Small Fish, Big Ocean: An Irrelevant Girl’s Take On The Equestrian Lifestyle

No matter how hard I may try not to be, I am incredibly irrelevant. No number of followers, designer belt buckles, or WEF tricolors will get me there either. This chick is a nobody from a built-up cornfield in Indiana.

A little over 3 years ago, I made my first trip to the ever so prestigious Wellington, Florida Some might even call it ‘Horsey Mecca’. With many big name barns and riders walking around can make it easy to be overwhelmed. Hundreds of names and faces to get to know can be tough, especially if you have a hard time remembering those kinds of things. Making connections in the Wellington culture is no easy task to take on. But, I was lucky enough to have found a great trainer that helped to set me on a path for making Wellington a regular, comfortable destination for me. Over time, a great foundation was laid for a network that I continue to grow every time I’m down. While I might not be besties with George Morris or Beezie Madden, we’re getting there. I’m a small fish in an ever-evolving, ever-growing ocean.


I took this just a few moments before Mclain sat down next to me!

It wasn’t until WEF 2018 that I really started to feel like the total nobody I was. Strolling past big name riders with such admiration because I could never be like them. I spent my days ringside, snapping photos of my camera and phone of those big name riders, trying to portray that stereotypical equestrian Instagram aesthetic everybody loves so dearly. My irrelevancy was totally on display as I sat alone in the boxes to watch rounds at a height I will never jump. But, as life does, it threw me a curveball. Something that I never dreamed would happen to me, happened… Mclain Ward (yes, THE Mclain Ward) talked to me. I was sitting and watching the 2* Grand Prix when he sat down in the chair one over from me. When he first started talking, I didn’t think he was talking to ME. But when I realized he was, I freaked out a little and put on my cool girl face to answer his question. Essentially, I kept myself together like the badass I’m not. Don’t worry though, the freakout moment came after he was far far away from me.


Those feelings of irrelevancy hit once more after the shock of my encounter with Mclain wore off. Did he ask my name? No. Did he really have any interest in the answer I gave him? Probably not. I was still the same old girl from Indiana with a camera and an Instagram; An itty bitty fish trying to swim upstream. Nobody was asking me to catch ride their sales horses like other juniors my age and no coach was pursuing me because I was talented or showed promise. The most honest and true word to describe my situation was: nobody.

Getting lost in all the glitz and glam of the lifestyle is easy. At first, I just went along to wherever the current took me. Now, I am slowly trying to make an effort to form myself into the horsewoman that I want to be. Though I am still small in the grand scheme of things, I hope that I am able to grow my presence and make an impact someday. Wellington is just one step and here’s to more.


Until Next Time Preps,

Sydney & The Ponies

Heels Down, Eyes Up: Why Keeping Hope Is Important

I am someone that really struggles with keeping positive when something unfavorable or just straight up not good happens in my life. Discouragement levels run on high, coupled with sadness, giving up seems like the best and easiest path to take. Surely I’m not the only one, right? Not at all. Many people, especially riders, struggle with this exact same thing every day.

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For me, my loss of hope stemmed from my progress in the sport. I am not financially able to buy the fanciest or nicest horse on the market; So I was unable to really venture high in the levels. Because of this, I saw other people I know well and started at the same place as me, excelling so much faster than I was and it was definitely discouraging. Everything kind of turned around when I found a trainer that believed in me. She found me the horse of my dreams that was able to move me up to a place where I was finally happy. Now, I’m hoping that sharing my experience and hardships can help others.

While sharing my personal experience is oh so interesting, I turned to the ever so trusty Instagram for a bit of a new thing. Putting out a poll that asked, “Have you ever lost hope in your riding before?”, Almost 90% of people have felt this way at some point during their riding careers. That’s crazy. Following the first one, I asked the people that responded if they’d be willing to let me feature their story in this post. While many said no, a few awesome people said yes and were kind enough to be interviewed.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetFirst up is Maddie Bricken. Many know her from her totally drool-worthy blog The Blonde & The Bay, where she shares her journey through dressage as an ammy with her mare, Leah. When I asked her why she lost hope she said, “Due to a series of unfortunate events and falls, I was too afraid to even think about continuing my dressage journey.” Sadly, this is one of the biggest responses I got. Falls and other accidents can be brutal to deal with and some even result in riders quitting altogether. But in typical Maddie-The-Badass fashion, she bounced back. “I focused solely on my own journey, tuning out any outside distractions. Time was on my side, I didn’t rush the process and moved at my own pace. Eventually, little by little, I began to feel more at ease in the saddle, enjoying the small milestones” she told me when I asked how she regained her hope.

IMG_3697One of the groups of riders that can get hit hardest by this are the juniors. Living up to the standard that Instagram portrays as the ‘perfect teenage equestrian’ can be difficult when half of the big name riders come from very prestigious barns. Edie Wetzel’s experience was no different. “Every so often when things aren’t progressing as I like, or I didn’t compete in the class I wanted to or my horse consistently acted up due to her “greenness” I will lose hope and wonder why I am doing it,” she told me.  I asked her what she did to regain her hope she said “I had to take a step back and realize what I have, I have a wonderful warmblood who my trainer had lent me (she’s his personal horse) and that it was going well where I was at. In the end, the height doesn’t matter, my horse was going along smoothly, was a tough competitor, and progressing immensely in her flat work as well as her jumping technique. I realized that what I have in front of me is way greater than jumping the extra 6 inches.”  Edie and her mare ended up as the Zone 5 Horse Of The Year that year because she kept working hard for what she wanted; plus they are totally awesome.

So keeping your eyes up is important. Look for that next jump to get over or the next movement to execute. You’ve got this, don’t lose hope.



Sydney & The Ponies