Monday, April 26, 2010

Apparently 2,000 WORDS and 2,000 CHARACTERS are very different things...

(just because I like pictures, and I'm betting you do too)

D sent me a contest that I could enter to win a trip to the WEGs. As some of you know, I am DYING to go! Absolutely DYING! But as you also know, I am broke. Very very broke. In a constant and perpetual state of broke, thanks to my ownership of Granite, the crappy economy, and my career field of government. So, I am still holding out hope of somehow saving enough to allow me to go for at least a day or two, maybe camp or something to offset some costs. This has yet to be determined. But in the mean time, hell yeah I'm going to enter every contest or drawing for a trip the the Games that I can!! But, apparently the "Tell us why you ride" contest put on by Ariat, asked for a 2,000 character description, and I wrote a 2,000 word essay... Freakin fabulous.
So, I'm not sure how the modified version turned out or if its even submitted correctly (their webpage is being dreadfully slow! and it hasn't shown up yet), but you win based on votes. So, go, vote for me PLEASE- you get to vote once a day until May 15th (I'll update this as soon as I get a link to my entry)! Your reward, if I win? is guaranteed amazing blog coverage of (the 2 days that I am at) the World Equestrian Games. In the mean time, get a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and enjoy my extended version of the "Why I Ride" essay (yes, its slightly dramatized, but not much!):

“Why I Ride.”

“Why I ride” is not so much the question as it is the answer. It is “Because I ride” that I do most of the things that I do in my life.

I began riding when I was six years old when my mother signed me up for my first riding lessons. I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of riding horses as first, but as Ralf Waldo Emerson put it, “[riding] is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.” From my very first lesson, I was hooked. I became obsessed with horses and spent my elementary years galloping in the sandbox and managing my imaginary stable, in addition to attending weekly riding lessons and relentlessly begging my parents for a horse. It took me until middle school to shed the title “horse girl”. My early years were spent in a dreamland of horses, because I rode.

When I was ten years old, my parents agreed that if I were to get all A’s in school that year, that I could finally get a horse. Bonnie was a 17 year old thoroughbred mare; but to me, she was my friend, my babysitter, my responsibility and my dream. While other kids were saving for new shoes or a bike, I was picking stalls for lessons or bussing tables at my father’s BBQ restaurant to earn money for board. I first began to learn responsibility, because I rode.

I met my best (human) friend at the barn. I didn’t like her at first, but after spending eight hour days at the barn together, we quickly became inseparable. We organized horse shows, horse weddings, and camp-outs. We nursed broken hearts, got lost on never-ending tail rides, and planed our dreams for the future. I had the most amazing childhood, because I rode.

As high school approached, I began to ride more competitively. I would get to the barn as quickly as I could after school to utilize every ounce of daylight to ride. I took my riding goals seriously and trained hard. I missed cheerleading practices for horse shows and spent many Friday nights at the barn braiding and packing the trailer. I pulled long hours of work saving to afford to compete in horse shows. I loved the nervous butterflies that I felt before the winners of a class were announced and I loved the feeling of satisfaction that I felt as I secured another blue ribbon on my mare’s bridle. I learned dedication, because I rode.

High School wasn’t all fun and games. As I learned the ropes of love and loss, I always had the constant support of a horse. Through breakups and rejection, fear of the future and pain in the present, there was always my sanctuary: the barn. I spent many late nights sitting on a stall door listening to the rhythmic chewing of hay and the soothing snuffles of the horses. I cried many adolescent tears into the soft yet solid neck of a horse. I knew that everything would be alright, because I rode.

Before I knew it, I was staring college in the eye. I knew I wouldn’t be able to work as much and there was no way that my family could afford to keep my horse without my help. I made the heartbreaking decision to part with my Bonnie. We were fortunate enough to be able to place the 24 year old mare in a forever home with a loving family where she still resides, but this didn’t prevent the day that she left me from being one of the saddest days of my life. Selling Bonnie was not unlike selling a part of my soul. I was forced to learn when it was time to move on, because I rode.

I wasn’t able to ride for my first 2.5 years of college. I was barely able to support myself and couldn’t afford to ride with the college equestrian club or take private lessons. I was home sick, depressed and lifeless without horses. I had never been so lost in my life. I found comfort in the arms of the wrong man and lost my identity completely. I realized that I was only myself when I rode.

In my junior year of college, I put myself in the right place at the right time by taking a job at the local tack shop. I figured that if I couldn’t ride, at least I could spend time around saddles, blankets, boots and horse people. There, I met the person who would set the events in motion to bring horses back into my life. She offered to take me on a trail ride, then to let me free lease her horse. My boyfriend didn’t appreciate the time I had been spending with the horses. I found the power to leave him, because I rode.

Back in the saddle where I belonged, I approached college graduation. I had always known that I would pursue a Masters degree, because horses are expensive and I needed a career that could fund my addiction to the majestic animals and equestrian sport. I began submitting applications to graduate programs and praying to get in. I knew that hard work in classroom would be the only way that I could live the life I wanted to: a life surrounded with horses. I graduated from college with honors and was accepted into a graduate program, because I rode.

I lived the next two years of my life on little sleep, lots of caffeine, and weekends of adrenaline filled riding. I was working hard towards a graduate degree and the life I had always dreamed of.  Everything changed about a week after I was awarded an academic scholarship. I happened to find an advertisement for a colt with my dream bloodlines and looks to back them up. He happened to be listed for the exact amount as the scholarship I had just received. Granite was as a goofy yearling who owned my heart from the moment I met him. I thought I would never love a horse as much as I had loved Bonnie, but that changed when I got to know Granite. He is hilarious, he is loveable, and he is not unlike a 1,000 pound puppy dog. He was the craziest, most irrational and heartfelt decision I have ever made.
As a full time grad student and employee, I bought a yearling with a college scholarship, because I rode!

As I pushed to finish my graduate degree and find a job that would support my irrational decision to buy a horse, Granite did his job of growing up (and being cute). He quickly became my inspiration to complete my degree at warp speed and begin to spend more time with him. I graduated with my Masters degree at the age of 23, because I rode.

Unfortunately the economy tanked and my degrees didn’t quite get me the big-shot job that I had once hoped that they would. I work in my career field but in a very entry level job, for which I am over-qualified. But, I am grateful because I have a job and am able to keep Granite. It is a daily struggle to support myself and him, but I am determined to give him the best life I can. I usually have to pass when my friends suggest a night out on the town, a vacation, or a trip to the mall. I have been saving for months to afford to get him started under-saddle. I have sacrificed a lot of freedom in my early twenties, because I ride.

Although, I have to make a lot of sacrifices to own my horse, I have never regretted a moment of our time together. Seeing my horse is the highlight of my day. When I am not with him, I am reading about training tips or riding exercises. I have taken up a quest to get fit before I begin showing him that now has me running about 15 miles a week. I have started volunteering for the local 4-H horse club. My life is surrounded with horses, just as I always hoped it would be. I have dreams of Granite and I being successful in the hunter ring, but those dreams are flexible, because as long as I am riding Granite, I don’t care what we do. I am me, because I ride. I am happy, because I ride.  
 (My perfect boy!)


  1. I love it! I voted for you :)

  2. Thanks Marissa. Because of my inability to pay attention to details such as "words" vs. "characters" it totally only posted about 1/2 of it. So I guess there goes my chances of winning-- only 1/2 a story isn't exactly prize worthy. I may try to alter it and enter again. I don't know :)

  3. Wow, what a wonderful essay, Rachel! I really enjoyed reading it. I voted for you, so that puts you one step further. GOOD LUCK!!!!

  4. I love the essay! It has wonderful cadence and I like the refrain. It is poetic. I never thought about all the things in my life that are shaped by the simple fact that I am a rider, but it really does define me as a person.

    I voted!

  5. Thanks y'all :)
    I appreciate you voting for my 1/2 way submitted essay!
    I promise to provide amazing blog coverage of the WEGs :) (because, I obviously will win the trip...hehe)

  6. I LOVEEED IT! That is a great piece of writing. I never thought about camping at the WEGS. Let me know what you find out about that. That could concievably be our solution to the lack of hotel in Lexington!!! One night of roughing it wont kill me and I bet my tent would fit in my large suitcase (then I could just borrow linens and an airmattress from my grandparents who live in Cincy!

  7. BEAUTIFULLY written and I could soooooo relate to so many parts of this!!!!!! I'm voting for u asap! Goooood luck! :)

  8. I also LIVED your "Because I Ride" story right along with you! It is truly beautiful and heartfelt. It is kinda hard to pour out your heart on paper and keep it under 2000 characters! And YES my darling Daughter I VOTED 4 U!!! Mom

  9. Hi Rachel,

    I have to say that I actually got teary eyed reading your essay! :-) Horses have shaped you into the person you are today. I voted for you. Good luck!

  10. Great essay that leads up to a great ending line. I hope you win.

  11. Wolfie: thats so sweet! thanks!

    Once Upon: I appreciate it!