When I was a teen there was a lot of pressure to fit in. Standing out made people a target. There was safety in following the crowd. I’ll be honest, that didn’t last long. I’ve always felt that being normal was a tad boring. Being myself meant embracing all the things that made me different and special. As I became an adult I gained more confidence to do my own thing, even if it didn’t fit the status quo.
By nature humans prefer to label things. In our sport it’s no different. Dressage riders fit a certain image, barrel racers another. You might hear, “Oh, she’s an eventer, she’s X.” Or “They are a Hunter, so _____.”
There is safety in the expected, or the normal. It’s certainly easy if you start taking lessons in a particular discipline to stay within the confines of their favorite equipment, clothing brands, etc. What happens though, if you ride multiple disciplines or simply want to take the standards as a jumping off point?
I’m an outsider in an insider sport. I have been to barns where being different was weird, or they rolled their eyes or laughed at me behind my back because I rode in a Western headstall with a dressage saddle because that’s what my horse moved best in that day. I’ve been known to buy brightly-colored biothane tack instead of leather, wear English breeches and tall boots on the trail, or switched it up and wore jeans with hiking boots in an English saddle.
- I wear whatever I feel most comfortable in that day.
- I mix and match equipment.
- I ride English some days and Western on others.
- I rescued a horse that was aggressive and scared of humans, despite being a timid rider.
- I bought a pony with neurological issues because he was perfect for me in every other way.
- I want to boost others up and help them be themselves, whether timid, nervous, or simply overthinking.
So yes, I may be an outsider but I love every minute of it. Because horses are my happy place and I’ve been able to find a group of other horse-crazy women that celebrate each other rather than bringing them down.