Now that we have hit the halfway mark of the year, I finally feel like I can take a deep breath.
Though the season is still in full swing, and in particular busy with impending Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games selections, it has still slowed down just enough to give everyone a chance to hit the reset button as we prepare for a summer and fall full of great events.
After a successful (and very gratifying) sixth-placed CCI*** finish at Bromont, my main man, Oz The Tin Man, is on a well-deserved vacation, giving me time to focus on my young up-and-comer, Roman Place, who I hope will be moving up to preliminary soon. I also had a little time to sneak away for a couple days to attend the wedding of a very dear friend from home.
Going to the wedding was a bit of a high school reunion as many of my close friends gathered to celebrate. I had a chance to meet and learn about the new people in their lives and all of the great adventures they have been on since I last saw them. I couldn't help but feel humbled as I listened to them talk about their careers that accompany their secondary degrees in theology, computational math, computer science, environmental studies, and so on.
When I was in high school I was academically neck and neck with all of them and had plans of several degrees of my own. I envisioned myself following an academically rigorous path that would lead to a nice job and a steady income and time to ride and compete extensively on the side as—dare I say it—a hobby.
But fate pulled me in a different direction. I enrolled at UCLA as a full-time student, found a nice barn with an open position for a working student, packed my equipment and my (then preliminary) horse in the trailer, and headed off to school. One thing led to another and at the end of four years in college I found myself with an advanced horse, another of my mother's who I rode through intermediate, and several others of hers that I was fortunate enough to help start their eventing careers.
I had a handful of students and horses who I taught/trained, in addition to several part-time jobs, including one as a groom and another as an assistant trainer at a large public boarding facility. Well, I also had a pretty cool Magna Cum Laude BA degree in Linguistics and Anthropology, but that seemed like an afterthought by that point.
It was somewhere in the midst of all that madness that I realized I most likely was NOT going to grad school. Or at least not then. Instead I was making plans to start out on my own as a rider and trainer and continue on as a professional eventer. As it came to pass, I eventually made my way to Temecula, Calif., to work with Hawley Bennett, deciding that I needed a bit more equestrian schooling before going it alone. That then led to my position here at BDJ Equestrian and the rest is history....or, the rest is the present!
Being surrounded for a weekend by my highly educated, city-dwelling, new-car-driving, impressively employed friends definitely gave me pause for a minute. I wondered how I had gotten so far away from that alternate universe, one in which I might have had a PhD in Speech Pathology and Communicative Disorders, driven a Prius, and had 2.5 children in a small suburban home.
Instead, I am the single working mother of two hungry event horses, spend my days in a barn working on a Masters in Equine Communication and eat ramen for dinner; all in the hopes that I soon can do all of those things as a professional under my own name running a program of my own.
At the wedding, as we exchanged the tales of our lives, my friends couldn't comment enough on how cool they thought it was that I spend every day doing what I love; that I spend time around Olympic and Olympic hopeful athletes (two and fourlegged); that I get to travel the country and go on wild adventures and am always learning new things and meeting new people. They found the stories of my life altogether romantic and exciting, or at the very least wildly entertaining and extravagant.
It was in sharing the details of my life with my friends that I was reminded how lucky I am to be living this dream. The days might be long, the sleep might be little, and the pay might be modest, but the rewards are great. I am blessed to be able to wake up every day to a job that is also a career that is also a passion. I may not have an air-conditioned office, but I also will never work the same day twice. I may not have a fancy title, but I have the great pleasure of taking total pride and joy in the product of my efforts.
And as I flew home on Sunday evening, I smiled knowing that when all is said and done, I wouldn't trade this life for the world.
Katy Groesbeck has recently packed up her life on the West Coast for the chance to be a working student with Buck Davidson. Follow her adventures as a part of BDJ Equestrian and with her horse, Wort, as she shares the lessons she learns in 2014! Read all of her blogs.