WARNING: Uncensored language. But all in fun.
The reality of chasing your equestrian dreams
Most of us started out on our horsey journey as fresh-faced, clueless pony mad kids. We couldn’t get enough of anything horse related, from mucking out a zillion stables in return for a heaven-sent lesson on the worst yak in the riding school, to saving our copies of Pony Magazine and putting the centre spread poster of Mary King (on a horse, obviously not in strange latex clad pose, although you do what you have to to pay for horses…) up on your bedroom wall. You adore cleaning tack and reading your pony club manual. You have NO IDEA what you are letting yourself in for. You are CLUELESS. STUPID, even. If I could give my pony mad self one piece of advice, it would be ‘turn on your heel and run like a mother fucker. Do not look back. You’ll thank me later’. But of course, there was no quantum delivery of sensible advice, and now look. Too late.
Once you have committed yourself to a life with horses, you can expect to be flat broke, hungry (lack of food variety, not excess of ambition variety) and a bit Labrador-esque in your desperation to learn. Oh, you’ll learn alright. No other animal will break your heart faster, let you down more often or cause you financial ruin so fast. Assuming you survive the initial hardship of exposure to the horse industry (seriously, you are actually blind and not with ambition either) you might decide it’s time to go it alone. DO NOT go it alone. You think you know what you are doing. You don’t. It’s so much easier when the bills are someone else’s problem. Anyway, off you go like a deer into the proverbial headlights of life. And it might just work out for you. You might get lucky and catch a break. You might. Now the real fun begins.
Trying to attract owners, horses and sponsors is a bleak time in any young rider’s life. If you survive this bit – the wilderness years, if you like – then you will be on the way to making a go of it. You will become familiar with your top horse being made of glass and insanity, of the vets using phrases like ‘I have never seen anything like this before’ (seriously, if I had a euro for every time I’d heard that…) of having to ride some truly hideous specimens and of slowly realising that this life is INSANE. You will repeatedly ask your horses questions like ‘what the fuck are you even doing?’ And ‘is there an actual need?’. You might find yourself forging ahead and making a huge success from your hard work and dedication. I salute you. You are the minority, but you deserve that success. You might – like me – find that your route to the top was never going to happen, and so settle for using your vast experience to produce the young horses that make the dream possible for the good riders. Or you might quit horses completely. I think about this almost daily, but I can’t do it. It’s mostly because I have no idea how to do anything else. I have a vast array of other interests but no time to pursue the required education to forge a career elsewhere. It’s partly because recently I stumbled upon the most sensational horse I have ever seen, a horse that no one else wanted but who is slowly igniting the dying embers of my passion for the horsey life. And it’s because I love them. The greatest thrill in the world for me is feeling my young horses work it out and try to do what you need. I think that’s the hook-no other mammal in the world is as keen to please you-for no reason whatsoever. There’s nothing in it for the horse.
So to those of you starting out- good luck. Take it from this old timer (at the grand age of 34), you’ll need it. And money. Millions of money. Get an education first, horses are always here but education is not. Don’t be afraid to quit. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Be kind to yourself. Semper Fi.