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Day Jobs, Side Hustles, and a Little Dose of Perspective

Day Jobs, Side Hustles, and a Little Dose of Perspective

No matter who we are, it can be a tough pill to swallow when we try to compare ourselves to others in the horse world. We’ve all been there at some point or another, staring over at someone who has “more” than us… more money, more experience, more talent, more courage, more opportunities… the list could go on forever.

As my mother always used to tell me as we rolled up to our local horse shows, pulling our slightly rusty old blue horse trailer with her Dodge Caravan, “There will always be people who have more than you, and there will always be people who have less.”

What she was trying to say was that we need to be wise about which direction we choose to look. It can be so easy in the horse industry to look around at all the wealth and success around you and feel discouraged, and I am often guilty of doing just that.


We spent Spring Break last week showing down at WEC, Ocala. Even as I type those words, I still can’t believe that this is a reality for me. If you had told 6 year old me that one day I’d be in the same ring competing against some of the best hunter riders this country has to offer, I wouldn’t have believed you.

My mom grew up riding and training, and I inherited her love for the sport, but we never had the financial means like many of my barn mates. I grew up competing in the local shows, and although we saw our fair share of success, it was always tempered with the thought that it wasn’t exactly the “big leagues.” Looking back now, I know that our local circuit in Orlando had an impressive amount of talent, but I never knew back then if I had what it took to stack up against whatever the rest of the country was doing, and what the rest of the country was doing was important to young me. Afterall, I was aiming for the Hunter/Jumper Olympics that I was sure would be a thing one day! (Still waiting patiently over here for that one!)


My first pony was 2 years old and cost $500. My mom found him in a newspaper. He had a giant head and a small body, earning him the nickname “Juan Valdez” after the mule from the coffee can. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? It probably would have been for most people, but my mom was magical. She had a sixth sense for making unlikely things work… because she had to. We weren’t going to be able to financially swing it any other way. Well, swing it we did!

With a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, we turned that little pony into something special. Figment grew into that big head of his and became one of the most dependable hunter ponies a girl could ask for. People were constantly asking when he would be for sale, and I knew all along that some family with more money than ours was going to come around and buy all my hard work just as I was finally getting to enjoy it. Was I bitter? Yes, very, but that’s just the way things had to be. Plus, a growing girl couldn’t ride a medium pony forever.

It was always my understanding that unless I won the lottery, my horses would be purchased young and green, then sold later on so I could afford to keep it all going. It wasn’t the journey I would have chosen as a kid who just wanted to win blue ribbons, but now I wouldn’t change it for the world. I learned so much and found out just how sweet success could taste when you put your absolute all into a horse. The harder you have to work to accomplish a goal, the stronger the pride is after having finally done it. That was something money couldn’t buy.

My mom died unexpectedly in 2011. It nearly killed me, but I ran to the only thing that I knew could save me… A big farm full of young Thoroughbreds owned by a childhood friend of my mom. We literally picked up and moved from Florida to Alabama for just that reason. It was there that I met my Mardi. He was a yearling in a field full of his siblings, and as soon as I saw him trot, I knew I had to have him. I convinced myself and my sweet, supportive, desperate-to-see-me-happy-again husband that Mardi would be a “good investment.” Afterall, it was the thought process I was used to. Buy young, train, sell, repeat.


Mardi was a dream to train. Just challenging enough to make me feel a sense of accomplishment, but never dangerous, always willing, and as smart as they come.

Once he was sent down to Florida to try to be sold, and I knew the second he left that I could not handle selling one more horse. At least not this horse. Not this horse that, as a 3 year old, allowed my 4 year old daughter to safely learn to work him in a round pen, and, as a 5 year old, helped her work on her equitation and learn her diagonals. Not this horse, that as a still green 7 year old, mosied around the Walk-Trot Crossrails in the morning with her, then did the 3’ Adult Hunter with me in the afternoon. I couldn’t bear to see someone else with him, so I brought him home for good. We have had Mardi now for 11 years. Needless to say, he’s not going anywhere…ever. My first “forever” horse.

So, it’s these beautiful things I have to remind myself of when I’m sitting at the ingate at WEC, Ocala, gawking at the big-named riders in my division on their fancy imports. The riders you see in magazines. The riders with sponsors and tens of thousands of social media followers. The riders with 2 and 3 horses in the Derby. It can be hard not to feel intimidated and nearly impossible not to feel jealous. But there will always be people who have more than you, and there will always be people who have less.

I am a 6th grade teacher and a mom of a 9 and 13 year old. I also own Unicorn Grooming Spray and a Bemer horse set that I side hustle with whenever time allows. Unicorn Grooming Spray was never supposed to be a business. It was supposed to be a solution to Mardi being on pasture board with his sensitive chestnut Thoroughbred skin. It became a business, however, when people pointed out that it worked too well not to sell. (“Works too well not to sell.” Maybe that should be our new slogan!) It is also my way of “making it work” just like my mom always did.


I often feel like I am being pulled in a hundred different directions and spreading myself too thinly, but I think this is a common theme among us full-time working Adult Amateurs. It can be hard to stay competitive while not neglecting all of the other aspects of life, and I struggle with that on a regular basis.

This past week was a first for us. We made it to the handy round in the WEC Ocala 3’ Hunter Derby. It was a big class. I was 30 something in the order of go, right behind one of the biggest names in the hunter world. I really wanted to watch her, but I didn’t. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” My trainer must have said it 3 or 4 times over the week, and I knew he was right. So instead, I focused on myself. I repeated the course to myself for the hundredth time and visualized every one of my turns. I silently asked my mom to help me stay focused. “Please don’t let me throw up!” I was praying.

It was my mom’s birthday that day, a day I usually spend eating pizza to honor her and convincing myself not to be sad. But there was no pizza on Derby Day. Let’s be honest… There was hardly any eating at all except for an egg I force-fed myself at breakfast and a handful of Tums throughout the day. (Remind me…Why do we think horse showing is fun?)

After all of the nerves, the cowardly thoughts of just scratching, and then finally the blur that was my actual time in the ring, to my absolute delight, we ended up coming in 7th with scores of 83 and 84. I cried happy tears. This was our Olympics.

I may have to work harder than some people and hope for a little luck to win a ribbon at a big A show on my Thoroughbred, but it’s what I’m used to. It’s how I was raised. Instead of looking at all the people who have it easier than me, like I have the tendency to do sometimes, I am going to try to always remind myself to be glad I’m still in the game at all. It’s an expensive game, and one that I’m willing to bet most of us equestrians are stretching ourselves just to stay in.

I guess the point of all of this is to say that everyone has their own journey, their own struggles, and their own insecurities. It’s best to look at how far you’ve come rather than how far you may think you have left to go, or, even worse, how far others have come. My 7th place may be the highest I ever place in a WEC Ocala Derby, and I’m going to be happy with that accomplishment. No… I’m going to be over the moon with that accomplishment! Only I know everything that went into that purple ribbon, and only I can choose which way to look back at it all.

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