The other night, my husband and I sat on our kitchen floor and shouted obscenities. Not at each other, thankfully, but at life, at the latest wrench thrown in our feeble plans. Patricia had told me earlier that day that Tebogo would be ending the Thoroughbred training and sales part of the business by January 2015. So in other words, time to start looking for a new job.
I had thought a few times before about what life after Tebogo might entail—would I go work for another bigger operation or open my own barn for lessons, training, sales, etc.; reapply to vet school or completely flip the script and delve into the real world of non-horsey occupations?
It only took one indoor interview where I found myself desperately trying to look out of windows and constantly shifting the topic of conversation back to horses for me to realize that a non-horsey career would just be painful. I would become that docile horse that when put on stall rest turns into a wall-bashing, teeth-baring lunatic.
I had made up my mind when I first decided to become a professional that I wanted to be the best possible rider, trainer and instructor that I could be. I wasn’t satisfied with average, from myself or my horses, and I knew that in order to become the type of rider that I idolize and respect, I needed to be surrounded by those types of people—which is why I moved to the heart of horse country in the first place.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that I’m not going to the Olympics. My goals aren’t grandeur but just to keep getting better. I’ve learned so much about the riding and the industry during my tenure at Tebogo, and I’m so grateful to Dave and Patricia for their generosity, which afforded me many of the opportunities I’ve had. I’ve gotten a lot better over the last four years, but the little voice in my head kept saying, “I’m not done.”
So my frantic job search began. Martin (my friend and co-worker at Tebogo) made fun of my rapid fire texting and obsessive scanning of the “Help Wanted” section on VirginiaEquestrian.com. He’s French and very laissez-faire about the whole thing. I’m American, and I enjoy feeding my animals and sleeping indoors, so the searches, texts and resume-making storm did not abate.
After the initial panic subsided I started to look at all the jobs I had applied for and began to sort through which jobs would allow me to grow my business, my riding and my client base or jobs that would provide a great deal of security but not a whole lot of freedom for growth.
I decided that if I was going to go the security route I was going to do it in Virginia Beach where I could be closer to my family, otherwise, what’s the point in living four hours away from them if I’m not taking full advantage of all the resources available to me in terms of great riders to learn from, work for and improve myself with. So as I combed through my folder of sent emails and applications, I kept returning to one in particular.
If I hadn’t recognized the farm name, I probably wouldn’t have bothered calling/emailing about the position. It was a short, one-line ad on Virginia Equestrian, inconspicuous and something about a great opportunity for a young professional wanting to break into the industry. But I’d seen their banner at shows, and I knew the quality of horses and riders they produced.
Think about that feeling you get the first time you move a horse up a level at a show, right as you walk in the ring, that mix between nausea and excitement, that looming “what if….?” That’s the feeling I had as I nervously typed in the phone number and prayed that my sketchy cell service didn’t embarrass me more than I would undoubtedly embarrass myself all on my own. And by some miracle I didn’t. And wouldn’t you know, the little girl who grew up riding short Quarter Horse “ponies” in Virginia Beach managed to get an interview with Eight Oaks.
After riding more than 40 off-track Thoroughbreds over the last four years, you could say that I’m accustomed to a more sensitive, forward ride. I’m very good at putting out the fire, not as good at lighting it up.
When I was in college at Hollins, I rode a variety of lovely, quiet hunter types, so I’m not completely unversed in the more made hunters, but it’s been a while. I wouldn’t say I bombed the interview completely—I mean, I didn’t fall off of what might be the fanciest horse I’ve ever sat on. I got in the car afterwards and called a friend. I told her how stressed I was about how it went and that I didn’t know how in the world I would be able to balance my life with going to Florida for the winter and blah blah blah.
She stopped me and said, “Paige, you have to do it. I can’t think of a better opportunity. This is like skipping a few grades in school.” And she was right. I had been going on about trying to find some way to break into the industry at this level and here it was.
In life you make sacrifices for the things you really want. And I’ve learned as a rider you have to be all in. I’m a normal girl from a small town who has worked for everything I have, and the only way someone like me ends up in Wellington for the winter is to be all in, to say yes and work out the details to make your goals possible. After telling a few people about my new job, some have said to me things like “aren’t you happy to be riding some quality horses finally,” or “won’t it be nice to sit on something other than a Thoroughbred?”
And my response is yes, I am happy to be riding quality horses. But I’ve always ridden quality horses. It is on the backs of Thoroughbreds that I finally got to show consistently on the A-circuit, did my first young jumper class, galloped around at Upperville, learned to event, made a lot of mistakes, and became the rider I am today.
Chronicle blogger and hunter/jumper trainer Paige Cade worked at Tebogo Sport Horses, a facility in Delaplane, Va., devoted to the re-training and sales of off-the-track Thoroughbreds, and has recently accepted a job with Eight Oaks, which specializes in hunters, jumpers and equitation horses.