The Beginning 

As a little girl, I didn’t know what it meant to be a horsewoman, I just knew I loved horses! Some of my earliest memories are of standing on the couch by the window so I could watch the neighbor’s horses run around their field. Aside from a few pony rides though,  I didn’t actually get my start with horses until I was 23. I was new to everything horses, and since money was tight I couldn’t afford any formal training. So, I did the only thing I could think of; I called 27 barns asking if they would be willing to train someone who had zero experience. I also needed a job, so I asked them to pay me as well! Asking to be paid for something I didn’t know ultimately got me 26  no’s, but thankfully one said yes!  

Working on that small farm is where I got my foundation with horses. Including discovering that there is never a dull moment with yearlings! After my first weekend there, the only other stable hand decided to move on to another barn, and suddenly I became the full-time help. My boss worked full-time off-site, so the only hands-on training I had was on Saturdays. YouTube videos quickly became my best friend! My boss gave me riding lessons on the weekends, and once I had the basics down I was given the “ok” to go trail riding with the neighbors during the week. What started as working for one barn turned into picking up odd jobs, training, and experience at the three surrounding farms. They became my village, and their support boosted my confidence, laying the foundation for me to become the horsewoman I am today. 

Be Careful Who You Allow Into Your Village 

Eventually, I decided to start consistent riding lessons with a nearby trainer so I could progress my riding. Up until that point I  had only been trail riding, at a walk, on gaited horses, so I was excited to finally get to ride a horse that could trot! In the first lesson, she taught me how to post, and by the end, I was trotting around the entire arena. I loved it, and had no fear! The trainer offered to take me on as a working student in exchange for the lessons, and it seemed like everything was going really well. Until a couple of weeks later when my usual trail mount bolted with me on our way back to the barn. I didn’t know how to regain control in that type of situation, so when he came full speed around the corner my saddle flipped to his side, and I came off. I wasn’t hurt, but my confidence took a hit.

The village was very encouraging and reminded me that I would regain my confidence as I continued riding. But while they were trying to build me up, I was naive and allowed the trainer to tear me down. Eventually, I stopped going on the trail rides, because I didn’t want to hold my friends back from enjoying a good ride. Meanwhile, I spent 6 months with the trainer, only to find my fear of riding getting worse. I felt like a total failure. I didn’t realize at the time that even perceived failures can contribute to becoming a great horsewoman. 

Rebuilding The Village 

Two weeks after my last lesson I attended a Fundamentals clinic put on by Downunder Horsemanship. I thought if after observing the clinic I did not feel re-inspired I would sell my horse stuff, and figure out something else to do with my life. Thankfully I was re-inspired! Not long after, I met a lady from my church who had also been at the clinic. She invited me to her farm, and after doing some groundwork, asked if I wanted to hop on her horse Carolina for a minute before I left. That was when we discovered my riding fears had not disappeared. I got on and flexed the sweet horse’s neck probably 10 times before asking her to walk. She barely took one step before I pulled a one reign stop, and hopped off shaking. I was devastated! How could I fulfill my dream of being a well-rounded horsewoman if I was too scared to ride? Thankfully my friend wasn’t willing to give up on me, she really wanted a riding buddy!  

The next week she had a plan for getting me back in the saddle. After we talked through some of my nerves she put me up on her horse Penny. With Penny on a lead rope, my friend proceeded to lead us around the small arena like it was a pony ride. She stayed right by my side until I relaxed. By the end of the day, she had gone from walking right by my side to lunging Penny at a trot, and for the first time in a long time, I did not want to get off! Every week my friend helped me work through my nerves little by little so that they became much more manageable. Because of the time and support my friend gave me, she became a key person in my village. I was able to continue going after my goals to become the horsewoman I dreamed of being, now with renewed confidence. Plus, now I knew how to trot! 

Reflecting On The Village 

I hope my story has inspired you to take a look at the people in your village who helped you become the horsewoman you are today. It doesn’t matter if you grew up with horses, or had to learn as you went, like me. None of us got here on our own, it definitely takes a village to build a great horsewoman. 

Leave us a comment about some of the people who helped you become the horsewoman you are today!

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Brittany Madonia

Hi everyoneI grew up in a small town in New England, and later moved to the Carolinas where my dreams of working with horses became a reality. Not long after that I spent a couple months earning a certificate as a Barn Manager/Professional Groom at the Equine Management Training Center in Axton, VirginiaI have worked in a few places since then, and even though I haven’t found a permanent place to land just yet, I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey! Some of my passions include learning everything I can about horses, dogs, mental health, and a couple foreign languagesI look forward to hanging out with everyone here as we learn and grow together!

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