Getting Off the Merry-Go-Round

Photo by Adam Hill.

BY An adult amateur rider at a crossroads

I had an incredible horse show last weekend. Champion in one division, reserve in another. I’ve moved up in height, gained confidence, and enjoyed getting to know my lease horse over the last year.

ALL I want to do next is plan the next horse show. 

Instead, I’m taking a break.

Let’s back up a moment and I’ll fill you in on some context. I was a lesson kid and an IHSA rider for my first 10 years with horses. I was only able to compete in schooling shows and I worked at the barn in exchange for extra lessons. When I began my career, there simply wasn’t enough money to ride, and so I took many years off.

Like a lot of adult amateurs, I became a “re-rider” in my thirties. I had built up enough success in my work that I could start taking lessons again. Then I started years of leasing. It began with half-leasing school horses. Then a green bean. As my career progressed, I was able to lease horses with more show mileage, and soon I was ticking off childhood dream after childhood dream, showing all over at venues I’d only fantasized about.

The last two years have been my most successful yet. I’ve won tricolors all over the East Coast, and year-end Zone awards. If my 12-year-old self could see me now, she’d be elated. I am elated. 

But now I have to pause. 

Photo by Adam Hill.

As it turns out, I fall in love easily with leased horses. I’ve done it twice now, and it’s really hard on your heart to wrap up a lease and say goodbye. I’ve wanted to have my own horse since before I could pick up the canter. And now I’m finally in a financial position where—if I get off the horse show merry-go-round for a bit—I can do that for myself.

So that’s what I’m doing. No more leasing, and no more showing for several months while I save the rest of the money needed to buy. I know I’ll need to stay in riding shape to try horses when the time comes, so I’ll take lessons on school horses when they’re available. I’m also fortunate enough to have friends who will let me ride their horses whenever they’re out of town.

Within the context of first-world problems, this is not going to be easy. It’s hard for me to not have regular saddle time. The barn is my happy place and riding provides much-needed endorphins. But this is about trading what I want right now for what I’ve dreamed about nearly all my life. 

It would be all too easy to just keep leasing. Just keep showing. Just keep spending. But I’m trying to achieve that impossible balance of life as a working mom AND an adult amateur rider. And right now, something’s got to give.

So, I’ll show up for the school horse lesson. I’ll gratefully accept any extra rides. I’ll put aside what I was spending on leasing and showing and board into the savings account marked “horse fund.” 

I am going to fulfill my dream of horse ownership. I just have to get off the ride for now.