The Other Side

June 6, 2024

For years, and I mean 20 years, my big almighty goal was my United States Dressage Federation Gold Medal. Sure, there were other goals, horse shows, achievements, Regional and National titles that I aimed for along the way, but I had put that glistening Gold medallion on a pedestal. 

The morning I had achieved my final score for my Gold, my dad and I opted to just make the 2 hour drive home. My ride the following day was late afternoon and it was humid June in Florida, so I scratched. I had already achieved what I had set out to do, so there was no real reason to stay. 

We made it home, got Steele settled in our barn with his friends and we went out to a celebratory dinner with family.

I woke up the next morning feeling completely lost. I had that, “What do I do with myself now?” feeling. This is not what I thought the other side of winning the “big thing” would feel like. I didn’t think I would feel like I’d lost a great majority of my purpose, but it had been my goal for so, so long and well, seriously, now what? 

Coincidentally, we left for vacation with my husband’s family just a few days later. I looked at the trip as an opportunity to think about and plan my next steps, only I didn’t do much of anything. I found myself so lost and depressed that I slept through the entire vacation. I slept so much so that I, to this day, six years later (exactly, to today), still have the sunburn scars on my shins from falling asleep on a boat.

I couldn’t wait to get home, but I didn’t want to go back to work. 

Truth be told, I was miserable in the business that I had created over the past 13 years. I had a barn full of horses that had been “gifted” to me years prior when their owners left them in my barn because they couldn’t or wouldn’t care for them any longer. Instead of rehoming them, I did what I thought was fair for the horses and gave them a forever home. This also meant that they had to go to work, so I created a huge beginners lesson program. 

Here I was, an FEI rider/trainer since I was 19 years old, now a Gold Medalist and I was teaching repetitive “up-down” lessons because that was all my gifted-to-me school horses could do. They were darn good at it and safe as the day is long, but I realized how stunted I was in my growth as a trainer and instructor.

I was stuck.

I had been on the same hamster wheel for years. 

Even worse, majority of my clients were not happy with my new “USDF Gold Medalist” title. “Great, now you’re going to raise your prices, aren’t you?!” Many of them complained. 

Talk about getting the guilt trip for YEARS of education, dedication, hard work, sweat and tears. 

Depression had hit me, but days were long and I couldn’t slow down. I began to egg myself on, “Just three more lessons, just two more lessons…Just have to make it to Sunday at noon when I can take my half a day off.”

I was living in a nightmare that I had created. People were increasingly awful to me, they used my winnings as their bragging rights, they stood me up for lessons, they expected me to rearrange my schedule for their specific wants. I was teaching upwards of 60 lessons per week while running the farm by myself and still just making it by with the bills. How does that even make sense?!?

No wonder I was miserable. I was “living the dream” but I wasn’t my dream – working my tail off for people who didn’t appreciate or respect me, being talked down to, embarrassed, yelled at, all to be able to afford the horses that I never seeked to own in the first place. 

A little more than a year went by and I got pregnant with my son. I quickly decided that my life needed to change. Not only could I not continue working and living on mere thoughts of adrenaline, but I didn’t want my child anywhere near the “company” that I felt obligated to keep. I didn’t want him to learn that it was completely acceptable for your clients to disrespect you or that it was okay to give up on your dreams or that it was perfectly normal to be unhappy and lose your greatest passion.

So I set out on the VERY rocky road of change…

More soon…

Cara

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