So try as I might, my inner show jumper took over and a few weeks into my time at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.), I crossed back over to the dark side. A big thanks goes out to the Barkers for understanding that my ambitions were in another ring and encouraging me to pursue them. Through a miracle of networking, (a friend of a friend of a friend and so on…) I found myself standing in Margie Engle’s ring one balmy January morning.
Contrary to early blog posts about Wellington, for once, this was actually real life. And I was actually having a conversation with one of the greatest American show jumpers of all time.
Working for Margie’s team has been an incredible opportunity. I’ve learned a ton about the management, care and training of upper level show jumpers, but I think I’ve learned even more about myself. And as the season here in Wellington winds down, I face a tough decision. Do I continue working at Gladewinds, travel to Canada and Europe and completely immerse myself in the life that is international show jumping? Or do I go out on my own?
While wrestling with this decision, I asked a friend of mine who has taken that leap of faith to go out on her own, why she decided to do her own thing and she said, “I want to like my every day.”
Ditto. And when I really think about what will make my every day a good day, it has a lot to do with the people (and pets) I care about the most. Will I like my every day standing at the in-gate in Aachen if it means that my family is half a world away? Probably not. Yes, I’ll like parts of it for sure, but the thing I like most will be missing from my life. And I came to a scary realization: I’m too old for this; I’ve missed the boat.
Ten years ago, faced with the same dilemma, I would have already bought the plane ticket. But the stakes are higher now. I can no longer take time with my mom for granted; I want to have my own kids before I’m 80, and my husband has been very supportive of all my equine adventures. Ditching him for a ticket to equine fantasyland abroad would be most unfair.
The more I thought about it, (please note: I recognize that this is probably the most “first world” problem someone can ponder—Do I gallivant around Europe with an array of the finest horses on God’s green earth or do I go back to northern Virginia and play with my own ponies—I could actually slap myself.) I also realized that I’m not going to move up the levels riding on the coattails of one of the greats. I can learn from them, but their sponsors are their sponsors. I mean seriously, why in the world would someone want to buy me a horse to compete when they could buy one for Margie? I have to form my own customer relationships and the only way to do that is to get out there on my own and do it.
Another friend of mine once told me that nothing in life is free. Everything has a cost whether it’s money or time; everything we do costs something. My time in Wellington has shown me that to reach the upper levels it costs a lot.
I don’t just mean the obvious “horses are expensive” sentiment. The way I see it, there are basically two ways to get to the top. Way number one: money. And not just money alone—hard work, training and devotion to the sport are also needed, but deep pockets certainly make the road to the upper levels much less bumpy. Way number two: selling your soul to the sport.
Which doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, until you miss your nephew’s first birthday, or that close friend’s wedding or your mom gets sick. Working every weekend from now to eternity isn’t the worst thing when you love your job, but I’m realizing that I love my family more. Does that mean I’m giving up on my dreams? Does that make me a failure?
I think it comes down to how you define success or failure. I used to think that becoming someone like Margie, internationally renowned, respected, a legend in the sport, was success. And it is, but maybe not for me. Maybe my success is running my own small barn where I can train the horses and my students in a way that I’m proud of.
Maybe, for me, success is waking up every morning and liking every day.
Chronicle blogger and up and coming hunter/jumper trainer Paige Cade spent most of the 2015 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival working for Margie Engle’s Gladewinds Farm, and has recently made the decision to return to Virginia to start her own riding and training business, Country Fox Farm, Inc.