January can be brutal; there’s no need for sugar coating. As I sit here typing these words, I can hear gusts of wind traveling through the woods and smashing into our home. Temperatures have reached single digits, and when you factor in the glorious wind chills, numbing thoughts simultaneously travel through your soul. I’d like to toot my own horn by saying that New Englanders are resolute and truly gritty folk, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be sitting under an umbrella right now while listening to waves crash in on some tropical island.
I may not be the toughest New Englander there ever was, but if nothing else, this formidable winter wonderland has taught me to be a realist. While I would love to be lounging around and exploring some arbitrary island, off the coast of never-ending bliss, I am here right now, and this is my life, so I am going to cope and keep kicking forward because I am event rider with serious goals and ambition.
The middle of January often becomes quite daunting for some event riders stuck in the frozen tundra. The holidays literally feel like they were decades ago, and with no clear end in sight, one’s fortitude and ambition can seem wobbly at times. While I am extremely lucky and beyond grateful to have some lovely horses to ride and work within the comfort of a non-dusty and brightly lit indoor arena, I would be lying if I said there weren’t times or moments where I am literally stuck inside my own head and wondering what the heck I am doing with my life.
There are countless days where I’m tempted not to ride because it’s ridiculously cold, or the driving might be challenging. There are also days where I am wondering if one, or two, or three days off will actually ruin or hinder the progress my horse and I are making? In the winter when the sun sets around 5 p.m. and sweatpants are the only pants you really want to wear, there are a million and one reasons or excuses one could make up to avoid the barn and not make the effort.
And yet, this lazy, excuse-driven, motivation-less human is not who I am, particularly when it involves horses. I have to travel about 45 minutes to an hour one way to ride in the winter. I am not made of money, nor can I afford to take three lessons a week, and yet I go and I ride, and after awhile I begin checking off the days on my calendar that I spent in the saddle. I write down what I did with the horses, how they went, and what I can work on for short-term goals, as well as long-term goals. All of sudden I begin to realize I am riding quite a bit, and I begin to notice, or someone points out how fit and polished my horse is starting to look.
When you are not galloping in Aiken, or hacking around some lucky person’s farm in Ocala, or jumping some incredible round in Wellington, and instead you are literally trying to avoid getting frostbite, you begin to wonder what’s this riding life worth to YOU? Where am I headed? Where are all my sponsors? How can I ever get noticed, if nobody knows where I am or what the heck I am doing?
Where’s my spotlight when all the lights are so clearly pointing towards others who seem infinitely more important than me? Can I ever become “famous” or noteworthy if I am stuck in the northeast? Can I be an upper-level event rider without a string of expensive horses? Basically, the real question this all boils down to is … IS RIDING ONE OR TWO HORSES FIVE TO SIX DAYS A WEEK IN THE WINTER BY MYSELF REALLY GOING TO HELP ME IN THE FUTURE?
The answer is YES! I have to admit, this entire blog has been inspired by a post I read of Denny Emerson’s basically saying that he used to ride in a dusty, frozen indoor by himself at night and then all of a sudden he got the horse of a lifetime three years later that basically set his career into motion. If he never rode or worked hard at something he was so obviously passionate about, then who knows where he would be now.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought Denny’s post could not have come at a better time. There are so many of us hoping and wishing for a chance at greatness. We wonder when our lucky time will come. We wonder how to get our foot in the door. I may not be the next William Fox-Pitt or Michael Jung, but I’ll be damned if anyone deters me from trying and continuing to work my butt off for this life.
There’s no guarantee, as Denny said, but if you stop trying or working hard, that’s a guarantee nothing great will ever come your way. If possibly being given a chance at success one day means working diligently, then that’s simply what we have to do. You may think what you’re doing is pointless at times and you’re headed nowhere, but really you could be headed somewhere amazing if you just keep plugging away!