Getting Back On… As an Adult

I can’t remember exactly the first time it happened. All I can remember is this unexplainable feeling that something was missing. It was something important… a safety thing. I had my helmet on. I was just walking around the ring, so it wasn’t my protective vest. Then it hit me, the realization of what I was forgetting… my seatbelt. This recognition was followed one heartbeat later with the question, “When did I become the type of rider that felt like I needed a seatbelt?”

I will admit; I was never the bravest kid. I also was never the most athletic kid (there are many pictures documenting my failed attempts at riding like Beezie Madden and Karen O’Connor), but I have very fond memories of galloping through the woods and jumping solid stone walls on hunter paces. I lived in a world of bombs away. There was no room for fear, just “kick on.” In fact, even the scariest of falls have been reduced to blurry images in my memory, outshined by the light of the good experiences.

In college, I still rode, but on breaks and holidays. Therefore, my riding stagnated. I didn’t get better, and I was ok with it. I still came home and would hop on and jump around a course. There was no thought to my fitness, balance or strength. There were horses to ride and jumps to jump. Plus, when you’re riding four horses, six days a week, the above issues disappear in a matter of a week or two.

Then it finally happened. I graduated college. I got a full time job. I could afford to support my own riding habit. After a few months, I decided I was ready. I would take this riding thing seriously. I would buy myself a horse, and I did: A fairly uneducated, out of work, but very handsome (and relatively cheap) 9yo Quarter Horse. See below, he knows he’s handsome, but still enjoys his quirk and his crooked noseband.

Unfortunately, I was not the rider I had been. I was now reduced to riding one horse, maybe three times a week. My general fitness level declined, and I gained weight from working a desk job. The money was there, so I “invested” in my riding. I bought stuff. Lots of stuff. Lots of very pretty stuff that I absolutely adore, including a Voltaire (You know… Like Beezie) that immediately made me feel more secure. And herm sprenger stirrups… and a shiny new GPA helmet… and fancy Ariat boots… You get the idea.

Unfortunately, riding is more of a relationship than a hobby. It takes time and commitment. So, after almost two years of working an overwhelming job in NYC, I found a job near home in NJ. However, the hour and a half drive to my barn from there was still too hard to commit too. I kept making changes, and I found a new barn for me and my best friend. It was difficult, it was heartbreaking, but this sport is a commitment that requires more than a passing fling to achieve success. I am still not perfect, but heaven knows I am trying.

Every time I swing a leg over my very sweet and (relatively) steady horse, I am vividly aware of the fact that I am making the decision to risk my life. Every lesson, I have to swallow the lump in my throat and trust my trainer. Every horse show, I have to sit quiet and keep my leg closed, while still trying not to puke all over my grey horse. (Seriously, I do not want to know how much quicksilver is involved in that kind of thing) Every ride I snap in my mental seatbelt, I hold onto the joy riding gives me, and I try my hardest. That is my mantra as an adult amateur.

– Emily Maher