I am the Comparison Queen. I lust after other people’s horses, tack, riding apparel, and—most often—the seemingly endless time they have to spend at the barn (how?).
In conclusion, I am jealous and awful. And this sport, where someone always has more, is rough on a green-eyed monster like me. But I’ve realized I only compare myself to others when I think they have something better: a fancier horse, a cooler half-pad, a quieter upper body … et cetera.
You vs. You
So in an effort to shove some gratitude down my throat, I’ve been endeavoring to see my unappreciative self through the eyes of someone with less: younger me. That’s right, when I’m struck with a bout of barn envy these days, I sit myself down for a reality check with 12-year-old Emily. Here’s how I think she’d respond to some common “complaints”:
Oh, you get to ride horses, but you can’t lease or buy one? I know, girl. But do you know how lucky you are? You have disposable income (or time, and a friend with horses) and you get to use it on something you love. Also? No homework. Also, can I tell you how fervently I’ve prayed that one day I’d convince the parents to buy the breeches you have and “invest” in some nice tall boots like yours? Do you want to trade? I’ll trade!
Oh, you jumped a lovely course, but someone else’s was better? OK, yes, I’m just as disappointed as you are that we’re not at the Olympics by now. But get over it.
And holy moly. Do you realize what this means? It means you’ve taken enough lessons and put in enough time to not only be killing your lead changes but jumping courses (sometimes not even small ones!) without breaking a sweat. You’re a decent rider. We did it!
Oh, you get to lease a horse, but you don’t own one? Hold up. As long as we’re time traveling, I want you to rewind and take a hard look at yourself just two years ago. Look yourself in the face and tell that face you are leasing a horse, but it’s not enough. I want you to tell that person—whose jaw is now on the ground—that it’s not fair you only get to have this beautiful mare to ride and hang out with anytime you want. Did you hear that thud? That was the two-years-ago version of you fainting from jealousy and disbelief, because you are acting like a fool.
Oh, you don’t have the insanely expensive bridle you want? Yeah, I, too, like to circle the really fancy tack and “accidentally” leave the catalog open on the coffee table. But you know this isn’t a magic pill, right? You know this bridle isn’t going to fix your busy hands, correct? I feel like you know it, but you aren’t internalizing it.
And do me a favor. Borrow the fanciest bridle in your barn. Hold that bridle in one hand and your existing bridle in the other. Show your horse. Yep—she doesn’t care. She wants a cookie. If your tack fits, is in decent shape, and functions, she’s happy. Why aren’t you? And spoiler alert: Your horse finds both bridles equally tasty.
Oh, you got to go to a show, but you can’t go to every show like some people at your barn? Yeah. I see what you mean. You should probably hang up your helmet and quit. Riding is all about ribbons and silver bowls. If you aren’t pursuing those things, it’s pretty meaningless.
So if you can only go to a horse show once a quarter, or once a year, or once a decade, just stop whining because you are genuinely hurting my soul with your petty ungratefulness. Did you know some people will never get to go to a horse show? Did you know some of those people are probably at your barn and jealous of you? You don’t even like shows that much.
Oh, you own a horse, but [insert any minor complaint]? I literally cannot believe you are saying this to me with a straight face. You have your own horse to pet and scratch and ride and spoil? You know what? Don’t take it from me. Find any 5- to 12-year-old girl, and tell her you have a horse. Show her pictures. Tell her your horse’s name. Watch her reaction. You’re going to feel terrible. And you should.
That’s all there is to it. Next time you yearn for someone’s gorgeous new fleece-lined leather open front boots, just remember what 12-year-old you would tell you, and revel in how lucky you are to get to spend time with horses at all.
And don’t worry. Those fleece-lined boots will be filthy in no time.
This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!