A LETTER TO ME- Katy Robinson
I can picture you now: still in your breeches, sitting on the couch at 11 p.m., studying hard for tomorrow’s AP World History exam. I know you feel overwhelmed; you are struggling to remember the significance of someone who lived centuries ago while simultaneously struggling to envision your own future and your own significance in the world. You don’t know what you want to wear to school tomorrow, let alone what you want to do with the rest of your life, and yet it feels like everyone expects you to know.
The fact is, it’s fine to be unsure. The things that you are most confident about are the things you will be most wrong about anyway, and this trend will become an ironic friend to you throughout your life. It will make you laugh … later.
And yes, I’m laughing at you now, because you think you will NEVER be a professional rider. You know that you love your horses and competing and living on a ranch, but you also watch your parents struggle every day to pay bills and keep food on the table and never, ever, EVER under any circumstances take a day off. You know that you want to get a degree and make money and have a “real job” and ride for fun – like normal people.
I’m laughing at you now because you have no idea what’s coming, and you will never know what normal is.
Without giving away too many details, I can tell you now that you WILL move away from home and get your degree. You WILL have dozens of “real jobs,” usually simultaneously, and all the money you make will pay for your horse to be at school with you. The horse you wanted to ride for fun, well you will keep riding him for fun – but you will also get fairly good at what you do together. You will get good enough and train hard enough that you eventually won’t remember a time when you did anything but ride.
Graduation will become something that you casually look forward to as something that happens between Woodside and Rebecca Farm, and grad school applications will be replaced with FEI entries.
You will even eventually be able to help other people reach their dreams of riding at the upper levels, and that will feel as rewarding as doing it yourself. You will change your riding style more often than your underwear as your knowledge grows, and you will ride horses who challenge the limits of your skills in ways both agonizing and exhilarating. One day, you will even have the seedlings of a savings account!
You will find passion in developing young horses for people, and you’ll continue to be drawn to the horses whose enormous talent is hidden under even bigger personalities. You will never under any circumstance feel good enough, and this will drive your frustration and your passion; it will be the thing that makes you drive to the barn each day in the hopes of another chance to do it better.
You will become a working student. This is a chapter of your life that will have a bigger impact on you than you can possibly imagine. Every waking moment of every day for years you will be immersed in education. In hopes. In dreams. You will learn from some of the legends of eventing, people you have only so far read about in magazines. You will become hungrier to get to the top than you ever thought possible and awake in dreams you didn’t even know you had. You will feel invincible.
You will pack everything you own in your car and drive across the country with your horse on your last dime to take a shot at the Big Leagues.
Your life will be changed when people who are almost strangers to you decide to invest in your future because they believe in you and your little horse so much. You will meet some of the most influential people of your riding career and make lifelong friends.
But it’s not all roses. Just about the same time you are receiving unprecedented support, you will doubt yourself. You will feel like for every person who wants you to succeed, there are two who are waiting for you to fail. There will be major heartbreaks and losses. You will be on the top of your game one day, sights set on Kentucky or Europe, and the next day be starting in the round pen again.
The closer you get to thinking you’re “somebody,” the farther away it will feel. You will get so frustrated that for a time, you won’t care at all about being a somebody. You will struggle to keep horses, you will struggle with your personal relationships, and your priorities will look like you stood them in front of a Fun House mirror from time to time. You will feel lost and defeated and unworthy.
Rest assured, a few things will keep you going every time you think maybe you should walk away while no one would notice: your love of horses, your husband, and a strong tendency toward stubbornness.
Like you are now, overwhelmed by the uncertainty of your future, you will always keep trying your hardest to be the best at everything you do in the hopes that the way forward will unfurl itself at your feet. Your life will continue to be a series of exquisitely imperfect moments that collide into one another in ways that sometimes seem destined by fate and other times seem hopelessly random, and you’re just going to keep battling until something works out.
I would love to say, “Don’t worry, you make it in the end!” but I honestly don’t know yet; I’m a long, long way away from the person I want to be as a rider, as a coach, as a student, as a wife, as a friend (pro tip: spend as much time on your people skills as your horse skills). I haven’t been to Kentucky or Europe yet and it’s been years since my riding made headlines; I’d be lying to you if I said I was content being average or I didn’t yearn for another Fifteen Minutes in the limelight, so I’m still working on “making it.”
But – and this is important – every day you will make it to another day, another chance. No matter how hard it gets, you will keep working. You will find solutions and you will make opportunities for yourself. You will find joy in a weird little horse, and his trust in you will make you feel like taking on the world again (be patient, he WILL get better at dressage). You will learn to not worry about the rest of the world and run your own race.
Just keep kicking. Don’t give up. Train like you’ve never won and compete like you’ve never lost.
Love from 30,