Inspiration from Listener Anna Supp
Listener Anna Supp sent us this email in the hopes it would provide inspiration for others.
If you have a story to share with others in our horse-loving community, we would love to hear it. It can be about anything – your favorite trainer, your biggest “ah ha” moment, or the story of your horse. Email to John@WhoaPodcast.com and I’ll do the rest.
I discovered your podcast recently, and thanks to an 11 hour drive that day, got to listen through for most of the trip.
I thought I’d share with you a story, whether you’ll read it or have any interest in it, I have no idea. But perhaps there’s a piece of it you may want to share with someone that needs inspiration. My story is about coming back from an injury and redefining myself as a horse(wo)man in the wake of an accident.
I’m 32 years old, and my horsemanship background is a little unique. I grew up very poor, in a family that did not (nor was able to) support my passion for horses, but I always found a way to be around them. Occasional rides on friends horses, hanging around barns to work for rides, and devouring every book I could get my hands on eventually found me with the opportunity to exercise a backyard horse for my teenage years, and then through good grades and good fortune I was able to go on to college for Equine Business, eventually changing to Agricultural Business Management, and ride on an IHSA team. This college program was really the foundation of my formal riding education, even though I’d spent years researching and learning through trial and error on my own. I went on to manage a summer horse camp, trail and lesson program, eventually building a show program. After graduating college, I moved on to a career outside the industry but continued to coach an Interscholastic Equestrian Program team, lead a 4H club, and teach lessons on the side. It was exhausting but deeply fulfilling.
As my outside career progressed, I pulled back from teaching, and spent a few years on the paying side of the industry, leasing a horse, riding with a trainer, and competing in the jumpers. I had a lot of fun being the customer, but I found myself slightly unfulfilled in that role. Along came marriage and a baby, and another job change, and I pulled back even farther. After having my daughter I gave lessons again occasionally at another barn, but I felt more and more disconnected. As I closed in on my daughter’s first birthday, I was lessoning and leasing half-heartedly, and I had just made the decision to begin pursuing an MBA along with my full-time career.
Three weeks before my daughter turned one, and five before the start of my MBA program, I was letting a young horse catch his breath after a warm up, when a car pulled into the parking lot. I remember the blinding flash of light as the sun hit the windshield just right; the mane disappearing out from underneath me, and then the realization that I could not get up. Throughout the ambulance ride, I was certain it couldn’t be anything serious, but as I lay in the ER, I overheard the diagnosis over the nurse’s radio, and I vowed then and there I was done riding. I had broken my pelvis in four places, including the base of my spine. After surgery, it was six days in the hospital before I could l lift myself out of bed.
By the time I got home, the shock had worn off, and the first thing I did was rope a friend into driving me back to a barn. My daughter learned to walk by holding onto my crutches, and within a few months I was able to drag myself onto a mounting block and onto a horse. That’s when the real pain started. Physically I was fine, secured with plenty of hardware. Mentally, though, I was broken. Trying to push through riding, I began having panic attacks, nightmares, anxiety, and eventually depression. The thing I loved most in life had become a source of fear and pain.
For anyone who has ever been in this place, here’s what you need to know: this story can have a happy ending. It takes perseverance, pro-activeness, and self-advocacy.
- Do not worry about anyone else but yourself. I have always been very conscious of the feelings of others, so this was hard. The first and hardest thing I had to do was leave the barn where the accident had happened and ride somewhere else. As much as I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the trainer, or risk damaging their reputation in any way (especially since it was in no way her fault), being in the same atmosphere was too much for me. I moved back to a barn I had ridden at earlier in the area and had always felt safe, and got a few rides under my belt, and slowly started to feel progress.
- Don’t expect your progress to be linear. I would make progress and then have setbacks. Within my first half dozen rides, I sat a few small spooks, that set me back, and each time I wondered if I should just give up. If I would go too long between rides, I would start to wonder if I would have the nerve to get back on. These setbacks became fewer and farther between over time, and less impactful.
- Surround yourself with cheerleaders, whatever that takes. I am so fortunate to have a lot of good horse people in my life, that I’ve accumulated from my various adventures. Every time I felt like I couldn’t do it, I reached out to one of them, and they cheered me on from every corner. Their belief in me sometimes is all that pushed me forward. I didn’t want to let them down as much as I didn’t want to let myself down.
- Remember why you fell in love in the first place. Despite the progress I was making, I was still struggling. About 9 months after the accident, I had the opportunity to travel to Arizona for school, and decided on a whim to spend two extra days there, by myself, at a dude ranch. By good fortune, the one I found on google was just reopening, so I got a lot of one on one time with the wranglers there. By the second day, I was loping through the desert, and doing some team penning with the other guests. The spark had been reignited.
- Find something that makes you hungry to keep going. I came home from Arizona, and after riding hunter jumpers for most of my adult life, I went at the recommendation of a friend and took a reining lesson. In the first fifteen minutes I found myself laughing for the first time in a very long time, and by the end of the hour I was hooked. I haven’t looked back. Around the same time, I stumbled across the documentary “Down the Fence,” and as corny as it sounds, it changed my life. It fueled a new fire, stronger than ever. I knew it was the challenge that I needed. I watched it again, and again, and started making phone calls. I now own two quarter horses, riding several times a week at multiple places, reining and working cows. While wrapping up my MBA is still taking a good chunk of my time, I plan to compete this coming year.
Most importantly, my now two-year-old daughter has fallen in love with horses and riding as well. I don’t struggle to get out of bed. I’m back and more determined and focused than I’ve ever been. My next goal in life is to meet Doug Williamson, and while I don’t know how I’m going to do that yet, I’m sure that I’ll make it happen. Watching him tell his story, the challenges he’d faced, and his straightforward determination changed the way I thought of myself. I know there have been many who were not as fortunate as I have been, to be able to return from an injury. At the same time, there have been others who have had it so much worse than I and didn’t let it stop them from pursuing their dreams. To steal the phrase from Doug, I’ve been given the chance to ride a few more good horses, and I don’t intend to waste a minute of it.
Join Us on this Journey
We want you to be a part of the show. Tell us about your horse. Share your challenges, triumphs, or just everyday items that make horse ownership unique. Create an audio file using the memo app on your phone. Or, contact me and we’ll set up a time to talk by Skype or phone. Perhaps what you have to share can help someone in THEIR horse journey.
You are a big part of why we do this podcast. We really love getting your feedback. Please let us know your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions for the show. Email us at John@WhoaPodcast.com
Thanks for listening,