Now that I am nearing the end of what has been a rollercoaster of a year, I think it is time for me to reflect on all that was accomplished… or wasn’t accomplished, throughout this year. Perhaps it is just me getting older, but this year has felt so incredibly long that some of the events from the beginning of it seem as though they happened years ago. So much has changed for me in such a short space of time that it is hard to fathom where I was at the commencement of 2018 compared to now, almost ready to ring in the new year.
In February of 2018, I finally made the jump to start my professional career by offering public training services. I hummed and I hawed for a while but ultimately, the benefits of it outweighed the risks and thus, I started my professional career, something I have quite literally been dreaming about since I begun riding at age 4. This was obviously a big decision for me and felt like it was the end of an era. For a while, I had a slight twinge of regret and wondered if this were the right decision for me. What if a career in horses never pans out? What if I don’t get any clients? What if when it simply comes down to it, I’m just not good at my job and I end up upsetting clients? So many worries that eventually began to bleed together, until all I could do was push them out of my mind and continue carrying on with my goals. We’ll come back to my journey as a newfound pro.
At the beginning of 2018, my main competition horse and main riding horse, Milo was also very much still out of commission. He was in a rehab program that extended to new movements through very small intervals. In January, we were maybe doing a couple of minutes of trot and a whole lot of walking. It was tedious. He moved choppy and stiff, he just did not look great. I just wanted my horse back. I often wondered if I would ever truly “get” him back or if we would have to start from ground zero all over again and try to make our way back to doing things that took him years to wrap his little head around as it was. But, I remained patient and I toughed it out. When he was doing enough in his rehab program to justify lessons, we started taking dressage lessons and so began my journey down the realm of dressage, with a newfound and more serious interest in it. By May, we were starting to jump again and by June and July, we were showing again. Milo was back, looking better than ever. Moving better and jumping great. Things were finally starting to come together. By late Spring, I had amassed some clients. Some for full training, others for the occasional training ride, but I was making an income from my professional services as well as from galloping for the racing barn I’d worked for the last couple of years prior.
I sold one of my project horses and bought my truck in July, a 2005 Chevy Silverado. Nothing fancy, but the thing was a beast that could tow. Sure, I don’t have power windows, but my previous beater of a car didn’t either and the truck is certainly an upgrade from that due to having air conditioning, the one thing that was an absolute must in my truck search. I was excited, the purchase of this truck, all from money earned from horses, made me feel as though my dreams were coming true. Now to learn to tow. Luckily, I work with some great people and my boss offered up her 3 horse angle haul both for me to practice towing with and to eventually borrow once I figured out how to safely tow horses. This has allowed me to learn and to have the accessibility of using a trailer without having to purchase one at this time. It made owning this new truck even more beneficial and special than it would have been in the absence of trailer usage.
I am happy to say that I can now tow a trailer and am fairly comfortable with doing so, minus the panic I feel when someone tailgates me when my beloved animals are in the back, a short distance away from some impatient driver’s bumper. But, hey, I can tow a trailer now. Something I’ve wanted to learn how to do for years. Something I used to be so incredibly envious of, watching other riders hitch up and load their horses into their own trailers and have the freedom to go wherever the heck they wanted. I still lack a lot of that freedom due to not owning the trailers I borrow, but my next goal for 2019 or 2020 is to buy a trailer and then, perhaps, I will feel fully immersed in the equestrian lifestyle.
Throughout show season 2018, Milo went on to win a lot. In pretty much every jumper show that we attended, he won division champion or reserve champion. We finished the show season with two coolers, several saddle pads and a lot of smiles. While the jumps were not big, this is a huge victory for a horse that has such confidence issues on course and was being disqualified from many of his rounds just a year prior. To come out of a rehab program and do so well is truly an accomplishment for my sweet boy. I am so proud of him. While his confidence issues are definitely not eradicated and while he is definitely still a quirky and sometimes impossible horse, this year was a huge jump forward for us and hopefully 2019 will be even better.
Later on in the summer, ironically due to something not so pleasant, I landed a job that has been huge for me. I made a post addressing some defamatory posts someone who is a complete stranger to me made about me. Along with the support from locals and those who can speak for my character, I was offered a job. A job riding for one of the very people who jump started my riding career, the mother of my very first coach. At the same barn I did so much of my learning at. This was exciting. The farm breeds Arabians, Arabian crosses and Warmbloods, all of which are beautiful and well bred, encompassing so much talent. This allows me to work with some incredible young horses who will be unstoppable in the show ring once they get going. I am now sitting on some of the fanciest horses that I have had the pleasure of riding and with so much opportunity set out directly in front of me, it is a uniquely terrifying and humbling feeling.
This job has pretty much filled all of my training slots, now that I’m riding 8 horses in full training at this particular farm, along with a couple of my other clients who have more infrequent training rides. With school and other obligations, to say that I’ve been busy would be an understatement but, I still took on more because, when opportunity comes knocking, you should answer. I was offered another unique and incredible job working with my dressage trainer, this would allow me to learn directly under someone far more experienced while allowing me to get on more young horses as well as some other, more experienced ones, thus allowing me to expand my learning further under the teachings of my trainer while working off my lessons. It was too good to pass up.
I’ve learned so much in the past year, more than other years prior combined. It has been an incredible journey finding new connections in the horse world and allowing myself more opportunities to learn and grow as a horse person. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities I’ve been offered and to those who have been generous enough to give them to me. I would not have thought that in under a year since opening my training services that I would have a full load of work and be making a full living off of it. It is truly incredible and I am so thankful for everyone who has helped and supported me in my riding journey.
Something else to acknowledge is the presence of social media and how it has assisted in my growth and, in some cases, slowed it, due to the critical nature of people online. Social media has been a blessing by allowing me more opportunities to make money and make a living off of doing the things that I love. Through advertising and company partnerships, I’ve been able to partner with sponsors that I may not have otherwise connected with. I signed with Back on Track, a huge company that I’ve been a major fan of for years, due to reaching out to them via social media and making connections. The growth of my YouTube channel has also been substantial, amassing thousands of new subscribers each month and thus making a significant difference in my ad revenue that I earn from videos, this has opened new possibilities in terms of advertising as well as allocation of funds and it is something that is worth noting. I would do YouTube regardless of whether or not I got paid for it but the influence it has had on my ability to accomplish things within the equine world has been phenomenal and I am so thankful for it.
Through my university schooling and other more academic goals, I have managed to land a job writing some free lance articles for another web page called Horse Rookie. This has been an empowering experience for me and has helped me realize how much I want writing from both a personal blog approach and a journalistic one to be part of my day to day work and life. This has set in stone what my goals are in my journey to getting my degree as well as offered other ideas for job opportunities that I can do alongside training. I feel motivated and on the right path, even if I do often feel burnt out and exhausted at times. I know that before things become smooth sailing, they have to get harder.
Given the fact that I’m young and still learning, I have to work twice as hard as those who are more established in my profession or who have more resources available to them than I may have. Everything I do with my jobs and my life is surrounding the overall goal of being an independent horse owner and trainer who is able to do the things I love and enjoy, with the eventual goal of being able to afford to buy my own equine property. It would be a lie to say that this amount of work does not make me feel burnt out at times. It does. I feel as though I am constantly on the go and there is always something to do. It can be hard to stay motivated when the work is so physical and when I have to work rain or shine, sick or healthy as well as arranging my own schedule to boot. This has led to a fair amount of self doubt at times and wondering if I’d made the right decision along with frustration at times with the rate at which my own horses as well as client horses move along in their training. Looking on at other trainers who may take shortcuts in training to achieve quicker results can be difficult for comparison’s sake when I’ve put months into developing a flatwork foundation on horses who lack it or building confidence on horses with stopping problems. Good things do not always come easy or quickly, however, and looking back on where I started from after months in a program with any given horse is a reward.
Due to my social media presence, I have had my fair bit of doubters. Often times, these people present themselves anonymously which is no coincidence and typically, the messages from such people come in hoards around times where I have accomplishments or successes to be proud of, for example, when I bought my truck. While I cannot say these messages are utterly painless, I can say that listening to these types of people would be a mistake. People who send such messages are lacking in success themselves. No person with goals, ambitions and a means to achieve them wastes their time telling someone else working hard to achieve their dreams that they do not have the right to hold a professional title. Not only are such words ludicrous, because by all definitions I AM a professional and frankly, I believe I’ve earned the title BUT these words are coming from a place of another person’s own feelings of inadequacy. I think the ability to differentiate between the behaviours of those who are unhappy with themselves and those who are so motivated with themselves that even if they think negatively of others, they will not voice it, is important. I am far off being one of the well established professionals who has had years to build their clientele, but for my first year as a professional, I think I’ve made leaps and bounds in developing my business as well as developing myself further as a rider and for that I am proud, whether people agree with it or not or believe I deserve it or not.
Another notable thing for 2018 is the growth of my merch business and the sales of my shirts. Sales are at an all time high this year and I’ve been able to create a number of popular designs myself as well as work with a number of incredibly talented designers. This has allowed me to make a humble income off of something that started off merely for fun and for the sole purpose of offering people unique horse related graphic designs that they may otherwise be unable to come by. The fact that the sales from such have allowed me to pay off some unfortunate vet bills far sooner as well as pay towards tuition and other important expenses is something that makes me feel incredibly fortunate. I never fathomed such growth in this realm of my business, or the training realm for that matter, so quickly.
More recently, in September 2018, I took a leap of faith and rescued 2 ponies sight unseen from an auction 13 hours away where both would have shipped to slaughter had I not had someone bid on them on my behalf. They both arrived, luckily sound, beautiful and with so much potential. One of the ponies, however, was completely feral and absolutely terrified of people to the point where he would attack if you came too close or let your guard down around him. This led to a journey of gaining his trust and turning him into the now halter broke and able to be handled pony that goes by the name of Simon. This tried my patience and often we took steps forward and then several back, making me feel like I may never help this pony learn to trust. Now, three months later, the difference is astonishing and though there is still much to be done, I am proud to say that I’ve made a difference in both of these ponies’ lives but more notably, Simon the feral pony. It has also taught me the immense importance of patience and how incremental improvements may not at all be noticeable at the time but definitely are down the road.
In October 2018, I purchased a Thoroughbred off of the racetrack, one that I used to gallop a bit while he was still racing. This was for the purpose of achieving the long term dream of applying for and ultimately attending the Thoroughbred Makeover Project in Kentucky. “George” is by one of my favourite local thoroughbred stallions, who unfortunately is now deceased, and has an incredible temperament and is so very flashy. Unfortunately, shortly after purchase, we realized there was a disconnect in opinion on a bone chip that was found in his initial pre purchase exam and despite the initial opinion that it was set, it actually needed to be removed for his future health. This resulted in some stress, now having to find a way to fund what ended up being an almost $5,000 surgery… But, I’m happy to say that most of the nightmare is over and George is on the road to recovery. I’ve also applied for the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover and now have to wait on for my acceptance or denial on February 1st, 2019. This is something that I am so very excited about. I am passionate about the Thoroughbred breed and even more so about ex-racehorses. It is something very close to my heart and being able to showcase a racehorse that I had a relationship with on the track and trained with people I respect and care about would be an absolute dream come true. So, I cross my fingers that I receive the esteemed acceptance letter and that George’s recovery continues to go well. I hope 2019 will be bright for the both of us.
2018 has been full of ups and downs, highs and lows. It has been a year where I’ve received a ton of critique and a lot of hatred from people on social media. I’ve had doubters, people who’ve dedicated far too much time to try to break me. But, I’ve had so many supporters. So many people dedicated to assisting me in reaching my goals and bringing me up when I’m down. I’ve had so many meaningful connections and as a result, have been able to grow a ton both as a person and a rider. This year has been as rewarding as it has been difficult and I am excited to be able to bid it farewell and hopefully experience the same amount of growth, or more, in 2019. Thank you all for your support, I appreciate it more than you could know.
I implore all of you reading this to never give up on your dreams. Do not let other people, especially strangers, define your worth. Had I listened to my doubters over the years, none of this would have been made possible this year. Keep those who bring you up close and smile and shake your head at those dedicated to trying to bring you down. Such negativity only serves to damage their own lives, do not let it damage yours.