When my coach’s truck pulled into her friend’s farm, I didn’t immediately recognize the place from my youth. After all, a child’s memory is fickle and depends so heavily on context. The last time I’d seen the farm, I was probably clutching my ill-fitting velvet riding helmet in my lap and eagerly straining my head to look out the window. I very likely still had chocolate icing from the morning’s doughnut on my face as I waited with my sticky little kid fingers on the car door handle, anticipating the brakes finally slowing the car enough so I could fling the door open and run toward the barn. I probably got in trouble for that, but it didn’t matter. I was long gone by the time whichever parent had unbuckled their seatbelt and turned around to chastise me.
As I scanned the familiar riding arena sixteen years later after a far more sensible (very early) morning breakfast of coffee and a bagel, recognition suddenly kicked in. “This is where I started riding as a kid!” I practically screeched.
Though the farm has since changed hands and names, a relic of its past identity hung in the darkened lounge: “Rose Ridge Farms.”
It was here that I fell in love with a horse for the first time, and here is where my heart was broken when that horse was sadly put down. I cantered and jumped for the very first time here; I also fell off for the first time. Every fiber of my little kid soul ached to be here for roughly 167 hours of the 168 hour-long week. My dreams, if not born here, were nourished here.
And it’s those same dreams that brought me back here as an adult.
Admittedly, I am not the Olympic prodigy I thought I’d be by now. My walls and shelves are sadly unadorned with gold, silver, and bronze medals. Life took me down all sorts of interesting roads, and the pinnacle of equestrian sport just wasn’t a part of any of those paths. But equestrian sport itself was, and for that, I am thankful to myself. I am thankful that I never gave it up, even though it’s been difficult to continue at times.
Gazing into the empty indoor arena stirred memories of dreams deferred, but not forgotten, and it also stirred a strong sense of gratitude: gratitude for my own perseverance and sacrifice, and the sacrifice and opportunities that others have given me so that I could continue plugging away. I also remembered attempting to hop over a crossrail on foot and landing face first in the dirt, but that’s a memory I try to repress.
Several hours after my stroll down memory lane, I was on board my trainer’s horse in the middle of the beautiful, serene cross country course at Pine Top Farm. I had one of the best rides of my life that day jumping a Beginner Novice course (woo hoo!!) that included ditches, banks, and all kinds of challenges I’d never tackled before. It could not have been a more thrilling, rewarding experience, and as I patted and thanked my mount, I silently thanked myself for sticking to it all this time, and for continuing to stick to it in the future.