There are people I admire, who ride at the top of the sport, and watching Charlotte Dujardin at the Olympics was certainly inspiring. But the person who gets me the most fired up, who makes me think that I can be successful if I work hard, is my friend Heather.
I can't remember exactly when Heather bought her mare, Enchanté (Asha). It was during the time that I had Auke. We became friends while we were both training under Mary Kehoe. Heather boards Asha at Mary's barn but she detests barn drama. We recognized that we shared the same goals and approach -- take a lesson, work hard, and don't get involved with the politics of barn-dom. We were both also riding on the cusp of training and 1st level. Heather battled her busy hands and I battled my floppy feet. We both did the chicken wing thing when we put our leg on correctly. When Heather bought Asha, the mare was already six (I think) but had spent her life thus far as a brood mare so her training was minimal. Heather had to work on getting Asha uphill as she wasn't naturally built that way and then there were the (expensive) vet bills to pay. Asha is allergic to hay and the trees growing next to the barn.
The only picture I could find of Heather and Asha is this one from a number of years ago -- we were at Del Mar with Auke and Asha. That's our trainer, Mary, with the white breeches, and Heather holding Asha.
But, Heather persevered. She works full time at a demanding job and is married to a wonderful guy, Steve. She values her time with him so the balancing act between horse, work, and family has always been a challenge. She takes her lessons at 6:00 in the morning, goes to work, goes the gym, and then goes home to Steve. Oh, and she does those fitness bootcamp killer workouts too. She's tough as nails. They climbed out of training into 1st level. Now they are showing 2nd and schooling 3rd. She qualified for Regionals and is ranked, in her freestyle, nationally. And, Asha? I hardly recognize that narrow mare. She's now got beautiful muscles everywhere, a strong hind and a powerful neck. Impressive.
Meanwhile, I sold Auke and bought Jackson. After selling Auke, we stopped training with Mary. She was terrifically busy with the horses at her barn and it was difficult to trailer in -- if we could even get a lesson slot that didn't conflict with work. Heather knew of Gayle, and Mary thought she would be a good fit. And she has been. But, Jackson was not a dressage prospect. He was level headed and brave on trail rides close to home. But he was wreck if he was trailered anywhere, including to Gayle's barn which was very quiet. Then we started the laminitis battle... I figure I lost about two years, in terms of having consistent training and making progress on the dressage front. Of course, I loved riding Jackson and he will always be the horse who gave me his whole heart. He made me laugh and he always tried. He loved to run, and he helped me regain my love of speed. I don't regret one minute of the time I spent with him.
Now, I have Winston who has great blood lines and a great mind for dressage. He is confident and unflappable. He likes to work. His gaits are beautiful. I look at where Heather is and I think to myself: If I work hard, if I get regular training, if I keep myself and Winston fit, maybe -- just maybe -- someday I'll be riding a freestyle too.