ome of you may know me. However many of you won’t. I did not have an illustrious junior career. No Young Riders medals. No Medal Finals ribbons. I wasn’t even in attendance of either. Nevertheless, here I am at age 27, a professional rider and trainer. I wasn’t rich, and I wasn’t the trainer’s kid. (Spoiler alert: I’m still not rich. But I’m out here, and I’m doing the thing.)
For the sake of all the young kids out there, or adults considering a massive career switch, let’s back up. I want to paint you a very clear picture of how I got here because I think my story can encourage you to keep on keeping on, despite the odds and when you don’t have two nickels to rub together.
I went to college like a 'normal person' but only attended three semesters before I dropped out to begin working for Redfield Farm. I was an amateur at the time doing barn manager duties and remained an amateur for two years after that. At this point I was off my parent’s tab and on my own. I was close to being circuit champion in the Adult Hunters one winter in Ocala. However, it’s like they say: close only counts in horseshoes (usually not lost ones in the middle of the field) and hand grenades. I guess that means no illustrious amateur career either.
So, the next best thing to do was to click "the button" and officially go pro. I would love to say that I had some sort of revelation that was shed upon me by some sort of higher power - that monumental moment in movies when Morgan Freeman’s voice says something completely insightful to steer your boat.
But honestly, my decision to become a professional was made in a moment of desperation. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a 'stick it to the man' situation; I wanted a career in horses more than anything. I had been working so hard, yet felt so undermined. All I truly wanted was to be respected and valued for what I was already bringing – and had the potential to bring – to the table.
So, yes, ladies and gentleman, I clicked the button. That button young people stare at for minutes that seem like hours. Hitting those little forward and back arrows at the top of the Internet Explorer tab over and over just to restart the process. Yet again, you come to that page. That page which will forever relinquish your amateur status and dub thee as a professional rider in the eyes of U.S. Equestrian.
I remember the moment well; I was driving home from visiting a friend at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show when I gathered up the courage, and I’m fairly certain that upon clicking “senior non-amateur” – or whatever round-about term they use instead of professional – I promptly sped to the nearest rest area (I’ve always had an uneasy stomach).
I had just entered the realm of the unknown. It truly felt like I was entering the Wild West, because every young rider who hasn’t lived the life of a professional rider has a distorted image of professional equestrians being these decorated individuals who wear white pants, drive expensive cars, and have not a care in the world while they ride pretty horses around all day – often in designer sunglasses with perfectly coiffed hair (wear your helmet kids!).
We need to remember why it is what we do this: our love for the animal.
I’d like to go ahead and dispel that myth, or the idea that you have to be mega-rich to deserve a life of riding and training horses as a career. I am living proof. My name is Colin Savaria, and I manage to stay just over completely broke. I have enough to pay my bills, but I’m the perfect amount of impoverished to ensure I wake up every day and hustle. I only check my bank account (singular bank account because my personal and savings accounts no longer exist) at certain times of the day, usually following the gulp of my 20mg of Lexapro first thing in the morning in order to reduce the likelihood of a full-blown panic attack. I weigh about 15 pounds less than I should because I find very little time for eating while cleaning my own stalls, turning out, grooming, riding, body clipping, icing, wrapping, being my own jump crew, shipping... Did I miss anything? Oh yes, that I love every minute of it.
I don't want young people out there who are trying to make it in this industry to feel jaded or negative towards others who seem to have it better. I think that's a common theme that can be crippling to success. Plus, I always found working hard for what I loved was very gratifying. However, working even harder to pave your own way in what you love creates a feeling that can’t be described by just one word. Walking into the stable in the morning juggling my big black backpack (something like a Mary Poppins bag, just full of Apple chargers and a wallet), a steaming cup of coffee, three bowls of dog food, and attempting to have a phone conversation coordinating a horse deal or travel plans to a show, there is no better feeling than looking down the aisle at a bunch of bright-eyed, nickering horses and realizing this is all mine.
These horses give us everything. They give us wings to fly, are our best teachers, and mold our careers. In return they ask for nothing, just the bonus of a carrot or a pat on the neck. Appreciate them for the special animals they are. I believe as an industry, we don’t do this enough. We need to remember why it is what we do this: our love for the animal. It’s not about the money or the few minutes of fame (or so it shouldn’t be at least). The feeling you get when you sit in the saddle and two become one is comparable to none: that is why we do the sport. The feeling of the least judgemental and loving eyes gazing at you from the stall waiting for a pat or a treat: that is why we do horses.Feed your brain: How Hunter Holloway found success after life in the Big Eq.
I own five horses, three dogs (can’t be the crazy cat lady if they are dogs, right?), will have 15 horses in Florida, and somehow in the midst of all of this managed to find someone to propose to me. Yes, ladies and gentleman, that means I’m engaged. You can send your condolences to him via text or email.
I’m a young professional trying to make what I love into a career. Furthermore, I’m trying to keep my head above water and survive in this industry. Through all of my stress, anxiety, not too much blood but a whole lot of sweat and even more tears, I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way. I’m no different than you. Yes, you. The one searching the internet for affirmation they are doing the right thing, to find motivation and some light at the end of the tunnel. The person who downloads all of the inspirational meme accounts on Instagram (no shame, I’ve done it too) or the horoscope apps on your iPhone (the most unsatisfying $2.99 you’ll ever spend in your life). It may make you feel better, but it doesn’t solve your problem.
What is your problem? You’re making a career out of a passion that requires a whole lot of dreaming and more work than most people are capable of. What’s the solution? Work your ass off and keep on dreaming.
Read on: 5 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your Horse
Photos by Sportfot.