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#TBT: To the Next Generation of Equestrians

A heartfelt open letter from Meagan.

Everything is constantly changing; it’s just the way of the world. And as the world develops around me, I can’t help but find myself a little lost in the shuffle every now and then — especially when I take a look around my barn and see all of dedicated young riders and know how quickly things will change for them. So this is for you, youth of the equestrian world, the advice of a long-lost amateur who has survived some of those changes and came out pretty alright.

Relationships will change over time

Some will even end — and that is ok. Growing up, I watched as all of my horse crazy friends slowly disappeared, moving on for sports, drama club and boys. I was hit again with this harsh reality when I graduated from my college’s IHSA team and found that I was the only one in my friend group that continued to ride and compete. Some of your barn friends who felt like siblings may one day be strangers you will smile at on the sidewalks, but I promise there are other barn friends to be made.

No one will love you as much as your favorite pony/horse

My best friend. Photo by Meagan DeLisle

So don’t trade the one thing you are passionate for in exchange for an awkward date night with someone you may only like for a few months. Trust me on this: if someone really likes you they won’t guilt you for the time you spend at the barn. And if they REALLY like you, they will accompany you at the barn to see firsthand what makes you happy. Many of you will “be in love” with someone who is going to hate how much time you spend with your horse and that is not okay.

It might take a VERY long time before you own your own horse

But I promise you that wait will be more than worth it. Every day that you longed for your horse, every tear that you cried, every dollar that you saved will make owning your own best friend one of the most special days of your life. I know it is heartbreaking to wait, but the joy you will feel when you can kiss that muzzle anytime you want will replace all of the pain.

You are perfect just the way you are

I am absolutely gutted seeing young riders counting calories and dragging out the scale for that perfect equitation body. Go eat pizza with your friends. Enjoy your junior years. Stop stressing out about your weight and start enjoying your life. You are entirely too young to be worried about the perception of others. Believe me, one day that teenage metabolism will vanish and eating McDonalds will be more of a sin, but for now, cherish your childhood. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy, but do not be obsessive. Be the one that breaks the mold, confidently and proudly.

Never change to conform to someone else’s description of beautiful. Be unique like Repeat the Beat, the jumping Tennessee Walking Horse! Photo by Wayne DeLisle

Losing is not the end of the world

We get all hyped up about one specific competition, whether it is our first show or a prestigious class you have had to work up to. Guess what? Even the winners lose some. Even the best of the best have bad days. I thought my life was over (melodramatic Meagan was practically my nickname) when I placed third my senior year of college at IHSA Regionals. First and second got to go on to Zones and in my mind placing third meant I was a nobody.

Yet here I am, I won’t say how many years later, at the prime of my competitive career with bigger goals than I had ever previously anticipated in close sight. And yes, I still mess up. I still lose. But losing is not the end of the world.

Money isn’t everything

It is easy to get discouraged when you see the big names in all disciplines excelling because someone’s pocket book is lined a little better than yours. Take that frustration and use it to push yourself harder than every before. Work hard. Practice hard. Save hard. If you are willing to make it happen, then no amount of money can stand in your way. People see and appreciate dedication and good things favor those who have drive. So stop blaming your lack of pennies in the jar as the reason you can’t succeed, because you can.

Sometimes you are going to have to do things that are scary. So grab those reins and face the challenge with a smile. Photo by Cassie Zimmerman

Hospital or on

In the words of George Morris the Great — if you fall off it’s off to the hospital or get back on. Never — and this is in life, not just in the saddle — let anything scare you so bad that you quit. DO NOT be a quitter. Get up, dust yourself off, and hop back on again. Use what you learned from your mistakes and make yourself better. Do not be afraid of the what-ifs; you can handle those as they come. Tackle life head on or your life is going to be very safe and boring.

What all of this sums up to is that you have to be prepared for change, but never be afraid of it. Never tell yourself or allow anyone to tell you that you aren’t good enough. And you can always rely on horses to be by your side no matter what.

Go riding.

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