A LETTER TO ME- SARA KOZUMPLIK MURPHY
You’ll get the news and you’ll be screaming driving home after teaching Pony Club.
You won’t be able to believe that anyone would back a 17-year-old to chase such a crazy dream, but guess what? Not one, but two families from your Mum’s riding school will. After working and teaching there since you can remember, people will want to help you because they love her.
You’ll be able to pack up your three OTTB’s into the sturdy truck and trailer your parents take out a loan for and move to the great Jimmy Wofford’s.
It’ll feel exciting to be on your own. (except you won’t really be on your own because Jimmy will watch over your every move). The amazing people that work at Fox Covert Farm will forgive your mistakes again and again.
You’ll keep your horses in a field next door with a run-in shed because that’s what you can afford.
The huge and seemingly impenetrable door will start to crack open just a little as you’re exposed to so many great horsemen and women.
You’ll barely understand a fraction of it, but you’ll watch and watch…a lifelong habit.
In three years, you will jump around your first Kentucky and be given a development grant from The Team (really Ms. Mars) to jump around Blenheim for the first time. You’ll do it in your Father’s old hunt saddle and by borrowing your Mum’s dressage saddle under pain of death. You’ll be listed for the first time.
Everyone will think that because you are there you must know how to ride, but you’ll be winging it.
Advice will go way over your head. The nuances of what people are saying will be far too complicated for where you really are. It will be similar to someone testing you with a calculus problem when you are just learning multiplication.
You’ll make up for it by picking yourself up over and over again and throwing your heart and your trust over each big track as it comes, because of your bond with an incredible American Thoroughbred.
In four years, you’ll win Young Riders on a different OTTB and go back to Blenheim in the same year on the steadfast Auggie.
By 23 you’ll have jumped Kentucky a few more times and Burghley twice.
By 25 you’ll have come 7th in the under 25 class at Bramham, jump Kentucky yet again, complete the World Cup at Pau, and jump clear around the last long format Badminton.
You’ll still know next to nothing. The more you realize this, the harder you’ll work…another lifelong habit.
People will underestimate you constantly. They’ll say you had great horses (true), amazing backing (true), and that you’re a lightweight…….
That’ll hurt more than you can possibly know. You’ll allow them to think this.
You won’t stop trying to be the best, and you’ll be kind to everyone along the way. You make that decision early on.
You’ll make money slightly differently than a lot of other riders. You’ll love site development and challenges that come up with helping countries new to the sport learn about it. You’ll be terrible with money, then much better……..but you won’t lose your generosity and you’ll give back a lot to the sport you love.
You’ll have the best owner in the sport. She won’t walk away when times get tough for her or for you. She’ll become your family, she’ll never judge, she’ll always believe, and she’ll always forgive.
You won’t have an ego and you’ll surround yourself with the best possible riders and coaches. You’ll endure many feelings of inadequacy and frustration with yourself, but you’ll love the process of getting better in dressage and show jumping.
So many people will share their knowledge with you. A World Champion will be an incredible mentor and a lifelong friend.
For a bit, you’ll lose your cross country feel, and it’ll be the darkest time of your career.
Reclaiming what has always come without thinking is the biggest hurdle you’ll be faced with professionally. You’ll overcome it with the help of friends you made in the sport who understand like no one else can.
You’ll get to coach many wonderful people and you’ll even coach a country! It’ll be one of the craziest and best experiences of your life watching them look fantastic cross country at the international championships in Peru and Mexico. It will appear as if they hadn’t been doing the sport for such a short time. You’ll use your connections to mount them on lovely old horses that show them the ropes and keep them safe.
You’ll help the country qualify for the Pan American Games.
You’ll learn a lot from them about aiming high. It will re-inspire you.
Your husband will teach you not only about show jumping but about riding the right horses for your dreams. He’ll convince you to stop pushing horses to do what is a bit too hard for them and let them be stars at a lower level of the sport. You’ll enjoy watching those horses happily perform their new jobs well.
You’ll think he’s crazy, but you’ll follow his advice and go into debt to buy horses with more natural ability.
He will help you, and he was right.
You’ll get to ride at Devon, and you’ll win. In fact, you’ll start winning a lot on these new horses. The education you worked so hard for will combine well with their talent.
After overcoming financial and mental difficulties you’ll have three years of terrible accidents. In the last one, you’ll break your back and your neck.
Your husband will go above and beyond taking care of you through an incredibly hard recovery. He’ll never ask you to give up what you love although it frightens him.
Everyone will think your career is over.
You never will…….they will be underestimating you again.
You’ll follow doctor’s advice to the letter and be back at the top level of your sport a year after your accident, fitter than before.
You’ll tie for the lead at the event where you fell, finishing on your dressage score.
You’ll ride your unicorn to a top few finish at a four-star short a couple of months later, and you’ll win an adversity award from the Jockey Club.
In 2020 you’ll feel on the top of your game with fabulous horses and opportunities. It’ll feel like it’s all just beginning.
So, kid, it’s all worth it. Keep going. You will be more than you can even fathom right now.