To have the chance to participate in the sport of equestrian show jumping is forever a dream and an immense privilege for me. The hunters are truly where my heart beats, and my horses hold the key to that heart.
There is endless talk these days about what opportunities money can buy versus what never giving up on a dream can get you. And tonight I am not here to go through any of that.
Instead, I am here to share a little of my heart. And a few well-earned, well-learned truths if you’ll all indulge me for a moment on this emotional evening here at USHJA derby finals.
Photo: Shawn McMillen Photography
My pocketbook has never been able to really run as deep as my passion and love for the hunters would like it to. My life has never really granted me the time to dedicate to riding that I wish it could.
But my love for my horses, the pursuit of excellence in both riding and horse ownership has been a driving force in my life.
In the last 17 months, however, I learned in a very visceral way to remember always to be grateful for everything. To keep in mind that the horse I maybe thought I was missing out on was never going to come close to what I have -> a trainer who respects my way of thinking and helps me progress confidently, horses who love me, their lives and always show up for me, and a team of professionals who care for my horses as if they were their own.
I learned that life could always be easier, but it could also always be much worse. When you stand at the overhang of a cliff as much as I have this year (while your life maybe goes over it), you learn a few things. You see things differently.
I learned emphatically that I will fight for my family business, employees, horses and family with all of my might. All of my soul, and all of my faith.
I learned that I may no longer have the newest show coat, or fanciest whatever but it actually means nothing if I remember I am here for myself and my horses.
And again, more lessons when Caitlyn simultaneously experienced what felt like injury after injury last year, when I learned yet again to keep holding on to that same dang faith. Even when it was tested. And spiritually we all got a little exhausted. It is no easy task to keep faith when all you want to do is cave into the feeling of defeat. But my horses remind me of this:
Every day, you can get yourself in the saddle and accomplish something. A small something or a huge something. But no day is wasted in the saddle. And when I wasn’t looking, those days in the saddle also renewed my tired spirit and made sure to re-engage the tenacity in my blood. ✨
Truth be told there were moments Caitlyn and I had to remind one another not to lose it in general because everything just felt scary. Thank goodness for Cody who reminds us both to calm down, and just jump some jumps on the rare occasion we both lose our shit on the same day. 👈🏼
And yet, here we are. At Derby Finals. Our fourth, actually. With a horse who I never thought would be anything the first 30 times I watched Caitlyn ride him (she always knew, I really did not see what she saw until one fine day at Maffit Lake).
Photo: Aullmyn Photography
Here. We. Are. And it was not some glorious day chock full of victory. She had to go first in the pea soup fog at 8:00 am this morning which felt like a gut punch. Until I remembered a few things:
I was fortunate enough to pay for him on a payment plan. We were lucky enough to have a really incredible team of professionals around us who love us and generously share their time and knowledge.
We have had every up. And so many damned downs. And Here. We. Are. 👈🏼
Cassius now 12. The first Derby he was 7. Caitlyn and I older, hopefully a little wiser. And so dang grateful.
Today I watched amateurs, professionals and juniors ride that course. It was beautiful.
Photos: Shawn McMillen Photography
And My Cass and My Caitlyn (they are both forever my heart 💙) went first out of what, 86?
To stand among such giants. Talented humans, incredible equestrians. Young ingenue, seasoned professionals. Riders blazing trails in their careers and gatekeepers holding strong to the brand and name they’ve built. And the horses. Such athletes. Poetry in motion. A symphony of skill, personality, grace and strength. What a day it is to watch a class like that, let alone have a horse in it.
What an immense gift.
To see all of the smiles and myriad of emotions that a day like this brings. You sit back and you say to yourself -> and this is the god’s honest truth:
It isn’t about the winning. It is truly about the journey. I could not ask for better humans. And I could not have been blessed with a more soulful, loving, wonderful horse. Who walks among giants. And allows me to dream so big.
And now, in addition to all of that, he donates a portion of his winnings to help save other horses.
It may sound silly to those who don’t know horses. It may seem delusional to those who do.
But this is truly what this sport should be about. The immense love for these horses, that for my Cassius, has given him the ability to rise so far above what his perceived value was that he has walked, and jumped -> among giants. 💙
Endless gratitude. 🙏🏻
And we finished 9th in Section B, and 34th overall. We could not be happier!