10 Reasons to Quit Showing Horses

I called my husband in frustration, clinging to a busted lead rope as my horse galloped off into the sunset, and exclaimed, “would you be mad if I quit?” This was the latest in a long line of small disasters at my little farm, and I was physically and mentally exhausted. I had spent the greater part of a day in early January planning out my show calendar for 2018 and watched as those plans all fell apart in the subsequent months. On social media my life was a perfect, pony-filled oasis when, in reality, I was really. fricken. tired. Everything I thought this year would be was no more and I found myself sitting at the head of the table at my own pity party.

Wayne tries to pretend he doesn’t care for horses, but he has a soft spot for Flash. Photo by Meagan DeLisle

Wayne has always been a supportive horse husband, despite the fact that he doesn’t always care for the thousand-pound animals and the large bills that come with them. I expected him to leap at the opportunity to jump ship and for me to pick up a normal hobby that didn’t cost bookoos of bucks and keep me on the road most weekends out of the month, but instead, he put me in place.

“Yes, I would be mad. You have made it this far; you can make it through this too.”

The harsh reality is that I operate on champagne dreams with a beer budget. We are your average 20-something-year-old couple who gets by, but isn’t by any means blessed in the budget department. I have far-fetched dreams of one day donning a red show jacket to represent our country, but I save up for winter’s hay budget in a change jar throughout the year. So when I say that I have worked my tail off to get to this point in my show career, I am not exaggerating. I have held multiple jobs, I have scrimped and saved and I have made huge sacrifices to get to where I am now.

And it was all paying off…until suddenly it wasn’t.

That’s the way life goes, though, especially in the horse world. There are ups and downs, ebbs and flows. It can’t always be easy, but does it have to be so hard? I sat there sniffling into the phone as my loose horse trotted around like a fancy dressage mount in glee.

“You can’t quit,” Wayne continued. “You won’t quit. You are just mad. It will get better.”

As much as I hated to admit it, I knew he was right. But I really just wanted to stomp my feet and cry a little bit longer. Instead, I went and caught my loose horse, tossed him in his stall and stared at the whiteboard in my barn that once sported the year’s show schedule. And I did the only thing I know how to do when I am frustrated: I started to write.

10 Reasons to Quit Showing Horses

I stared at my chicken scratch handwriting for a few minutes and imagined a laundry list of items I could list beneath that heading, but I couldn’t bring myself to write any of it down. Because in reality, no matter how frustrated I get, I have gone a few years without showing horses before and I was miserable. This is where my heart finds happiness. This is what makes me smile. I couldn’t just quit.

So I erased the word “quit” off the board and replaced it with “keep,” and the words started flowing.

  1. Horses make you happy.
  2. You are always so proud no matter what color that 99 cent ribbon is.
  3. Jumping gives you a high.
  4. Riding is all you think about.
  5. Riding keeps you fit and humble.
  6. Seriously, what other hobby is this cool?
  7. You love the environment at horse shows and the people you encounter.
  8. Accomplishing a task with a partner that doesn’t understand you is the most rewarding thing ever.
  9. There is a whole slew of people who believe in you and want to help you.
  10. This is your dream.

A much younger (and thinner) Meagan at my first ever hunter jumper show in 2011. So many things have changed, but the one thing that remains the same is my love for horses and this sport. Photo by Monie Brehmer

This is your dream. That last item seemed to bring a sense of calm to the storm brewing in my heart and I decided to figuratively (and probably literally) dust off my boots and keep on keepin’ on.

So I gave my horses a cookie and went back to the drawing board. Rather than ditch my plans altogether, I reworked them. I spent an hour just grooming all of my horses while making a mental checklist of all the challenges I would have to overcome that year and then came up with plans on how to conquer them. Finally, the Missouri mosquitoes chased me inside and as I crashed on the couch, covered in horse hair and hay, Wayne looked at me and smiled.

“What’s the plan, horse girl?”

And I was back on track…

Go Jumping.