I have had one dream since I was twelve years old. I wanted to ride at the North American Junior Young Rider Championships and it was all I could ever think about. My idea of success was accomplishing this goal, and for some reason I had it in my head that if I did not accomplish this, I would be a failure. To make this dream come true, we bought Ichabod, a successful Intermediate horse from Canada who had been to NAJYRC two times successfully. He was everything you could want in a horse. I was excelling fast with him until about 3 months after I bought him… he had an upper level career ending injury, which we found through an MRI. He was on stall rest for the whole summer. I basically thought my life was over that summer…At the beginning of the fall, we found McFly. He was a little OTTB who had done only a few novices and one or two trainings, but was VERY athletic. They were willing to give him to me, so I could not refuse. I figured he would just be something to ride until Ichabod was back. I could barely ride McFly; he would charge at the jumps and our flat work was awful. This was in the fall of 2012.
Fast-forward a year to the 2013 ESDCTA Horse Trials at the Horse Park of NJ where we completed our first Prelim. He was officially a prelim horse and I saw NAJYRC 2014 as a reachable goal. We then planned out our winter in Aiken; My parents gave me three events to do down there, and if all three did not qualify for a CIC 1*, then I wasn’t going to pursue the dream any further. The first event at Sporting Days went perfect! I will never forget crossing the finish flags at Sporting Days after going clean XC and seeing my coach Alison there. She and one of her adult students, Barbara (who had been a big cheerleader for me) were waiting anxiously for me to cross through. As I cantered by them I threw my hand up in the air and my smile consumed my face; I saw the excitement in their faces and it gave me the sense that I wasn’t in this alone. Alison had been my coach since I was five, so realizing I might make it to the Junior Olympics after being with her since my first lesson was kind of emotional! Everyone was rooting for me to achieve this big dream of mine on my underdog horse, and I wanted to show them I could do this. The next event I forgot a jump on Stadium and got Technically Eliminated and then the dream was over.
I was crushed that my dream of going to NAJYRC was over, to say the least. The hardest part for me was the feeling that I had disappointed so many people rooting for me.
I was so caught up in the failure of reaching this one goal, that I was blind to the fact that I had reached multiple goals in the past season. Despite both being new to the Preliminary level, we moved up successfully and finished 5th on the Area 1 leaderboard in Junior Training. It is so easy to have tunnel vision for only one goal in your riding, and you forget to look how far you’ve come. This article is for all the people out there who have not made their dream a reality. It is heart breaking at first, but it will only be heart breaking as long as you let it be. Don’t dwell on your failures; you have so much to look foreword to as a junior rider. We are dealing with 1,000 pound animals here… your plans are going to change no matter how hard you work, because trust me, I left it all out there and gave it everything I had this winter. Don’t give up on your dream, but at the same time don’t become engulfed by it. Surround yourself with people who are a positive influence on your riding and support you if you make your dream a reality, or if your dream never comes true. I try and always to remember I am still that little girl that just loved riding for the love of horses; we should all try and remember that every once in a while.