Natalia Neneman: Letting the Light In

Natalia Neneman completed the CCI2* at Jersey Fresh earlier this month with Weisser Riese, but the completion was made much more meaningful given the path she has taken to get back to international competition. In the latest Athletux Equine blog, Natalia shares her thoughts on moving forward in the wake her of father, Jay’s, passing. Many thanks to Natalia for writing and to Athletux for partnering with us on this blog series. You can learn more about Natalia and her program here.

Natalia Neneman and Weisser Riese at Jersey Fresh. Photo by Nicole Severino.

Crossing the finish line at Jersey Fresh for me this year was not about ribbons or points, placings or prizes. For me is was so much bigger: it marked my first three-day since the passing of my father, Jay.

2016 brought blow after blow; in March I lost my dad, and three weeks after his death I found myself with two horses needing long lay-ups. Everything had just came to a screeching halt.

I left my job at Buck Davidson’s to stay in Ocala and get my head back on straight. I thought that that was probably it, that maybe it would be the end of a lifelong dream and many years of hard work. Little did I know, all it was was just a new beginning.

The first month after I left Buck’s, I had no real plan, just two broken horses and a broken heart. I started to think about what my dad would have told me if I could have picked up the phone and called him. “Nat, what’s the big problem? When the going gets tough the tough get going. Quit whining and get back to work.”

Natalia and her father, Jay Gurmankin.

I thought about my dad every day, and how he was so brave in his fight against Multiple Sclerosis, and realized that if I had a fraction of his will and perseverance, then maybe, just maybe, I could make this work. So I put my head down and got to work like he had told me to do so many times before.

Fast forward to September of 2016. I was starting to get some new clients here and there and soon found myself with filled days and a cool group of young horses to ride. I was able to go home to Park City, Utah and teach a series of clinics, and for the first time since March, I felt like I was back on track and what my father and I had been working so hard for was starting to come to fruition: my own equine business.

Perhaps the most exciting thing for me in the fall of 2016 was finding Hidden Oaks Farm. For any young professional, finding where to base their business is essential. Hidden Oaks Farm, located in Ocala, Florida, has everything you could need in a facility and is in a fantastic location. I am lucky enough that owners Todd Brooks and Patrick Mcmahon have allowed me to start operating Natalia Neneman Eventing out of their fabulous facility full time. They are also owners of the very exciting young horse Valley of Knowledge and our goal for the future is that together we can source and produce quality young horses.

Natalia Neneman and Weisser Riese. Photo by JJ Sillman.

It seemed fitting that my horses’ return to competition this year coincided with the anniversary of my father’s death, and I know he definitely had the best view of the cross-country. With Buck’s help we made a plan to get to Jersey.

Wendall and I had a fantastic run at Jersey Fresh in less than perfect conditions and I don’t think an completing an event has ever meant so much. Even after I made a mistake in show jumping I walked out of the ring with only one feeling and that was grateful. Grateful to have my horses back. Grateful that I continued with the sport my dad loved so much even though at times it seemed so impossible, but perhaps even more important, grateful for all the relationships and friendships that I have because of this sport, I think for all of us they are the reason we can keep going when things get rough.

We’re now looking forward to an exciting summer and fall season with Wendall and also with an exciting group of youngsters. And while I look forward to all of that I will also remember to feel grateful no matter what the result and thankful that I get to do the work that I do, and thankful for all the people that this sport has brought into my life.

There is probably no better way to end this blog than with my dads favorite quote, and I try to remember this every day: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” — Leonard Cohen