When I was 18, I loaded up my horse and drove halfway across the country to take a position at a barn just outside of Houston. I had quite a bit of experience for my age, and it didn't take long for them to overload me with horses to work and lessons to teach. As much horse experience as I had, I lacked the life experience, and when I didn't like what I saw with the horses(which my opinion hasn't changed today), I reacted in the wrong way. I ended up leaving that barn, but if I had been able to stay and change things, I could have really started quite the career. The owner of the barn had actually offered to pay my way to get a business degree to completely take over the stable of over 120 horses. Quite a bit for an 18 yr old mind to handle. While there, I met someone who had a strong background in reining, cutting, and team penning. She took me under her wing, let my horse stay in her barn, and hauled us all over with them. It opened up a new world of expectations to my brain that had brought up "hunter style" and the experience is something that has really shaped who I am today. She offered to get me a job exercising horses and working with one of the top cutting horse trainers in the country, yet another opportunity passed and I turned it down to come back home. Looking back, where would I be now if I had taken that position?
When I got home, I went back to my little hole where I had worked for years, taking in lay-ups from Wellington and rehabilitating them to get them ready for the show ring. The horses were nice and people traffic was minimal, I got a lot of hands on experience and didn't have to worry about what scared me most, the people. I continued taking retraining projects for myself, trying to do everything to not make myself stand out. When the woman who owned the barn sold it and moved to AZ, I kept my happy little home with the horses and went on to do whatever odd jobs I could just to get by.
Being intersted in behavior problems soon linked to physical problems, which I took courses in Ocala to understand more about the musculoskeletal system and saddle fit. As a teen, I had been top 10 in the state in 4-H horse judging, and already had a good eye for reading horses. What I was learning about there body made perfect sense. Yet, once I ventured back into the horse world, I found myself working with top dressage trainers and still being disgusted by their horses physical weaknesses. This pushed me to keep looking. I called my current trainer on a whim, asked about a working student position and offered to pay for my first lesson to see where she could use me. I remember that first lesson where she was just as surprised as I was when she said "You can actually ride". At the time, I had no idea the extent of her background. She has pushed me into barn management, teaching clinics, teaching lessons, taking on the most extreme of horse cases, and really never giving me the chance to back out.
Looking back, where would I be if I had kept that job at the big barn in TX when I was 18? Where would I be if I had taken the chance with that cutting horse trainer? Where would I be if that kid in school hadn't made fun of me for getting good grades to the point where I purposely bombed so I wouldn't be valedictorian? The fear of success and the fear of opportunity have been haunting me my whole life. It has always been best to stay where no one could see me, if they couldn't see me, then I couldn't dissapoint them.
I've passed up a lot of opportunities, but I know if I had taken one of those roads, I wouldn't know nearly as much as I know today. I'm determined not to sit on the sidelines any longer, not to mention, I don't think that the trainer I work with now will let me fade into the shadows. I found the right opportunity, now its just a matter of running with it.