Trading Skates for Stirrups

Horse Nation reader Laura Emert trades one time-consuming and expensive hobby for another — only this time it’s for herself!


After being a supportive skating mom for 10 years to a dedicated figure skating daughter I went through a relaxing period of peace and quiet after my salchow jumping child left her East Setauket, Long Island home to attend college in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. No more rising at 4:30 AM to get to the freezer chilled ice rink by 6 AM and no more driving the highway in total darkness for thirty miles to get her  to lessons with an elite Russian-born husband and wife coaching team. No more expensive skate boots, blades and ice fees. My bank account could finally recover from being at negative $10,000. Or so I thought.

My idle empty nest world changed when I decided I wanted to pursue my passion for horses and riding. I embarked on my riding lesson journey in the month of July and purposely chose the closest stable to my home to ensure the quickest trip back and forth. After years of commuting for ice time I was relieved to take riding lessons just about a town away.

However, my new found driving satisfaction didn’t last too long because the stable, while professional, was not the right fit for me. Nonetheless, I was determined not to give up!

After some soul searching I came to the conclusion I would be willing to travel further from home to find the right stable and I requested recommendations for several lesson barns from a local riding shop. I called two different stables and each call went to voice mail. Whoever returned my call first would be the lucky winner of my next attempt at horse happiness.

Within a few minutes I received a call back from Lynne Weissbard at Sundance Stables in Manorville, Long Island and a lesson time was agreed on. In a familiar twist of fate my lesson time was made for 7:00 AM. Once again I had to get myself up at 5:30 AM and drive on highways in the dark, a familiar throwback to my ice castle existence. My riding life was strangely and eerily imitating my skating mother life, and it actually felt okay!

As I set about learning and retaining as much equine information as my skating saturated brain could possibly absorb, I was invited to observe a riding clinic hosted by the stable and its “Ride for Becca” Foundation. As I surveyed the participant riders in the first group working with the clinic’s guest instructor the connection to figure skating hit me hard.

The horses and riders first had a set of warm-ups to perform before jumping similar to skaters and the riders had the same jump elements to perfect as the figure skaters. It’s all about one’s approach to the jump and the takeoff, the correct position while in the air, the landing and finally exiting from the landing. Heck, I could almost hear the skating coach shouting, “That’s nice, but remember to check your landing.” The only elements missing at the clinic were skating music; a nice Spanish bolero would have been perfect, and maybe just a few crystal embellishments on the rider’s jackets!

While I no longer need to stock up on figure skating practice gear, tissue boxes, water bottles and costly beaded, blinged-out competition costumes, I am having fun buying breeches, half chaps, crops, paddock boots, gloves, jackets, and the all- important helmet. I think I may even end up with more riding paraphernalia in my closet than my darling little skater has ice equipment. I’m fine with it though because it’s all for me this time, and I love every item, especially my rainbow crop. My bank account is definitely headed once again to negative $10,000.

My skater’s blinged-out skating costume. Photo by Laura Emert.

As I try my best to bridle my lesson horse by myself, hold the reins with proper form, relax my elbows and post on the correct diagonal, I am reminded that just like figure skating the art of riding takes practice, practice and more practice to master. I look forward to the day when my family can cheer me on at a riding competition from their seats in the stands just like we cheered for our figure skater from behind the boards in the ice rink.

About Laura Emert:
When not happily trotting atop my lesson horse, I am a commercial insurance broker with The Whitmore Group in Garden City, NY, specializing in all forms of coverage for the performing arts – music, dance theatre and film.