye to the world of horses.
First of all, I want to congratulate all the riders who survived 2022. We have managed to live yet another year with our beloved horses. Last year was quite a rollercoaster for all of us. I had the opportunity to work as a home groom, show-groom, and rider. And let me tell you—it was not easy at all.
We all reach an age where we want to leave home, travel, see places, meet people, and grow up. I did it when I was sixteen. In January 2022, I started to look like crazy for any kind of equestrian job. I joined a group on Facebook and uploaded my post, saying what I know and my experiences. In less than two days, I already had more than twelve messages on messenger, with people asking me if I was interested in working in x place.
Imagine how excited I was! I sent videos and resumes and made calls. Some people stopped answering me and others wanted me on their team. Now, a sixteen-year-old girl leaving for Europe to a place where she doesn’t know anyone is a big risk. But, in the blink of an eye, I was already on the plane to Belgium. It seems crazy, doesn’t it?
The first few months were horrible. I wanted to die. It was as if I didn’t know do to anything! It felt like my first time touching a horse, putting a bridle on, and even my first time riding! The worst thing is that I didn’t go to just any riding center, I went to one where the boss rode ten horses a day and was one of the top riders in that country. Every day, I humiliated myself. My co-workers had no choice but to yell at me to hurry up and I always ended the day crying in my room. What had I gotten myself into?
So yes, the first months were hell, but I started to grow, learn, and become more confident. Before too long I was working in automatic mode. Wake up, eat, work, eat, shower, study, sleep. That was pretty much my usual routine. I not only had to put one hundred percent of my effort into my work but also into my online school. Everything was already going perfectly. I was riding well. I was fast. I felt like a fundamental part of the team.
But of course, the drama had to come. One thing I have learned is that anywhere you go you have to recognize the value you have. I am more than grateful that even at that hard stage, I already knew what I was worth. If not, I would have been stomped on and spat on. One of my co-workers had a daily mission to make me fail and make me look bad in front of my bosses. She blamed everything bad on me and every day she had a new comment for me. Don’t you have a brain or something? Or why do you work like a retard? And you know what the funniest thing was? This lady was twice my age! In the end, she was the one who ended up leaving. The truth is, I thank her for turning me into the person I am now.
Do I regret having been there for that tough experience? Never! I would have done it all over again if I had the chance. Was it difficult? Of course it was! I think I can say it was one of the most challenging years of my life, but it taught me more than I could have learned anywhere else.
If you’re reading this and thinking bout taking a big chance, go for it! Go for it without a second thought! If you never try, how will you know? Yes, they might stomp on you, spit on you, and try to bring you down, but keep your head up. And please—know what you are worth.
Valentina Martinez is a Mexican teenager who left at the age of sixteen to start working abroad with horses. She has always been a horsewoman and will continue to be. She is passionate about two things, writing and riding. She is on her way to writing her first novel and is currently writing articles about her experiences and insights into the world of horses.
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