If there is ever a struggle that equestrians know, it is the struggle of a financial sort. Honestly, horses may as well eat money with the copious amounts of cash they require. I don’t even own a horse, and I’m still too broke to even attempt the sport these days. Many of my friends are…lucky? fortunate? insane? enough to own a horse or multiple horses. Part of me is jealous of them because they get to keep riding and competing. They post pictures to Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat. They always have new tack or have excuses to go to Dover and shop for more stuff for their horses.
Me? Not so much.
Higher education is expensive. It’s stupid expensive. (And that is a colloquialism coming from someone who hates using the adjective “stupid” as an adverb to describe another adjective. But that’s how asinine the prices are.) I am fortunate enough that my parents cover my tuition and bills. But with no real paying job to cover my spending money, I have no way of being able to actively continue training at the moment. And that freaking kills me. I see these pictures and I hear these recounts of finding unbelievably low priced Ariat boots or a used saddle that magically fits the impossible to fit horse. And I get so jealous that I feel so distant from this world that I love so much.
But then I think again. My parents pay for me to live in my quiet little one bedroom, one bathroom duplex with a fenced yard for my dog. Why? Because I’ve had roommate issues since I started college. I’m a hard person to live with; ask anyone in my family. (Strangely enough, I never had issues when I lived at camp.) That’s expensive.
Then I think about the application fees and test fees for my graduate admissions process. Plus eventually I’ll have to track down a place to live while I’m in grad school, and we all know I can’t afford that kind of travel on my own. My parents are helping me with that too.
So I’ve had to make choices. It’s all a part of growing up, unfortunately.
I remember reading an article about Reed Kessler when she had been selected for the 2012 Olympic team. Her trainer Katie Monahan-Prudent was quoted as saying, “They want everything, they want to go to college, they want to travel… You don’t get to the Olympics with that attitude. You can’t have it all.” More importantly, I remember how fucking angry that quote made me. I know so many riders who would have killed for the opportunities that Reed has had her entire life. I could easily make this some sort of stance on classes and finances, but I’ll spare you my rant. (I’ve done far too much of that this election anyways).
Mrs. Monahan-Prudent, Ms. Kessler, not all of us have had the fortune y’all have had.
Some of us career-lesson riders, IEA alumni, and summer camp riders have not had the ability to continue on because our parents weren’t multi-billionaires who could afford horses of the calibre necessary to continue competing at that level. The more the rails go up or the more complex the movements required of a horse, the morse expensive its price tag becomes, and the more maintenance an athlete of that level requires. So no, you’re absolutely correct, Katie: you can’t have it all. But your quote is ignorant. You make it seem as though we can all easily afford the grand prix route. We can’t. Some of us have to make the decision to go to college because our parents can’t buy us farms and horses to go compete in Europe or Canada for three months. We can’t winter in Florida and summer in New York or Kentucky because we need to prepare for a future that we can support ourselves and maybe a horse.
And sometimes, we have to make the conscious decision to put our competitive hobbies, even riding itself, aside in pursuit of paying the bills.
Sometimes, to get it all later, we have to make the decision for education now.
And it sucks. But this isn’t goodbye to riding; it’s “I’ll be back soon.”