As many of you already know, I am aging out this year. I, along with most seniors, don’t know how to feel about becoming an amateur. Some of my friends are beyond excited to become amateurs and ride for an NCEA team, while others are worried they didn’t have “enough” of a riding career. Even I have questioned if I did enough during my junior years. I’ve found that there’s some societal measure that makes us think going to Maclay Finals or another 3’6” final is what we should aim for as juniors and what determines if we were good enough or if we did enough. I’m here to tell you that this is not true.
Looking back at my own junior career, I had a lot of ups and downs. I moved up to the 3’/3’3” classes in 2019 and competed in all my local finals that year. I, like most 14-year-olds, had my sights set on *winning* the prestigious Maclay finals. However, the horse I was aboard that year got injured, and we had to look for a plan B for the year 2020 while my horse rehabbed. Enter JT, the opinionated 5-year-old (supposedly) junior hunter we imported in January 2020. The plan for JT was for me to get the opportunity to work and train a green horse, compete in the junior hunters, and then sell him when my other horse was back to work. We decided in July to continue JT’s training and sell my equitation horse. Although it was sad, we felt that JT had a lot of potential, and I didn’t want to pass up the incredible opportunity of working with a young horse. For the next year and a half, JT and I stuck to the Children's Hunters, where we picked up some nice ribbons at Fieldstone Show Park and HITS Ocala.
Now to the stories you all are familiar with. My parents, being their amazing selves, told me that it would be possible to lease a horse for a year so I could get back into the equitation while simultaneously training JT. When looking for a horse, I told my parents my ultimate dream horse would be a mix of JT and Floyd (my sister’s fantastic mount). The minute I sat on Lux, I knew he was the one. He had the jump and stride similar to JT’s but the mind and confidence like Floyd, the perfect in-between.
When Lux came to Massachusetts in May 2021, I didn’t realize my confidence had taken a toll. Like any young horse, JT was a challenging ride. There were days when he extra spicy and I had to be on guard. There were days when we just weren’t clicking and I questioned my abilities to bring him up. There were days when we went backward in our training. I was constantly nervous and second-guessing myself, even just to hack. Lux taught me there was nothing to be afraid of, and that no matter what, he would keep us safe and steady. Through every show and ride, Lux chose the smart route, and I learned to trust him. By the end of summer 2021, Liv was back. By this point, everyone knows this story. Five months into our lease, my parents surprised me with buying him. Now, Lux will never leave the Gannett family.
Lux has somewhat of a limit of 3’3”. Although he could technically do the 3’6”, and was successful in his 3’6” junior hunter career with his previous owner, it wasn’t something I wanted to push him to do. Plus, I was comfortable at 3’3” and didn’t want to push us to the 3’6” and have everything be new during my last year. Lux and I got to do some incredible things this year: we experienced the new WEC Ocala and competed in the Jr/Am Derby. We competed at the Hampton Classic, scoring an 84 in one of our rounds. We traveled to Maryland for the Capital Challenge Horse Show to compete in the USHJA Jump Seat Finals. We got to go to the Kentucky Horse Park for NHS finals. The list goes on and on.
Sometimes, I get sad that I never got to compete in the 3’6” equitation, but then I remember that if my path continued with Rory, my 2019 mount, and my 3’6” dream, I would have never ended up with the things I have now. Breeches and Sweats wouldn’t have been created, I would have never gone to EAP or placed 4th in the Horsemanship medal at NEHC Finals, I would have never had the experience with a green horse, and I would never have had my Lux. But most importantly, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Your horsemanship, sportsmanship, and attitude define you.
With that all being said, everyone has their own path. Some get to compete in the 3’6”, while others don’t compete. Some people “gain” a year because of their birthday and others age out during their senior year of high school. These paths don’t define you, nor should you feel like you’re a failure because you didn’t compete or ribbon at a final. My biggest advice is to look where you are today. What would little you think of big you? They would be probably be amazed by all that you accomplished. For me, little Liv would be shocked that I have my own horse and compete in Florida during the winter.
Finally, I wanted to thank everyone involved in my riding career. Specifically to Glynhafan Farm, Graystone Stables, Riverwind Farm, Kingsway Farm, and Newbury Farm. Thank you for all the lessons (both literal riding lessons and life lessons) you have taught me. Every farm has given me a new or different perspective on the sport. To the horses who have impacted my career the most: Rosie, Athena, Mariah, Jenga, Leo, Rory, JT, Floyd, and Lux, thank you for keeping me safe and for being my happy places, even on my worst days. And to the people who have supported me and stuck by my side through 11 years of this crazy sport, my family, words can’t describe how grateful I am for you to have this sport in my life. Of course, my time in riding is not over (not even close), but I wanted to take this time to thank everyone involved in my junior career. So, thank you.