I am blessed. I have learned that the only way out is through. And that the only way to get through is with a smile on your face, and to be surrounded by good people.
The horse industry is full of them. Good men and women who are there to hold a horse, grab a bucket, or run back to the barn for a crop. People who are willing to answer every question, haul any horse, and hold every hand through a tough time. I am blessed to have surrounded myself with them. And in the past few weeks, I have realized just how essential they are to my journey. Because when a broke and struggling graduate student is trying to navigate her way through this upscale world of equestrianism, it is damn near impossible to do it without a little help from her friends. These amazing women who have held me up and anchored me down. My Fairy Godmothers.
This was no more apparent to me than in the last few weeks as I scrambled to get my life put together. I realized a month ago that Nixon was not ready for another event. And as I lamented over this, I was chatting with my friend, and professional dressage rider, Ellen Murphy. She told me that the KDA (Kentucky Dressage Association’s) recognized dressage show was only a few weeks away, and that I needed to dressage queen with her. I hemmed and hawed, telling her that I didn’t think that Nixon would stack up against the fancy warmbloods. I didn’t know if I could afford it, and if I was going to eat Ramen noodles for the next month, I at least wanted to be competitive.
And yet, as one of those good people, she offered to help. The next few weeks were spent in a constant conversation with Ellen. Registrations, entries, studying and analyzing my test, and conversations discussing training techniques for Nixon — she put up with my constant neurosis. She answered every question. And then when the weekend of the show rolled up, she held my hand.
And the only payment that she ever asked for, was that I get on her sales horse and jump him…and maybe a margarita.
Where Ellen held my hand in the dressage world, I found another helping hand in hunterland. I got Mak back a few weeks ago from his lease situation. I knew that I had to get a record put on him this summer. We could do an event or two, reiterating the fact that everyone already knew – that he was a lower level packer. Or we could see how he fared in a recognized hunter show-something I had never done.
And that is where Abby Converse came in. The questions were asked, the entries were paid, and yet Abby never seen flummoxed by my incessant ignorance. And although she is a professional rider herself, she willingly came out and put training ride after training ride on my eventing-turned-hunter thoroughbred. She tacked up on 90 degree days. She giggled at his confusion over the speed she wanted him to crawl in. And she explained each of her rides to me in an analytical form, something I needed to understand her strange and confusing hunter-ways.
And then, just like Ellen, the only payment she ever asked for was a high-five and a margarita.
And, as are horses – while I was getting Mak ready for his big hunter debut, Nixon decided that he wasn’t getting nearly enough attention, and popped a split. The horse that could run competitively in the Santa Anita Handicap somehow got injured dressaging.
And as I lamented over this relatively insignificant blemish, a third helping hand appeared. My fellow eventer and amazing friend, Leah Snowden messaged me one day to ask how he was doing. And like only a great friend can, she immediately offered her amazing rehabilitation services.
She told me about this new instrument that she had and how it had worked wonders on her own horses. The Cytowave was brought to the barn, attached to Nixon’s leg, and ran for an just an hour. And Leah and I sat there and had a solid girl talk. We fed peppermints to the ponies. And we watched as Nixon begged for our attention.
And at the end of the session, I ran my hand down his leg, and found the splint to be half it’s original size. I stood up in amazement and asked Leah how I could ever possibly repay her. Again, all she asked for was a margarita.
These amazing women that I have surrounded myself are the best. The best riders in their fields, the best horsewomen in their discipline. But where they truly stand out to me is in their hearts. They are professional riders, professional farm managers, and corporate owners. And yet, when little old me is in a pinch, each of them block out hours of their days to help me.
And I do hope that they know that it is cyclical. I might not be able to offer some fancy piece of equipment or some educated words of wisdom. But I can clean a mean stall, run a fast 100m dash back to the stalls, and polish one hell of a hoof.
But why? Why are they so helpful, and so understanding? We hear all of the time of the vindicative and snotty professional. The one who only cares about the money and the fame. So what separates these amazing women from the rest? Were they also the young struggling rider, who didn’t have a bank account to stand on? Did they also pound the pavement and count their pennies? Probably. I have heard their stories and seen their ribbon’s.
Or maybe, just maybe, they just really love margarita’s….
Because, lets be honest, this entire world is one big cycle. And these amazing women – these Fairy Godmothers of mine – get it. They paid their dues. They worked their way up. One trot set, one jump school, and one early morning at a time. And each of them had a mentor of their own – their own Fairy Godmother who waved their wand and a tricky yet talented horse appeared. And now each of them is paying it forward. Through me, through other young riders, through each sales horse.
Mile after mile. Ride after ride. They lend a helping hand, they pick a struggling rider up. Hack after hack. Jump after jump. They wave their wands and a text message, a big smile, or a high-five appears. And although I didn’t leave a glass slipper on the horse path while hacking back from the arena, I can leave them this. An acknowledgement to all that they have done. A shout out to their brains, their hearts, and their souls.
An ode to the Equine Fairy Godmother.
Bippity. Boppity. Boo.