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A LETTER TO ME- Lily Rhodes

A letter to my past, present, and future self,

To my younger self, what a journey you have ahead. You will get to experience epic highs, epic lows, and everything in between. Along the way, you will question your validity and place in this sport. At 14, you will suffer a life-threatening injury that most would argue is athletic- career-ending. You will lose your dominant right arm and with it, a lot of your long-term confidence in the saddle. Getting back in the saddle will be one of your proudest accomplishments, and you will go on to accomplish things you never felt possible, even pre-amputation. Yet, doubtful voices will remain persistent in your head, and it can be difficult to ignore them. Just know, you are as valid and qualified as any other horsewoman, disability or not. 

Once you reach your mid-late teens, you will accomplish many goals, even competing again for the first time since losing your arm on the one year anniversary of your amputation. Despite the victories, Imposter Syndrome will creep in. Doubts of your validity and fears of “intellectual fraudulence” can loom over feelings of success even with external proof of accomplishments. Perhaps this is the product of teenage hormones running wild. Ignore them. Your victories, personal and competing, are valid.  

To my present, the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ hangs around, always with you. Thankfully, you are surrounded by the best friends, horses, coaches, and supporters that help combat these thoughts of “Do I deserve to be here?” “Am I accomplished enough for my age?” “Am I going to give this horse the ride they deserve?” and you will feel yourself growing daily in your confidence. You feel the strongest in your riding you ever have, and will be content where you are. As you enter your adult amateur years, you will fall in love with the sport all over again and what it means to you. You ride because you truly love it, the horses, and the people. Most importantly, you are learning and having fun. Horse showing becomes stress-free because instead of focusing on the blue, you focus on the quality of the ride. As your mom will remind you, “ribbons will end up in the trash, it’s the accomplishment you will keep.”  

To my future self, remember why you love this sport. In the end, we are all just crazy horse girls that never grew out of that child-like awe for these beautiful animals. Have fun with it, don’t take yourself too seriously. You are worthy of riding, and you will always be learning. I will assume the learning curve never stops, but with new challenges come new victories. Kiss your horse. Hug your trainers. Thank your friends. Love yourself in the process. Most importantly, never doubt your validity. 

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