Finding My Name

Oct 28, 2014 - 3:54 AM
Rebecca Young and her Thoroughbred jumper, Holly Go Lightly. Photo by OC Photo.

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and niches lately. A few weeks ago I started my own business, so my head has been spinning trying to figure out how to market myself within the hunter/jumper industry. Knowing my proper identity and skill set is essential if I’m to succeed, of course, but understanding who I am and what I have to offer is about more than just marketing; it is about standing up and being held accountable to the sport I’ve chosen. That accountability begins with an honest declaration of who I am. Here goes:

I come from a family of horse people.

Horses are a way of life to me and my family. My dad trains Thoroughbred racehorses. My mom was a farrier and is still a fabulous rider and horsewoman; she taught me almost everything I know. I have two half-sisters; one is a dressage rider and the other is a hunter/jumper trainer. For me, loving horses is a genetic condition. My first memory was not of cribs or playgrounds or my parents (sorry Mom and Dad), it was of my first pony, a long suffering black-and-white mare named Holly that my mother got for me after I’d dismissed every doll from my life with abrupt and unsettling styling choices (it stood to reason that Barbie would never fit a helmet over all that hair). I never remember choosing to ride; I just rode, as if riding was as natural to a child’s development as speaking or walking. Since then, I’ve kept learning, never content with being just good enough… 

I am a student.

Wait! I’m supposed to be a professional now. Actually, I declared professional status on Oct. 3; it was easy, I just clicked OK, thereby passing the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s rigorous professional’s exam. I’m still getting used to my new status. I’ve always considered myself a student of the hunter/jumper sport. I’m not used to pretending to have all the answers when I usually have all the questions, instead. Professional or not, I think learning is a lifelong habit. If we had more professionals who were as eager to learn as they are to make money and defend their egos… well, I’d better stop before I insult my new peer group. I am more than just a horse crazy kid with an aptitude for taking notes, though…

I am a breeder.

I have a small, home-grown breeding program that I’ve been slowly improving. I’ve worked hard to acquire broodmares with sought-after lines and impressive performance records, and the young horses I currently have are a strong first testament to all the success the future holds. I also have a seasonal obsession with equine semen that makes my non-horsey friends uneasy. I covet well-bred broodmares like heroes in romance novels, she will be MINE! My first homebred, a 2010 gelding by Diarado named Deep Woods, will start in the 5-year-old young jumpers in 2015. I couldn’t be more excited for our future! But there’s more to me than broodmare and babies…

I am a young horse developer.

I’ve been starting and bringing along my own young horses for the past decade. I love to feel the slow transformation from undomesticated herd animal to fine-tuned competition partner. It’s amazing, truly. Horses trust me to climb on their backs, to teach them perhaps the most complex nonverbal language system ever created between two separate species; the process never fails to produce awe and elation in me. I love the partnership that develops between me and a horse I’ve been developing since babyhood. There’s something unique and special about bringing along a horse that has been with you since birth, and I do firmly believe this relationship gives us an edge in the show ring. I am proud to be a young horse developer. But, there’s more… 

I am a competitor.

I have some competitive horses in my barn. Not nearly enough, in my opinion, but then that’s the hunger talking. I want to win; every class, every show, and every title. I never had the winner growing up. My family couldn’t afford the winner; I got the horses nobody else could ride. I lost a lot. But there’s virtue in starting at the bottom, I got to see how each piece had to fit together with the piece before and after it. I didn’t have the winner, so I had to make the winner from scratch. My best horse is an off-the-track Thoroughbred chestnut mare, Holly, that I got as a 3-year-old. Whatever comes to mind when I say “chestnut Thoroughbred mare,” multiply that by about 100, and you’ve got Holly. She’s been with me for seven years and together we’ve won more classes in that time than I’d won on all my other horses, combined. I know the recipes to develop from-scratch winners, and I’m always improvising and improving them. My dreams currently outreach my means, but I’m closing the margins every day. Just wait and see what I’m capable of—I’m a competitor through and through. In order to understand my need for competition and horses, I had to step away. My story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning… 

I am an outsider.

Three years ago I quit horses and moved to the Colorado Rockies to attend college. Not only did I quit, I totally erased who I had been. I didn’t tell anyone at school that I had been involved in horses before school, I didn’t bring any pictures or horse-related items with me, I didn’t follow horse news, and I didn’t come home and ride over the summers. I immersed myself in different social cultures and physical pursuits. I participated in theater. I climbed mountains. I spent weekend’s ski bumming, camping, and trying desperately to like the taste of beer. I studied English and creative writing. Most importantly, I learned that being happy with who you are and the life you choose to lead is more valuable than success alone, a concept I had never entertained before.

Away from the incubated world of six-figure jumpers, loaded pedigrees, and exclusive horse shows, suddenly I was able to laugh and see how ridiculous the sport I loved could be. I mean, half a million dollars for a horse? It eats and poops and occasionally throws you in the dirt! With time, I recognized that everything, given a light enough heart, can be ridiculous (Take skiing: I’m going to strap super slick boards to the bottom of my feet and slide down a very steep and rocky mountainside. What could possibly go wrong?).

With more time, I came to accept that it is OK if the thing you love doing is both ridiculous and essential to your joy. And so after I graduated, I came back. I came back to start a new story where the old one left off. This is the beginning of that story. It begins:

Hello, my name is Rebecca Young. 

Category: Blog Entry

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