Revisiting a Horse-crazy Childhood Dream…
….that maybe wasn’t so crazy after all. By Britany Robinson.
Ever wonder if our childhood dreams actually hold the key to what would make us happy as adults? Britany Robinson was a horse-crazy kid but, the older she got, the further removed she got from her equestrian passion — until a recent trip to Lexington, Kentucky. She shares with us her experience, originally published on her travel blog Stars on the Ceiling.
What if our younger selves actually knew best?
Remember when you were little and you had these crazy dreams of what you’d be when you grew up? But to you they weren’t crazy at all. That crayola drawing of yourself in a space suit, or nursing a sick elephant back to health, or putting out fires, was 100% attainable in that innocent, imaginative mind of yours.
Thinking back to when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a horseback rider — specifically the kind that does crazy, acrobatic tricks on the back of their moving horse.
I would fill notebooks with my drawings of trick riders and their horses, both decked out in bright colors, tassels, and wacky patterns. My thoughts were constantly filled with dreams of an equestrian lifestyle — owning horses, riding horses, doing crazy tricks on the backs of horses in those awesome outfits, and in general being surrounded more often by horses than humans.
I’ve since learned that humans generally make better companions, (at least in conversation — somewhere along the way my imaginary horse friends stopped talking to me) but the thrill I get from being around horses today still echoes the love I felt for them as a kid.
So when I visited Lexington, Kentucky, as part of my Road Trip Home USA journey to find a new place to live, I knew that I needed to revisit that obsession in the country’s most horse-obsessed city.
Life Adventure Center was the perfect place to do so. It’s been a long, long time since I scraped mud out of the hoof of a horse, or rode one, for that matter, but I still consider myself relatively comfortable around them.
The opportunity to ride horses comes up often in my travels. But the trail rides I’m usually offered are a torturous tease as we walk in a slow, restrictive line on our elderly ponies, while all I want to do is give my horse a little kick and go cantering off into the sunset.
When Tim and Kara — two employees of Life Adventure Center whose enthusiasm for their responsibilities demonstrate an obvious passion in their work — suggested I try vaulting, my eyes lit up like a little kid.
Vaulting lessons at Life Adventure are nothing like your typical, introductory trail ride to horseback riding. Its a sport I once drew pictures of and DREAMT of doing, but never really thought I could.
“Vaulting,” I learned, is the correct term for “trick riding.” It involves yoga-like poses on the back of a moving horse, and surprisingly enough, it’s the safest way to be introduced to horses as a beginner. Life Adventure Center offers lessons to kids and adults of all experience levels — even those who have never sat on a horse before, let alone stood on top of one.
Kara, my vaulting instructor, has been riding horses for 24 of her 29 years.
Which means that as little girls, we had the very same dream. But hers continued on into adulthood and led to a career that she loves.
I’m so inspired by people who have done this — identified something they’re passionate about and successfully turned it into a sustainable and profitable part of their lives.
So while Kara taught me the various introductory moves of vaulting, first on the back of a well-behaved barrel, and then on an actual horse, I picked her brain about her passion for horses and the job she has now at Life Adventure Center.
Kara admits that her passion for horses didn’t always seem like an attainable career goal, even while growing up in Lexington where horseback riding is a way of life, but “where there’s a will, there’s a way!” She majored in communications with an equestrian minor, and after graduating, started working at various summer camps. When she heard about a position at Life Adventure Center that would allow her to combine her communication degree, her experiencing working with kids, AND her love of horses, she knew it was meant for her.
Kara is now surrounded by horses everyday, and uses her equestrian skills to literally change people’s lives.
Come to find out, Life Adventure Center is much more than a riding facility.
They offer a variety of outdoor adventure activities — riding, ropes courses, environmental education, backpacking, canoeing and more — all with the goal of building character and teamwork through challenging activities.
While I huffed and puffed and grunted my way onto the back of a horse named Maggie, whose saddle stood a frightening foot above my shoulder, I began to get a feel for the challenging activities Kara was referring to.
At that point, I lost track of our conversation, and focused entirely on not falling off of Maggie, while Kara directed me to repeat the moves we’d learned on the barrel.
Suddenly the simplest step — removing my hands from the handle of the saddle, seemed terrifying.
But after some gentle coaxing and encouragement from Kara, I was on up on my knees, letting go, and doing things like this…
I wasn’t sporting one of those brilliant outfits I used to draw on my trick riders as a little kid — but here I was, doing exactly what I’d once dreamed of doing. With someone who actually does it for a living.
For the final trick, Kara joined me on Maggie’s back to help me out. I was going to STAND UP on the back of a horse.
With trembling legs, I pulled myself slowly to my feet, gripping Kara’s shoulders as fiercely as I had the handles.
“Sorry,” I murmured with my face uncomfortable close to hers.
“Oh, don’t worry. You haven’t kicked me in the face yet, so you’re doing better than most. Now… stand up slowly and lean back. It’s going to feel weird, but its the best way to hold your balance.”
As I crouched there, hunched forward, the act of both standing and leaning backwards seemed utterly absurd. But slowly, I released my death grip from her shoulders, and wobbled tentatively in a crouching position, with my hands flailing helplessly, resisting the urge to bear hug Kara.
Then, I stood up. And leaned back, ever so slightly. On a horse. And it was the coolest feeling, ever.
By the time I dismounted, it felt as though my inner child was beaming and thanking me with a smug yet happy, “its about time!”
I fulfilled a dream that had never really gone away.
So, could I follow this renewed passion into a career like Kara? Sure — but I probably won’t. I’m a little too hung up on the writer thing to give that up for vaulting, just yet. But hey — the experience of standing up on a horse will at least make it into a book someday!
Meeting someone like Kara who has turned a passion for horses into a rewarding, fulfilling, and meaningful career was accomplishment enough for me. I’ll leave the advanced vaulting tricks to her.
After my vaulting lessons in Kentucky, I followed up with Kara over email — curious about what advice she might offer other young people looking to turn their passion into a career.
She responded with , “If you can’t do what you love for your job, find something you can tolerate so you can fund what you love!” which I thought was a very responsible response.
On the other hand, I would still advise people to think back to that younger self — the one with the big dreams and the imagination to see them accomplished. Maybe the memory of your crazy childhood passion won’t completely change the course of your current career path, but I guarantee, you’ll have a great time revisiting it.
And maybe you’ll discover that it’s not so crazy after all.
Britney authors the millennial travel blog Stars on the Ceiling. You can also keep up with her adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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