The Horseless Rider- Part Two

PC: Carlos Flores

I have no idea why I fell head over heels in love with horses but my mom always said the second I saw one I was obsessed.  I think my parents were hoping it was a phase because they knew it how hard it would be to afford it. I did not have my first riding lesson until I was 8 years old and when I did, I was completely and utterly hooked. They could only afford one lesson a month, but that didn’t matter, I was riding.  Back then we lived in Miami, and driving to the barn took about an hour all the way out to the Redlands to White Star Farms, where I learned how to ride short Paso Finos with luxurious hair and their fun paso corto.  I learned how to groom and put on tack, and how to sit and hold the reins.  We moved to Tallahassee a year after I started riding, and my mom knew someone who had horses.  The lessons were in the lady’s backyard on her western trained mustangs. I wasn’t learning much and we started looking for a new place for me to learn more.  

In middle school we settled on a small place that taught English and the emphasis was on the care of the horses. They had a variety of breeds: Quarter horses, Morgans, and a Saddlebred.  I was placed into a Monday night group lesson and in the summers they held a week-long sleepover camp at their house. I adored waking up and feeding the horses, learning more about proper care and grooming, the importance of warming up and cooling down. I was taught never to brush a tail but to pick it out carefully, one strand at a time, to avoid breaking the hairs. I learned how to sit a buck and how to ask for a “big trot”, all the while in the flattest saddles you could possibly imagine. My first horsey love was at this barn, a dark bay Morgan named Rocky who had a small white star, a snip, and a double whorl, on above another, on his forehead. Thinking back on it now, I think my love of horses with double whorls started then and somehow followed me. I often wonder where he ended up, and like to think he lived out his days fat and happy in a big pasture.

One of the best things about living is Tallahassee and having a love of horses is being close to one of North America’s best three-day event, the Red Hills Horse Trials.  I went almost every year and was absolutely in love. I started searching for a barn where I could learn how to jump and ride dressage. I found a barn, and I overlapped my training for a brief time at both, but ultimately said “thank you” to the flat saddles and “hello” to knee rolls. I was 16 and worked off some of the lesson costs by doing barn work. One of my most laughable memories was when I accidentally turned out a pony in her normal field – but they had rotated the herds and forgot to tell me! The pastures were so big and the horses were the same colors and numbers as her pasture mates; it was an easy mistake. I had to rush out and gather her back up before any very exciting greetings happened. Life at a barn is never dull.

I feel like the time spent between high school and college was all a blur between the academics I was pursuing and the amount of activities with which I was involved. Theatre has always been a huge part of me and I was engulfed in it, especially during college. I rode less, a lot less. My trainer from high school had to sell her farm and gave up giving lessons. In my final year at FSU, I started taking lessons with Marsha Hartford-Sapp. I was really able to learn more in the short time there than I had before. I rode schoolmasters of calibers I had never touched before, and learned something brand new every ride. My favorite ride was an old chestnut Hanoverian mare who made you WORK for it, and when you got it right, the feeling of true engagement and suspension was absolute bliss.

After college, I moved to Vero Beach and started working for lessons at an eventing barn called High Hopes Eventing Farm. It was small which meant that I learned a lot hands-on. The trainer adopted some young horses which I got to work with and exercise. At one point in time she had five chestnut Thoroughbred mares, all the kindest souls. I learned to jump courses, and had a blast running through water cross-country schooling. I fell in love with a horse named Daisy, a huge 17.1 chestnut off the track Thoroughbred. She was big boned with a delicately dished face, a unique star, and a double whorl between the eyes. She was incredibly kind and sensitive, and the largest-moving horse I have ever ridden. Her walk was marching- she was going somewhere with purpose! Her trot ate up the ground and just floated. I remember one ride I took her out bareback, and her canter was so soft yet powerful and she offered lead changes as smoothly as if she was in the FEI sandbox. It’s one of my most treasured memories.

Something you learn as a horseless rider is how to cope with your favorite horses finding new homes. The beauty of this heartbreak shaped me into understanding doing what is right for the horse is always better than my own desires. And isn’t that the point of being an Equestrian?

My riding journey involved a lot of discipline changes, barn changes, new horses, mistakes, and nuggets of gold over a stretched out period of time. I often wonder where I would be had I not pursued theatre as well. Would I own a horse now? Would I actually be competing? But life is too short for me to dwell on the what-ifs of a storyline that is not mine. All I can do is change the life I have now. For today, that looks like an increase in riding lessons and barn visits, all with the knowledge that one day will be today.

The Horseless Riders

Caroline Lurie @caroline.lurie.eq

Caroline Lurie

Tell me about your current riding situation.

I’m currently full leasing Manhattan (“Stanley”) and I try to ride 2-3 times a week and show 1-2 shows per months. I’m hoping that I’ll soon be able to get to ride more often during the week come summer.

What makes it possible for you to lease or lesson?

My parents make it financially possible because right now I’m taking 13 credits in prerequisite classes for graduate school while also working for a non-profit that is just getting off the ground. However, because 7 of those credits are for online classes, I have flexibility in my schedule to allow for times to lesson and hack during the week. The hardest part of scheduling is having shows overlap with the Saturday therapeutic riding lessons at the non-profit (I volunteer with). I like to think I can do both, but I usually make everything so much harder for myself.

How does it affect your time? How do you work it into your life?

I think it affects my time in a very positive way because being at the barn and getting to ride gives me the mindfulness that I crave during a hectic week. It’s so nice to be able to swing my leg over Stanley’s back and feel the stress from everything else going on in my life melting away. I also see a spike in my productivity on days that I ride and I think that correlates to the mindfulness and also athletic aspects of riding. Right now, I’m struggling to fit more than 3 days in of riding, but I always try to schedule free time at the barn on Sundays to enjoy spending time and taking care of Stanley and then cleaning my tack.

Do you feel pressured at your barn to buy a horse?

As of right now I don’t feel any pressure because I have so much that is up in the air right now in terms of where I’ll be living in the next year and stuff like that. I’m hoping that depending on where I end up in terms of a graduate program, I’ll be able to ride and I’ll have a better idea of where I’m going to settle.

How do you cope with jealousy of those who do have horses?

I do get very jealous that my friends can bond with their horses much more than I feel I can. I always end up crying for around a week when the lease is up unless they stay in the barn and I get to still see them on a daily basis. However, I try to remind myself that I am learning so much from all the different horses I’ve been fortunate enough to ride while leasing or lessoning between leases, and I hopefully will be able to look into purchasing once I know what my life will look like.

Do you feel like you are part of the team at your barn? How do they include you? If not, why?

I do! I’m very fortunate to be at a barn with a large group of lovely adult amateurs and wonderful trainers who are very supportive of me and understanding of my situation, and they always include me in the barn parties and we get hotels or bungalows together at horse shows.

What is one thing you could feasibly change this year with your riding?

I would love to add a day or two of hacking onto my schedule!

Do you have any advice for other horseless riders?

My greatest piece of advice is to enjoy present and really get to know and enjoy every horse you have the opportunity to sit on. It’s such a privilege to have the opportunity to engage in what I like to call “speed dating” because you get the chance to interact with so many different horses and learn from them. Be open to what lesson they are trying to teach you! With that, know when it’s time to move on and even though its hard, take what they taught you to the next horse you get the chance to sit on. Also, start keeping tabs on what you love in a horse and what you don’t like so that way you have an idea of what your “forever” horse be like when you get the opportunity to start looking for one. Lastly, don’t be afraid to bond with a horse because you are scared of being heartbroken when the lease ends. You’ll look back at your time with the horse much more fondly even though lots of tears will be shed when they get on the trailer home.

Katherine Harrell @katherine_harrell13

Katherine Harrell

Tell me about your current riding situation.

I’ve been riding since i was 3 1/2. (About 10 years) Out of those years, only about 4 have been serious riding. I ride two days a week, Tuesday’s from 5-6:30, and Saturday’s from 9-12 where i help muck stalls/groom/clean the barn and then ride. My barn is off a busy road in Texas. It is in a neighborhood where people live. There are only four horses, one is retired.

What makes it possible for you to lease or lesson?

I’ve know my trainer since before i remember. She worked at a bigger barn and I trained with her. She then moved and built a barn.  My situation is very different from others, but since i know her well i am able to lesson. She likes us to think of her horses as ours.

How does it affect your time? How do you work it into your life?

It can be tiresome and frustrating. Sometimes stressful. It can be a struggle with school work. But it’s a type of therapy. It’s really beneficial to me. It relaxes me, builds my confidence, and I become more responsible and resourceful. I work it in my schedule because I need it. It’s like a stabilizer. It’s so nice to be able able to go the barn after long hard day. It’s something to look forward to.

Do you feel pressured at your barn to buy a horse?

Not at my particular barn, but definitely when I’m around other horsey people, at other barns, horsey events, or even in a Dover saddlery.

How do you cope with jealousy of those who do have horses?

It’s hard. Sometimes I don’t know how. In the equestrian community, it sometimes feels as if you aren’t a true rider unless you have a horse/pony. I tell myself I’m just lucky to be around them. I’m always going to want a horse, especially when it feels like everyone else has one/when people have multiple. I try to enjoy myself around them.

Do you feel like you are part of the team at your barn? How do they include you? If not, why?

Yes! We are all very close. (Our barn is small so we all know each other) We all work barn events together. Most of us lesson together too.

What is one thing you could feasibly change this year with your riding?

I need to give myself more credit for my accomplishments and my successes. Don’t beat myself up for my mistakes.

Do you have any advice for other horseless riders?

It’s hard, and it’s easy to under appreciate what you have. Enjoy horses like they are your own. You are never a lesser rider because you don’t have a horse of your own.   

Skye Holdridge

Tell me about your current riding situation.

I am currently half leasing a Belgian warmblood x Thoroughbred cross that’s 18 years old named Bobby. He’s mainly been specialized in hunters, but definitely has potential for dressage. So I am doing mainly dressage lessons with him currently, and a bit of English flat. Once my barn gets a jumping trainer, we should be having jumping lessons. 

What makes it possible for you to lease or lesson?

My trainer and Bobby’s owner are making this possible for me by slowly getting Bobby back into shape and taking some extra care of him, and of course by letting me lease him.

How does it affect your time? How do you work it into your life?

 I ride 2-3 days a week. 2 being lessons and 1 being a lease ride. I usually spend 3 hours at the barn. This can definitely take a lot of time away from me, especially when I have school. I work this into my schedule by considering it as my main hobby, so there’s not much else on my schedule.

Do you feel pressured at your barn to buy a horse?

I do not, my barn is a very friendly place where everyone is supportive, no matter your situation. 

How do you cope with jealousy of those who do have horses?

I honestly am not super jealous of horse owners, because I am already pretty dedicated and spending lots of my time on Bobby while only leasing. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I owned; I’d have even less time. I enjoy having Bobby somewhat to myself but not having to worry about vet bills and feed, which his owner takes care of.

Do you feel like you are part of the team at your barn? How do they include you? If not, why?

I definitely feel like I am part of the team at my barn. I am invited to barn events and such and am on my dressage trainers “DiPentino Dressage” team with other amazing kind riders! 

What is one thing you could feasibly change this year with your riding?

One thing I’d like to change this year about my riding is being more confident with myself and not doubting myself so much. Also, just having fun! Cause in the end that’s what matters. 

Do you have any advice for other horseless riders?

Just be happy you aren’t having to pay the bills when something unexpected happens, cause it’s really expensive. Horses are so expensive and if you’re even able to ride then you’re already lucky! 

Joy Musser

Tell me about your current riding situation.

I’m a returning rider and just ended my first (half) lease. I’ll go back to once a week lessons while I save up money for a new lease in the future! My daughter also takes lessons, and would like to ride more.

What makes it possible for you to lease or lesson?

Very careful budgeting! I helped with the lesson program in exchange for a hack, which gave me the extra barn/saddle time I crave, but couldn’t afford. I’m working hard to add extra income to hopefully cover the majority of costs, without pulling from our main income stream.

How does it affect your time? How do you work it into your life?

I have a flexible work schedule and use barn time as a reward for getting my work done, as a desk break, and as me time. I’m able to fit it in while the kids are at school. This also means I will work nights and weekends so that my week days can have more wiggle room to ride and be at the barn.

Do you feel pressured at your barn to buy a horse?

I do not feel any pressure to buy. My barn has a nice variety of riders and budgets. When I was ready to look for a lease, the conversation was initiated by me; not the other way around.

How do you cope with jealousy of those who do have horses?

Although owning still intimidates me mentally and financially, it is sometimes hard to watch others move forward with buying/owning/showing while I am scraping together lesson money. I know we all work hard to pursue this sport, and are coming to it with different financial scenarios. I think sometimes the perspective or sensitivity of horse owners can get lost, and always think a humble and grateful attitude goes a long way. I remind myself that my journey has been prioritized differently, and I’ve chosen to have other things in life over horse ownership. And finally, I try to always remember that as much as I might wish for more than what my current reality is, someone else may be working and wishing to get to where I am.

Do you feel like you are part of the team at your barn? How do they include you? If not, why?

There are times when I have felt included and part of the team, but that honestly didn’t really emerge until I became a leasor. The barn parties, outings, and camaraderie do not typically include riders in the lesson program. I also rode with a newer trainer to the barn, and she was there on different days than the main trainers that all the adult amateurs ride with, so it took longer for me to get to know everyone. There are still some boarders that are not friendly or welcoming, but I guess you will find people like that in every environment. I occasionally feel divisions of the barn “haves” and the “have nots” I felt in my youth. I can see on social media that these friendships exist outside of the barn, and have mixed feelings about not being included. But I do feel I’ve made some good barn friendships in my short time there.

What is one thing you could feasibly change this year with your riding?

I think it’s within reach for me to have a full lease. I’m carefully setting up finances to save up for this, and hopefully can reach my goal within the year. I realistically could only afford a short term full lease (6-12 months) but I’m going to try. Splitting costs on a half lease was great, but also came with other issues I’d like to avoid next time around if I can swing it. This would also allow me more saddle time, and I’d like to get back to being a confident rider this year!

Do you have any advice for other horseless riders?

There are usually ways to get more barn time, with the hopes that this may lead to saddle time. If taking on formal barn chores/work isn’t in the cards, just offering to help out with shows, lessons, grooming, cleaning, etc. can be a win-win. I know I will soon be getting some curry-comb therapy with a horse whose owner isn’t around much – I simply asked who needed some TLC and if I could spend some ground time with him. On the financial front, I’m very motivated to budget and have a visual of reaching that goal. I made myself a sweet Excel file to track my savings, complete with a thermometer graphic that rises with each deposit. It allows me to see that I AM making progress and gives me a plan, which gives me hope.


Thank you so much to Caroline, Katherine, Skye, and Joy for your contributions! 

Love from a life-long Equestrian, Connie

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