By: Barbara Aitken Jenkins
As a full-time marketing and communications professional who commutes forty-five minutes, I often don’t get home until almost 6:00 pm, which means I don’t swing my leg over a saddle until 6:30 pm.
In the summer months, I ride in the mornings, waking up in the dark, greeting the sun as I began the ritual warm-up. However, this year, as summer blended into fall, morning rides shifted to evening rides. I knew in September and much of October, if I raced home after work, I might get an hour of daylight in the saddle. That was only if it didn’t rain, making the track too muddy. And I dreaded the time change, knowing it would completely derail riding with the sun in any capacity.
But little did I know, my family had other plans.
My dad built an arena light.
My husband loaded the horses and drove me to an indoor arena.
My mom sent home hot plates so I wouldn’t have to cook in my spurs.
It may be gloomy outside, but I never have to ride in the dark, because my family gave me light.
I came home one day and saw my husband, Cody, and my Dad, hammering rods into the ground to secure the massive light pole with an extension cord stretched to the outlet on the farmhouse.
That meant I could ride after dark. And that meant everything.
On the days it has rained, Cody has called me at work, asking if I wanted to go ride at the nearest indoor arena, which is forty minutes away. With no complaints or questions asked, he has been willing to give up his evenings so Miss Shiney and I could ride in dry dirt.
After Cody and I put the horses up at night, my mom has invited us into the farmhouse. She either instructs us to sit down for supper or hands us prepared meals in to-go containers ready to heat up in the microwave once we get home.
I know I’ll be competing against riders who keep their horses in a trainer’s barn, or who have fully lit, indoor arenas. To be honest, my first thoughts of those people involve jealousy and intimidation. But I always catch myself. I look around. My entire family is supporting my dream of competing at the most prestigious horse show on earth. They are working overtime and going out of their way to make my dream their dream too. I am humbled. I am blessed.
That’s my favorite part of this sport. It’s a love that lasts a lifetime. It’s one I can share with my family and friends. It’s one that hard work, determination, and perseverance, prevail over all else.
To all the at-home, do-it-yourself amateurs, don’t focus on the “don’t haves.” Keep your sights on the blessings. Give your supporters a hug and tell them thanks.
And even if you ride in the dark, give a shout out to the moon.
*published exclusively with Barbwire Productions and the American Quarter Horse Association
To follow more of Barbara’s and Miss Shiney’s AQHA World Championship Show, follow @thearenaboundamateur on Instagram and LIKE Barbwire Productions on Facebook.