Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2024

Blogger Lauren Billys

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I realize, being who I am, that I have a tendency to be overly competitive and overly analytical. When I see a problem, I want to fix it immediately. Since my return from the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, these qualities certainly haven’t changed.

I woke up this morning with a feeling of incompletion after cross-country at the Pan American Games. Twenty-four hours ago I couldn’t sleep or eat. I woke up with clammy hands before my alarm. I was ready for the day. 

When we arrived at La Hipica Club, we loaded the horses into trailers and took all our supplies over to Santa Sofia Country Club, where the cross-country was to be held. I got on for a quick ride when I got there to feel the footing and get a little air in my horse’s lungs.  

It was the best I could have imagined. It’s like she knew today was the day to do her very best in dressage. She never put up a fight but was compliant and better in the ring than I could have ever expected.

Today my horse, Ballingowan Ginger, and I put in our dressage test for the Pan American Games. It was surreal. As I trotted into the big arena, there was a large audience, huge flower boxes and a big-time feel to the arena.

It is good to remember the past. It brings me home, reminds me of what I’ve been through, and strengthens me for what is to come.

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Walking down the barn aisles on the first day was overwhelming. I tried to ask for help in broken Spanglish, which left me wondering if I even spoke English. I came early to the Pan American Games without a groom, without a coach, without a veterinarian and without a team. I relied on my past showing experiences to pull me through. The Pan American Games, however, is not just like any other horse show experience.

I had the chills, the kind that run up and down your spine, and my heart was beating so hard in my chest it was hard to breathe as we walked into opening ceremonies at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. A screaming crowd of 50,000 people shook me. On the way to the stadium Puerto Rico put on quite the show with drumming, dancing and singing all the way to the stadium. It was exhilarating to be surrounded by people with such a joy for the moment they were in. All the way to the stadium, people cheering for the 6,000 athletes from 42 delegations surrounded the walkways.

Anyone who ever said the Pan American Games are “kind of a big deal” made the understatement of the century. It finally hit me that this was a huge deal when I stepped onto the tarmac on Monday after 16 hours of traveling to look up at a HUGE jet only to realize that this jet was the one that would take Ginger and me to the Pan Am games.

When I was a little girl, I had my very first horse show at a local schooling hunter-jumper show. I remember when Laurel, my riding coach, asked me if I would like to go. I was giddy with excitement and couldn’t be more proud of myself. I rode a school horse named Little Sundance.

Hi. My name is Lauren Billys. I am 23 years old. I’ve been riding since the age of 8 and grew up falling in love with horses in boxer shorts, tennis shoes and half chaps. My best friends and I learned how to ride by trail riding, swimming down the river, and (my favorite) three-day eventing.

My first horse, Ranger, came from a local classified called the Thrifty Nickle where everything you can imagine is sold from used mattresses to horses. It was with him I learned riding is about the journey not the end product. I really learned to enjoy the day-in, day-out of riding.

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