What Defines You?

Some recent events in the blogosphere coupled with discussions I've been having with friends have gotten me thinking about what it is to be a horseperson, and how we so often let our sport define us as human beings.

Equestrians are, admittedly, a special breed of people. We do crazy things and make crazy sacrifices for the sake of our sport and our animals. We live, breathe, and dream horses. There is a unique spiritual, emotional, and physical connection that we feel to horses. Nothing else quite compares to it.

But what happens when someone who has defined themselves for years as a horseperson finds themselves having to give up horses? Or discovers - horror of horrors - that they just don't feel the passion they once felt?

Who are you without horses?

Or, for that matter, without your career?

When all that once defined you as a person is stripped away, do you know who you are?

It's a lot heavier of a topic than I usually discuss on the blog, but I think it's an important one for a lot of us to consider, since we are involved in a sport that is so all-consuming.

I can hardly remember a time in my life when horses were not a part of it in some capacity. I started riding lessons at 10 years old, but had been asking to ride for years before that. I rode in my once a week lesson every week without fail, and was heartbroken when I had to miss a ride. When I was 16 I got the opportunity to lease a horse and teach beginner lessons at a local barn, and I was in heaven! My best friend Paula and I had free rein of the farm, and rode together every day. I graduated high school, and went on to major in Equine Studies in college, loving every second of it. After college, I worked for the United States Equestrian Federation, and now I work for a real estate company that sells horse farms. Clearly, I'm also still riding. In the next few years, Michael and I plan to buy a farm of our own and bring Dino and a few friends home to live at our place. My closest friends, aside from two childhood buddies, have all been brought into my life through horses and riding. Horses are the long-term plan for my life.

But what happens if that plan changes? If for whatever reason, I can't be involved in horses anymore. Do I lose my identity?

Big philosophical considerations here!

For me, while it would clearly be a devastating, huge life change, horses don't define who I am. First and foremost I'm a believer in Christ, horses or no horses, and that gives me identity and defines my outlook on life and the way I live and treat other people. And I'm still the same stubborn, quirky, outside-the-box, slightly reclusive person I've always been inside the barn and out.

So, food for thought: What Defines You? Is it horses? Or is it something else? Something to chew on this Wednesday morning!


  1. Timely and topical. Personally, I am defined by too many things: CrossFit, IT, horses, running. It's who I am to be interested in so many things. But horses give me something to really latch onto and be extra passionate about. We had a moment at the book club I'm in last month where the book we read had a main character who was as crazy/driven/passionate about cooking as we are about horses. One of the questions for discussion was "What are you as passionate about as [main character] is about cooking?" All of the other girls are young mothers and they couldn't think of anything that they were passionate about besides their children. That's not bad, but I also feel like you need to know who YOU are first. I feel like horses give us something to focus on, work toward and be passionate about that is just a little bit selfish - and that's okay.

  2. My mother always told me to never let 1 thing define me (and to really make sure that one thing was not another person). I thought she was mad craze but as an adult I see what she means. A career is not me, my job (different from a career) is not me, my home is not me, my car is not me, my riding is not me. I'm (we all are) too complicated for just one thing.

  3. Oh how this applies to me right now. Crazy because I never in a million years imagined it would. I think, in some ways, it would be easier if I had just lost interest and was moving on in my life. At least the answer and path forward would be clear. But for me, I'm finding myself having to give up my identity in the horse world because I simply cannot do it all. I'm a college kid trying to do everything and I simply cannot. I have to sit down and decide what I really want in life and at this point in my life, I'm having to make the hardest choice ever. It suck and it hurts and I'm a little bitter that it's come to this, but I guess all I can do is keep moving forward...

  4. An interesting post for sure. I'm a very driven individual and I always will be, but this past year has been me taking a step back and re-evaluating what I want out of life. I don't want to be a professional equestrian. I don['t want to compete at a high level. I value being a well-rounded individual. I want my house a little cleaner, myself a little fitter, my mind a little more diverse.

    That in no way diminishes what horses are in my life--they are absolutely an integral part of it. It's just that so is my nerdy literature side.

  5. Deep topic, but an important one to ponder every now and again! L's mother is very wise- balance is so important. I was a talented athlete through all of my school years (horses were back-burnered for this) and it had been my dream for a very long time to play collegiate soccer. Soccer was a huge part of my identity all through high school. I liked the thought that if you asked kids who didn't know me very well about me, they would at least say "she's that soccer player". Then I suffered multiple soccer-career ending injuries. What felt like very suddenly, my dreams and plans had to change. It was so difficult, I am still haunted by it years and years later. These are the consequences of basing so much of your identity in any ONE thing. What has helped is balance- learning new things, leaning on other hobbies/passions to fill in the void. I learned to row and competed nationally in college, I got back into horses, I found myself a job I adore.
    I agree with you, Alli, it is also great to have some things that define you that no one or no circumstance can take away from you. I am passionate about my values too, and while they won't keep me warm at night or entertained through the day ;-), I would be just fine if they were used to define me!

  6. Personally, I lose my identity when I'm not involved with horses directly. The few years I spent without them I was pretty depressed and felt very lost. For me, this is a life long passion and I am not "me" without them.

  7. Horses are a really, really big part of my life. I work to ride, so losing horses to me would be much more devastating than losing my job or having to change careers. That being said, I also have other things I love to do like design and writing. Plus family is a big part of my life, which will never change.

  8. I foresee a blog post in response to these questions.... But I have to let it steep for a bit! Great hump-day post.

  9. definitely a topic worth thinking about. horses are a huge part of my lifestyle, and i organize most other day-to-day elements around this hobby. working with horses is just so very personally rewarding for me, and hopefully this never changes.

    but i also agree - this hobby doesn't define me as a person. it's essentially a nice neat way to package in so many various elements of a balanced life: entertainment, relaxation, adventure, therapy, socializing... the list goes on :)

    but anyway, great introspective post!

  10. Horses are definitely a huge part of my life, and part of what make me "me." I never realized this until I went through a period of time after the death of my first horse where I didn't really ride as much. I was in a funk for so long I didn't realize that it was my lack of horse time and riding that had me down. Now that I am a horse owner again all it takes for me to wipe away a bad day or put a smile on my face is to see my horse. Nothing else in my life will ever be that powerful for me.

  11. An insightful & important topic! Great thoughts -- I've always been an introspective person, but my life changed in an unfathomable way over the last few years, it really has altered the way I view everything. It's become quite fascinating to note the difference in responses, not just in blog world, but anywhere these types of conversations are taking place, between age brackets. The split seems to occur somewhere around the early-mid 30's, perhaps due to life & responsibilities catching up with us and most definitely due to the inexorable change in perspective time gives to any self-aware person.

    While learned in the most unimaginable, horrible, & painful way that will never leave me, the most powerful lesson of my life resulted as a result of one moment in time (completely non-horse-related). That day, I learned that your entire future & everything that you built your life around & upon can vanish from beneath your feet in the next five seconds.

    So all we really have are the next five seconds. Then anything can happen, including things you could never guess. Never again can I think about life or time in the same way. As a result, the question changed for me -- "who am I?" became nearly irrelevant; far more important & meaningful is the question "what am I doing? am I giving all that I can to my five seconds, am I using that very fragile, very finite time to do something that matters, am I making it bigger than myself?"

    Horses are part of my life & part of my soul. Solo has saved me in more ways than one. But what defines me...is never, has never been, just one thing. And perhaps this is the biologist with a global perspective in me speaking, but it really doesn't matter. Rather, if I strive each day, each five seconds to improve what small things I can in the world, even if, on that day, it's as simple as survival to the next day to try again...then I suppose the quest is what best defines not so much WHO I am, but WHY I am.


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