It takes a lot to impress me. I am not into flashy displays of cash. I can’t tell a Porsche from a Kia, it even took me a while to think of a good comparison. I don’t know if I would recognize any of the actors from Star Wars or Star Trek or Star Tomorrow or whatever else is showing right now. I have never lined up for concert tickets. There were never autographs pinned to my wall. I never once wrote a letter to a celebrity. I did not dream of marrying a Backstreet Boy. But I FREAK OUT over famous riders.
As anyone who has ever been to a horseshow with me will attest, I cannot keep my cool. One particularly memorable encounter at Bonefish in Tallahassee Florida had me frozen to my chair as two celebrities reached over my shoulder for their beers.
I find my fangirl crushes via social media; through blogs and Instagram posts and once committed I become a loyal fan. I root for young horses; I defend all manner of jog outfits; and I blush and become unintelligent in their presence. To me this makes sense. It’s not just that they were in the right place and a pile of money fell on them (okay maybe some of them, but still they are really good riders) or that they are really good looking and were scouted out of a mall into fame or that somehow an inappropriate video was leaked at the same time they started doing club promotions, all of my Equestrian Celebrity Crushes have pursued a dream so ludicrous the rest of us can’t even imagine and make it happen every day.
The thing about this whole horseback riding sport is that it is a weirdly level playing field if you think about it from the right angles. I know, I know- not the imported Sport Horse next to my adorable thoroughbred angles but hear me out on this:
- If you ride horses long enough you’ve wheeled ridiculously heavy wheelbarrows across a path of 2”x4”s balanced on mud; you’ve looked at a frozen water trough and thought “well…guess I am going to break this ice with my bare hand”; you’ve paid for your horses vaccinations instead of taking off your snow tires; and you’ve loved horses who weren’t right for you or who were sick or who couldn’t give any more than they were already giving. These are not the decisions of normal people. And I know my celebrity crushes have felt this- I’ve read all their blogs!
- In what other sport am I, a painfully aware Adult Amateur, able to compete against Olympians? While some might bemoan the loss of potential ribbons, I think it is the coolest thing ever. We are all in this together, in the snow and rain, at the barn down the road. (I love being in the warm up ring with famous people because, beyond the cool factor, it is a great time to see some real riding. If only my brain would let me keep thinking and riding at the same time. If said famous-person smiles at me or, even better, says “have a good ride” I’m done- love forever sealed.
- Plus falling off. Imagine convincing people to pay for you to ride their horse, to wait years for the chance that maybe you and that horse will go to the top and then you get there and fall off. And the show is over. I have concluded via a wildly unscientific study that this is the only sport where you can win one week and fall off the next. Most professional athletes seem to have a slightly less humbling career.
So there, I’ve proved it. Riding is weirdly level, and yet some are able to bring out the best in a horse. To train it so well, to ride it so well, that they can achieve something that is truly miraculous. Then they go home and they teach kids to post trot, or they muck their barn because their staff doesn’t work on Tuesdays, or they sit up all night with a sick horse, or they face their own demons on a public stage for everyone to watch and judge. And they are humble and kind. And these are the people I freak out over! As is totally justified.
Top tips for you, if I have convinced you to follow my path in fan-girling:
- Buy a big data package. It’s worth it. If you are casually scrolling through Instagram and you see a new interview, cute horse trotting, or something getting shares you are going to need to watch it right then and there.
- Refer to them in casual conversation. Don’t name drop them, everyone hates that and you don’t actually know them, the facts of their life are facts of your life and it should casually roll off your tongue. IE. I need those stirrups because XYZ rider said they love them.
- Actually listen to what they say. All those interviews, and tidbits, and blogs, are people who do what you love to do day in and day out and they have lessons to share! Extra helpful if you pick at least some celebrity crushes who have a similar riding style to you so when you are watching their trip for the 1000000 time you can be studying and learning.
- Pick good ambassadors of our sport. You want someone with a good smile, a feel good vibe, and a good attitude towards winning, loosing and horsemanship. There are plenty out there but that certainly isn’t everyone.
- If you friend should have the audacity to introduce you to your biggest, number one, hero, role model, idol try to keep normal words flowing out of your mouth while you smile for the picture- it will be the coolest profile picture you have ever had.
Have you ever met your riding hero? If not, who would you like to meet? Comment below!