I’ve been behind the eight ball on this, but here it goes.
When did people become so thin-skinned and sensitive to what other people think? I’m 32—yes…three years away from the “35 and over” age group for the amateurs—and I’m proud of it! I grew up busting my butt to learn, ride and show. Heck, I still bust my butt to do those things plus work a demanding full-time job, a part-time job, be a wife and raise three kids. Nothing is owed to me and I earn every bit of what I have.
We aren’t all talentless, we aren’t all entitled brats with fancy horses and grooms standing by. If you are one of those, good because I’m happy for you! I honestly am! I’m not one of those people, but I do have a fancy horse and that’s only because I got lucky and put in the work to make it happen.
I learned as a kid that if I wanted to do something, I needed to earn it. Yes, I’ve had my share of nice horses that cost several thousands and thousands of dollars, but I didn’t have money to show or even lesson on those horses. I remember in high school, my jumper needed shockwave for a suspensory injury and her hocks injected. My parents wouldn’t pay for it, so I worked my tail off that summer to pay for it at the age of 16, plus her rehab costs.
I was the first one out to the barn and was almost always the last one to leave. It sucked, but it taught me a lot that prepared me for where I’m at today. It taught me to never give up and never quit chasing my dreams. It also taught me probably an even more valuable lesson… listen to your horse.
This summer has been a challenge for me. I’ve struggled to find the time to ride, horse show, get the studying in I need for my new job and also have a home life.
I was able to make a few things happen this summer, and some just never happened at all or were a complete train wreck. I’m OK with it!
I’ll touch on the complete train wrecks in my next blog—August and September were not my months! I’ve learned time and time again that everything happens for a reason. I was able to do something that I never thought would happen on my own—I moved Finn up to the rated adult amateur division. It wasn’t perfect, but it happened!
The ring wasn’t perfect, it was actually a sloppy mess, it was humid and I didn’t get to school in the ring. I had a college friend help me out and was able make do. I turned the corner, made a choice and set my pace before thinking to myself, “holy cow, is this really happening?!” I didn’t stress lead changes, I didn’t stress about the mistakes, but I did enjoy every moment and every error with gratitude.
We finished with a sixth and an eighth and an accomplishment that I’ll never forget.
I also learned that you probably shouldn’t jump while you’re doing an experimental trial with contact lenses at a horse show. Talk about a change in depth perception! Needless to say, Finn did a great job as a seeing-eye horse! To have the connection and trust with a horse is such a surreal feeling. It’s an extremely humbling reminder of where we come from.
Of course my main supporter was there by our side, grooming to the best of his ability and recording every step of every round. While waiting at the in-gate, I had a lady come rushing up to us and gave me a giant hug and a huge pat on the neck for Finn. She said she’s been following our story and just had to come out and meet us and show support when she saw our names entered online!
It was such a surreal experience to know that it’s more than just my friends and family following our adventures!
We later ventured to Lexington, Va., to the House Mountain Summer Show to meet up with our good friends, Sasha and Lisa. I had a late start, but was able to make it down by 9 p.m. I had quick solo school in the coliseum; it was our first time and Finn wasn’t fazed. We settled in for the night and headed to the hotel to crash for an early week girls’ getaway.
Finn had other plans—he did not take well to his stall or his company next door when we returned in the early morning. He would not settle at all, he was on edge the entire day and wanted out to hand-walk. I walked about 20 miles on Tuesday before I showed. I ended up adding the suitable Thoroughbred classes prior to the adult amateurs.
We had a little struggle in the warm-up ring catching a fence to use, but we were finally able to catch one with the help of Sasha and Lisa. We took our normal amount of warm-up fences, three to five, and to the ring we went. The girls helped me groom up then eagerly stood by photographing and filming our first show experience in the coliseum.
We laid down the best trip of our adventure—it was FLAWLESSLY executed. I remember landing and finishing out a nice giant circle and coming down to the trot and then the walk. Sasha caught a once in a lifetime photograph that summarizes what it’s all about—having fun.
For that moment, I was able to forget about everything, no husband, no kids, no work or the dreaded, “what’s for dinner?” The rest of the day finished out in the same fashion and we narrowly missed reserve champion by half a point.
Finn settled down enough for us to go have dinner out. We went up the road to Ruby Tuesday’s to celebrate with some dinner and much needed drinks.
The rest of the show was full of unexpected worries. Finn jumped over the wheelbarrow during night check on night, though his tour was limited to our aisle before he was caught. Then he managed to get a leg caught in his hay net one day. He was fine, but it was a bit worrisome!
I called Sean and told him what was going on. Without hesitation, he loaded Logan and Mikey up and headed south. I was showing in the jumpers and it was about a 100 degrees. I finally broke down and just got on him early. We did a light hack, then walked around and watched some of the rounds. We took two warm-up fences and in we went for the Thoroughbred jumpers.
We had a blast! I tried some handy turns and even kicked up the speed a notch in the final fences of the jump-off. We ended up walking away with two fourths against horses that regularly do the jumpers. I called Sean to share the news, and he was about 15 minutes away. Relief was near!
I cooled Finn out and left Sean with him to walk around. I hooked up the trailer and pulled it around. I immediately put Finn on there and he instantaneously relaxed and even started falling asleep! Clearly the key to the puzzle was found right then and there—he was happy hanging out and people-watching from his chariot!
After we made it home, I was never more happy to shower and collapse into bed. I think I slept a solid 18 hours!
Finn is an absolute dream and was only $400, but I’ve spent 3½ long years getting us both to where we are. I honestly never thought I’d get to horse show again, but I made it work with the help of my husband. If you want something badly enough, there is always a will and a way to make it happen. And if it doesn’t, it’s OK to cry and be angry for a minute or two.
When it comes to life, always take the challenging and not well-traveled route. It won’t be easy, you will fail multiple times, and that’s OK. But you will ultimately prevail.
It’s OK to be scared—if you’re not at any point then you’re not human. It’s simple; you suck it up and do it. You do it for you and you do it for your horse. After all, that’s why we’re all here doing what we do, day after day—it’s all for the love of the horse.
Elizabeth Grubbs fits riding her off-the-track Thoroughbred hunter, Finn, around her full-time job as a firefighter/paramedic and two part-time jobs. She also juggles that with her life as a wife and stepmother to three children. You can read more about her in the Amateurs Like Us profile “Elizabeth Grubbs’ Bumpy Road Led To The Right Place“ and read all of Elizabeth’s COTH blogs.