I apologize in advance. This is a bit of a pity party post but I don’t really know where else to go for advice.
TL;DR: I had a dream of riding at the GP level. I am very far from getting to that point and wonder if now is the time to call it quits at my age. The expense, the struggle, the stress, it is all just feeling impossible. I am, however, also struggling to call it quits and stop riding competitively even at the low levels. Please help.
Has anyone gone through giving up competitive riding or struggled with giving it up?
Where I grew up, keeping and showing horses was affordable.
As a junior, I had a great 1.20 - 1.30m mare that we had purchased for $2k - can you believe that? Sure people had more expensive horses but I worked my butt off and sacrificed a lot to do well. I was also offered other horses to show including horses in my coach’s training program. I had decent success.
Like many young riders, I had dreams of jumping at the top level. I had schooled up to a 1.45m at home and thought if I just worked really really hard, I could maybe jump at the GP level one day.
Fast forward to my move to Canada for Uni over 11 yrs ago. I rode everything I could, sometimes getting free leases, but couldn’t afford to buy a horse let alone show much during those years.
My mother always said there was no money in horses and told me to find a job that could pay for them. So instead of working at a barn, I focused on my studies, trying to ride, and trying to set up small businesses which ended up failing during that time. I severely regret not working at a barn in my 20s or finding my way to Europe to get experience like many do.
I spent my entire 20s working to ride. I am now 31 with not much to show for it.
I do have an incredible horse who I pulled out of a field as an un-started 5 year old. After a few trying years and an injury setback, we have finally gotten to a place, where, in the last 2 years we have been showing. All I have wanted to do since coming to Canada.
I am not saving anything - I pretty much spend everything I earn on whatever my horse needs and on showing. It cost me ~30K to show in 12 local shows last year. That’s outside of board, training, supplements, farrier work, vet work, massages, equipment, etc., etc.
I can’t shake the feeling of “why am I even doing this?” We aren’t jumping very big and after not showing regularly for so long, I am always terrified before going into the ring. I sure as hell can’t afford a sports psychologist at this point.
My trainer and I feel 1.20m will be my horses’ happy place, he currently shows the 1.15m. He owes me nothing and this horse will be with me forever. My trainer says if I had a horse capable of it, I would be doing much higher by now. But I won’t be able to afford to keep him plus buy and keep another horse as well at this time.
I am finding myself feeling like what is the point in carrying on then? Why keep spending so much money only to get to the 1.20M? There are kids in my barn who will be jumping that height before me soon.
I am feeling regret, disappointment and sometimes bitterness. I am hateful towards myself for not making a ton of money to support what I love, I sometimes feel bitter that I didn’t grow up with wealthy parents. I just look at young people on the GP circuit like Cara Chad, Jennifer Gates, Katie Dinan and the like, and feel envious of how lucky they are. I am ashamed to feel this way - I know I shouldn’t. I was never this person and don’t want to me. It just seems like hard work and sacrifice don’t actually get you anywhere these days if you don’t also have money.
I truly have nothing else in my life - I work and I ride, that is it. It is so incredibly hard to let go of a dream I have had for so long. I keep trying to be logical about it and I am coming to accept it just won’t happen for me, but every time I think of letting go I can’t help but cry. Why?
I worry I will regret not keeping going later in life. But maybe what I will regret is having nothing to show for all the money I wasted. I feel damned if I do, damned if I don’t.
This year, I have been struggling to get out of bed, I can’t find the will to work out anymore and hate myself for gaining weight, I feel immense guilt for showing and feel like I am wasting money. I don’t know what to do. This year I have to drive 1h30 mins to my horse because my coach moved far from where we live so now I am only riding 3 times a week (she rides him the other 2 times a week). I don’t want to change coaches because my horse is very happy with her. We can’t afford to move closer.
I just don’t think I can keep doing this. It has gone from something I love more than anything to just immense stress. If I’m not stressing about competing or money, I’m stressing about my horse and if I am doing enough for him.
Can someone who has been in a similar position offer advice? I can’t speak to my husband (horse person too) about it because he thinks I should sell my horse and/or take a break to focus on work and making more money. I think my coach will tell me to find a way to keep going but my mind will tell me she’s only saying it for her gain.
Did you keep going? Did you just keep forking money to jump at the low levels? If you quit did you keep your horse in training or did they become a lawn ornament? Did you pivot to another discipline? If I do quit, what should that look like in terms of what I do with my horse - do I keep him with my coach or move him closer for light/flat work riding?
Thank you to anyone who had the will to read through this.