Money Can’t Buy You Everything

Schooling Valonia at Huntginton, 2014! Schooling Valonia at Huntginton, 2014!

I started riding horses as a child, and I remember taking weekly riding lessons, like so many kids do, and absolutely loving it. Despite the fact that I was essentially a mute human being for the better part of upbringing, when my parents asked if I wanted to continue riding horses, my response was painfully consistent! As I grew up and began to have a vague understanding of the value of a dollar, I realized riding lessons were very expensive, and my parents did not have the funds to support my passion forever. In fact, weekly riding lessons seemed to be pushing the envelope.

I begged, I pleaded, and I did anything and everything to prove to my parents that they needed to help me continue to follow my dreams. There were screaming matches, doors slammed and tears shed. I wanted so badly to have a horse and to be in “the program” so to speak, like all of my friends at the barn. In hindsight, my parents were amazing and I am unbelievably grateful to have had their support, and continue to have my mother’s support, as my father is no longer with us.

Not coming from a wealthy family was a battle I faced on a daily basis as a teenager. I wasn’t able to participate in clinics. I never had fancy horses or phenomenal jumpers. I could only attend a certain number of events for the season, and paying for partial board and lessons was tricky. I worked my butt off so I could keep a horse at Hitching Post Farm. I felt too young to have such financial concerns, yet this was realit,y and if I wanted to stick with this life, I had to become familiar with the way the horse world worked.

Vinnie's On It! THF Jumper show!

Vinnie’s On It! THF Jumper show!

Even though at the time I was juggling my emotions with an empty back account, I am proud of my upbringing and would not change any of it for anything. If you had asked me when I was an arrogant and unappreciative 16 year old, I would have told you that I longed for some rich family to adopt me so I could have owned lots of pretty horses and go climb the levels in eventing and become famous. Quite honestly, I know some of these individuals and could not fathom spending more than 30 seconds with them.

Not having a lot of extra money as a kid and a teenager put my life into perspective. If I wanted to have ANYTHING to do with nice horses or reputable trainers, I had to work my ass off. If I wanted to be a better rider, I had to clean extra stalls and go above and beyond just to get the opportunity to ride extra horses. So that’s what I did. I was at the barn every waking second. I rode anything and everything I could get my hands one. All I wanted to do was ride. I had to prove that I wanted it badly enough.

So here I am, 28 years old and am riding with one of the most accomplished event riders and trainers of his time. I never in a million years thought I would end up riding and training with Denny Emerson, but here I am. I never thought I would sit on horses that float across the ground or jump 5 feet with ease. I never thought I would have so much help and support. I never thought I would be able to ride and compete a horse as amazing as Vinnie.

I feel incredibly lucky, but I know that luck is synonymous with hard work. Nobody ever handed anything to me on a silver platter, and I am beyond grateful for that … so thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving me those opportunities and setting a great example of what hard work really means.

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