I started riding at 4 years old, my parents were 100% unhorsey but willing to pay for a few riding lessons for their horse mad child.
At 10 I got my first pony, again my parents had no idea what they were in for, we had a property so they figured why not put a horse on it. My pony was a feral little welsh mare that had been a broodie for her whole life, and ridden maybe 10 times in her 13 years! But I loved her, and for $800 my parents brought her.
I started pony club on her, did some eventing and the usual pony club stuff, then decided at about 12 or 13 that I liked dressage. I started lessons with an FEI dressage rider, got a more suitable horse and started competing here and there in local competitions.
Fast forward a few years - or this will go on forever! I started working for a dealer/breaker/trainer that dealt with racehorses, stock horses, hunters, show horses and then the ones off the back of a doggers truck. She was quite a 'slippery' dealer, and I was put in positions that I really wasn't comfortable with, selling unsound and dangerous horses that had been drugged to their eyeballs, and threatened with the loss of my job if I said a word.
I began my final year of school, and used that as an excuse to get out of there. But during the couple of years that I spent working for that woman, I was able to ride multitudes of different horses, riding breakers, experienced/educated horses, and then chronic buckers/bolters that had been taken off the back of the doggers truck because they were 'pretty' and could be sold on quickly if we 'covered up' the behavioural issues.
I am NOT proud of my involvement in this business, but I stayed because of the riding experience I was getting. I ended up getting 'known' as a decent rider and people started asking if I would take their horses for re-education. I was about 16 at the time I think.
During my last year of school, I turned my own horse out, she was accident prone and had torn the muscles through her chest doing the splits in the paddock!, and stuck with riding a few 're-eds' to keep me in the saddle while studying.
Once I finished school, I was offered a lovely medium level dressage mare to compete on, on whom I achieved fantastic results and thus secured a position on the state dressage squad. An opportunity that I never dreamt of having! This gave me the motivation and self confidence to really work my butt off with riding.
I began to do some rider coaching, as well as keeping up with my horse re-education, before meeting my current coach and 'colleague'. I was offered the ride of her warmblood mare, and given the chance to compete on her. At my first competition with the mare, one of our states top FEI riders approached me, and offered me the ride and possible lease if I was interested, of one of her green horses. She clashed with this horse and had not found anyone who got on with it under saddle, but was impressed with my riding and thought I may be suitable.
So now I have "Bob" and he is going great guns, I am looking forward to campaigning him next year, he is the biggest smoocher of a horse and tries his heart out for me! I am very lucky that I have bonded with him!
I was then offered a chance to coach alongside my own coach, under her business name, so I have started coaching beginner riders on school horses, as well as continuing my horse and rider training outside of the business. I have also been offered an opportunity to travel to Europe in 2011, as a working student at a top international competitors stables for 3 months. I will be looking at sponsorship in the new year.
This all said, it has been far from an easy ride. After my second horse, my parents no longer supported me financially in my equestrian pursuits, so I had to come up with the money myself. I was frequently told that I would never 'make it', my legs were too short, boobs too big and didn't have enough money - after all, don't you need a million dollar horse to be successful? Well all I can say is I am so proud to be where I am today, funding everything on my own, riding a minimum of 3 horses a day, 6 days a week and coaching as an income.
It is all about hard work, dedication and self confidence. Dream big, you may not reach your ultimate dream but the bigger you dream, the more you'll get. Just don't expect it to happen over night, and don't expect the road to be easy. For some people, no matter how much money they have and how much training they get, they just do not have the natural talent for riding and cannot 'make it big'. As long as you are doing it for yourself, not for anyone else. I do not compete against other people, whether there are 2 or 20 people in a class, I compete against myself and aim for a personal best each time I go out. Placings and percentages are just a number, all I want is for my horse to work attentively, and each time we will improve. Competing is just a training exercise.
I compete to train, not train to compete :)