Shortly after graduating from college, I went rogue. Instead of accepting a “normal” job, I turned to the horse business. My parents were not thrilled, but accepted the inevitable. I had grown up in a “non-horsey” family, resolutely collecting horse figurines, reading equestrian books and asking for a pony. The pony never came. My parents hoped I would out-grow the notion. I didn’t.
At college, I would sneak away to ride at a local stable. Summers were spent giving riding lessons at summer camps. When I had my degree I headed to New York, where I began learning from the best instructors in the business. Before long I was coaching young riders, showing hunters and jumpers, and buying, training and selling horses off the track.
My lifelong passion for racing led me to Belmont Park before dawn every morning. From a savvy stable foreman I learned how to treat legs, which came in handy later with my former racehorses. Too tall to be a jockey, I occasionally was hired to exercise horses because I had kind hands and a calm nature. And, as a “pony girl,” I escorted racing greats such as Angel Cordero, Laffit Pincay and Ron and Rudy Turcotte to the starting gate for afternoon races.
Meanwhile, I continued to show and coach. But I also prepared a Plan B in case I became gravely injured or lost my enthusiasm for competing.
Then one day, an encounter with a starry-eyed 10-year-old let me know it was time to put that plan into action. I was riding a horse in the warm-up area at the Washington International Horse Show, feeling tired and impatient, when she tapped on my leg. I looked down into her shining eyes. “You’re so lucky,” she said, “You get to ride horses every day.”
I realized in that instant that I no longer found joy in showing. It was time to move on. I fell back on my education and experience with horses to become a writer. I’d never go to the Olympics or World Equestrian Games or Rolex-Kentucky as a rider, but I could go as a journalist. Initially I took a job as racing editor at a newspaper, which I followed with a stint in public relations for the historic Charles Town Races.
From there I moved back to editorial positions at magazines covering horse sports and the equestrian lifestyle. And later I became a freelancer.
Along the way, my knowledge of horse sports expanded to carriage driving, endurance, sidesaddle and more. And I explored and wrote about equestrian destinations such as Palm Beach, Southern Pines and Tryon. Because I chose to write about horses, I’ve been in the presence of greatness---horse and human---and that is a privilege few have shared.
Honestly, that’s easy for me to say now, looking back on a satisfying career in which the good memories stand out. However, I would tell anyone considering a similar path that a life devoted to horses is not for the faint of heart. It’s physically, emotionally and financially demanding. Sacrifice and heartbreak are often in the mix.
That said, I would do it all over again to experience that euphoric moment when a horse and I are completely in sync and I could swear he’s reading my mind. I would do it all over again for the feel of a horse’s chin resting on my shoulder in a show of trust and companionship. I would do it all over again to once more witness incredible performances such as Edward Gal and Totilas winning triple gold at the 2010 World Equestrian Games. For all those reasons and more, I am glad to have been part of the horse world---and encourage others to do the same.