The NCHA Super Stakes kicked off Friday, March 24th here in Fort Worth, which got me thinking about all of my friends, family and other people I love who are going to be in town over the next few weeks. The relationships we build in the equestrian community are so much greater than I could ever explain, and I feel so grateful to have grown up with horses. Here are some things that I learned along the way.
1. Your Friends Might Not Want to Visit
And that’s okay
There will be a moment when your non-equestrian friends find out that you have a barn full of horses, and they will beg you to come over and see them. They will come, they will see, they will smell, they will get their shoes dirty, they might not be interested in returning. Don’t fret! They still want to be your friend! They think it’s awesome that you ride horses, they just didn’t grow up in a world that smells like a mix of digested grass, grain, dirt and sweaty saddle pads. These are smells that you don’t even notice anymore, but they walked in and it hit them like a brick wall. Maybe just meet them at the mall next time.
2. The Mornings are Early
When 11a.m. Saturday morning rolls around and your non-equestrian friends are posting selfies from bed on Instagram (#Saturdaze #WeekendVibes), you are probably on hour six or seven since you first woke and, if you’re me, your third or fourth cup of Keurig Donut Shop Coffee. You don’t complain about the early mornings, because TBH it beats the hell out of saddling horses when it’s 113 outside.
3. There are Occasional Endless Nights
Shout out to my NCHA peeps who make the trek to Abilene, TX each year, knowing good and well that we will show around the clock for four days of the Winter Circuit. I know we aren’t the only ones. Everybody who has ever slept for 45 minutes in the truck at the stalls before the horse show starts up again say HAAAAYYYY.
4. Good Tires are Hard to Come By
Y’all. This is so important. Find tires that agree with your truck and trailer, enter a relationship with them, nurture them, tell them how beautiful they look every day and work hard to make them feel loved. We have ALL been betrayed by tires on the side of a busy highway, with a bunch of horses in the trailer, because they were feeling weighed down by us. Don’t let yourself be hurt by any more unfaithful tires!
5. Western Attire Doesn’t Breathe Well
Listen, I am all about tradition and functionality, which is the whole purpose of the continued requirements to wear western attire at official horse shows (and English attire at those events, as well), but DANG that stuff is hot. Like, considered-sewing-mesh-into-the-inner-seam-of-my-jeans hot. Actually, that’s might be a killer idea now that I am thinking about it. Anyway, the only parts of your body that really get to breathe are your face and hands. Sweat is sealed in from the forehead up, and from the neck down, nothing. It’s all just buttoned up in there all day long. If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, try to think of it as a personal mobile sauna.
6. Dirt Will Not Phase You
It’s just everywhere, all the time. We’ll sacrifice good shoes to walk through the barn and check horses, it coats our skin after a long, sweaty day, the kids are playing in it, it ends up in the cuffs of my jeans, and then in a small dirt pile on my floor when I take them off. It’s a part of life for us, and our non-equestrian friends will probably never understand why we are so comfortable just being dirty.
7. You Will Get Attached
We all have our sweet baby angel horses that can do no wrong in the eyes of their riders and owners. These are the horses that we know have wiggled into our hearts, gotten comfy, and will remain there forever. But if you’re like me, you’re even attached to the ones who you think you hate.
Me: Calls potential buyer: “I’ll make you a great deal, I’m ready to get rid of him.”
Me: Goes to horses stall: “So long suckaaa.”
Me: Getting paid: “Good riddance”
Me: Horse gets loaded in trailer: “Ok just so you know he likes to be scratched under his neck and he will NOT eat the apple flavored cookies, only the peppermint kind.”
Me: Trailer drives away: [ugly cries loudly for hours contemplating every decision I have ever made].
8. Expensive Jeans with Butt-Bling are Overrated
And they’re probably ruining your saddles
Ladies, I am lookin’ at you! First of all, I was once an owner of butt-bling jeans. In fact, I would go so far as to say my jean supply might have been exclusively made up of butt-bling. BUT I learned from my mistakes and now you should, too. A) It is not comfortable to sit on the rhinestone studs. B) Those sharp rhinestones scraping back and forth on your thousand-dollar saddle seat is not doing anything for its physical appearance or resale value. C) There will come a day when you no longer want your backside to have rhinestone headlights blinking at/temporarily blinding those around you, and if your closet is made up of mostly butt-bling jeans, you’ve really backed yourself into a corner. Your backside causes you enough trouble; don’t put that extra stress on yourself.
9. It is Physically Possible to Walk Through the Soles of Boots
I love a good pair of boots, especially when you get them broken in just right. They’re roomy and flexible and tough. They have seen it all. Then, you’re washing your horse and by the time you’re done, your socks are soaked through. Thankfully, you can get your boots resoled (and you will pretend that it is a huge inconvenience but you secretly think it’s awesome that you have worked so hard that you have literally walked through the bottoms of your durable boots).
When you realize there is a giant hole in your boot.
10. Getting Bucked Off Isn’t as Scary as You Thought
I rode horses for 23 years before I got bucked off. I was SO afraid of it. For years, I would get nervous on any horse that acted even remotely silly, because I really did not want to get bucked off. One day, I was riding a new horse, I scared him by accident and ended up in the dirt. And you know what? I was fine. I was a little sore but it didn’t hurt that badly and it wasn’t even really that scary. It made me realize that I have been riding scared for most of my life, and I didn’t want to do that anymore. While I don’t condone trying to get bucked off, because I was very, very lucky that I didn’t end up hurt, you can’t let the fear of it keep you from riding confidently.
11. Sometimes You Just Have Bad Days
Ranchers live a blessed life. It is amazing to have a wide-open field as your office and a strong, majestic animal as your chair and desk. But sometimes the day just doesn’t go your way. Horses are bad, cattle are bad, truck breaks down, feed gets rained on, whatever the case may be. I wasn’t prepared for this. How could I be ungrateful when I love what my family does and the life we live? But we learn from them. We get a horse we trust, we go in the pasture, we relax a little. Maybe we just need a beer and a steak, I don’t know. Do whatever you need to do to unwind and try again tomorrow.
Like I said, it’s a blessed life and I am grateful for it. Having a job at RIDE TV is a dream come true, because every day, I am still dealing with subject matter that I am passionate about. Work travel and office schedules may keep me from going to as many of the horse shows that I love, but I never feel like I am sacrificing the things I am passionate about. Especially now that we have launched RIDE TV GO. It doesn’t matter where I am traveling, I can keep up with the horse show broadcasts and watch my favorite riders compete in a sport that I was born with an innate love for. You don’t have to sacrifice your arena time either. You can sign up for RIDE TV GO right here!
Thanks for reading, RIDE Nation! What are some things that you learned growing up with horses? Tell us in the comments!