Thank You, Anky and Bonfire!

I was about 10 or 11 when a group of us from Hitching Post Farm went to the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in NYC. There was an assortment of demonstrations, from hunter/jumpers to dressage. The whole trip was an experience I will never forget. Just being in New York City was exciting, and the fact that we got to see world-class riders and horses was icing on the cake.

I remember one of the last riders to come out was Anky van Grunsven on her amazing horse, Bonfire, that sadly passed away this week. I had never seen anything more beautiful in my life. I remember leaning so far forward in my seat that I could have fallen off and landed in the ring. My mouth was gaping open. Goosebumps ran up my arms, and I knew watching that beautiful rider on that phenomenal horse that I was hooked for real.

I had always enjoyed riding as a kid and I seemed to be drawn to these animals, but that day truly changed my life. After watching Anky ride, I never thought to myself, “I am going to be become an upper-level dressage rider,” but I thought that what just happened and what I just saw was remarkable, and right then and there I knew I wanted become a serious rider. I knew that this was going to be my life. Horses had to be in my life, and no matter what, I had to keep riding.


Life as a rider has a way of becoming narrow at times. Your perspective and your ability to look at the broader picture can also become narrowed when you live in such a tiny world comprised of horses and horse people. We get so caught up in the now and the future that we can, at times, disregard the past. It seems really important to remember why we started riding. Why do we even like to ride? Why do we like horses?

It’s crucial to recall and reflect on how it all began as a reminder to ourselves why we are doing what we are doing. We can so easily become enraged — enraged at ourselves, our riding and our horses. Have you ever walked into a barn and seen a bunch of grumpy, angry and distant people? Have you ever walked onto someone’s farm and seen a bunch of cantankerous souls and wondered “why the heck do they have any reason to be angry today? Don’t they know how lucky they are?”

Perhaps, more people should stop and think about that moment when they knew they were going to ride horses for the rest of their lives. We should think about how lucky and amazing it is that we can ride a horse every day. Yes, some of us have to go punch in and out, or hang out in a cubicle all day, but how many people can say they galloped and jumped cross country on Thursday? How many people can say they worked on tempi changes on Wednesday? And how many people can say they jumped four feet on Monday?

Think about how lucky we are, and don’t forget how we all got hooked originally. I personally want to thank Anky and Bonfire for inspiring me to become a serious rider!

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