My name is Lydia Grace and I live in East-Jesus-Nowhere, Connecticut. I am a eighteen-year-old agnostic liberal and my favorite word is 'alacrity'. I own a firecracker of a pony nicknamed Mercy, ride two other beasts from the northeast, and aspire to train and show a zebra. I live with both parents and a rescue dog. "Here comes a fighter."
I am an equestrian, feminist, cripple, bibliophile, artisan, Inspirata, part-time peddler, and incorrigible dreamer. I believe in triumph over adversary and I like Italian food. I am going to be a jockey. This is my blog.
Inspiratae illa verba legent....
I’m going to tell you a story. It’s not that pretty. Also, this is going to be news for my followers
I started riding when I was very, very young. Just before the start of eighth grade, I was told to go meet with a show trainer. I was told that if I wanted to compete in New England, this was the lady to befriend and train under.
It was a disaster from the start. My second lesson with her, I had my irons tied to the girth with baling twine. A week later, I had my feet tied to the irons. This was supposed to teach me to keep my leg stable. Various other things were done as well. This woman tried so hard to create the perfect rider. Instead, she did this.
Today, my right kneecap is inverted, meaning that it turns inward towards my other leg and causes chronic pain. I’ve been in and out of orthopedics and physical therapy. I will never get to do track and field—and I will probably never look down the freshly-groomed earth of the backstretch.
I rode with this woman for nearly a year like this, in and out of the doctors. I had ultrasounds and x-rays and whatever else they could think of, but I was still in pain all the time. The hunter arena would not allow me to wear anything on my knees in the arena. I only won first place twice that year. One was in a class I was supposed to be a filler in.
The woman gave up on me quickly when she realized that I had no money for the national level and that I was permanently, like, crippled. Ranking juniors are not cripples. Unfortunately, she did not outright lose interest in me. It might have been easier if she had. She just became the kind of vindictive, bitter trainer that I once thought only existed in horse movies where the underdog emerges victorious and forces the opposing force to reconsider their impressions of the industry. Unfortunately, the underdog here was too tired to do anything but start running.
I was basically traumatized by this experience and ending up moving—running, really—to an eventing barn in my freshman year of high school. There, I regained a lot of my riding ability, thanks to my feet not being tied to things all of the God-forsaken time. I learned dressage and cross country and even got to compete.
Along the way, I fell in love with a palomino named Napoleon. This pony was the kind of pony that saved lives. I was probably far too tall for him—he wasn’t even twelve hands. However, he taught me so much. I can’t go into it all here, but this was the kind of pony that taught me that you absolutely can have revenge—and the best revenge, really, is to smile. It is to smile and to be so damn successful that the people that hurt you have not a fucking chance in the face of your unadulterated joy.
He was perfect.
I stopped eventing a bit more than a year later and took a year away from horses due to the fact that I’d begun to once more receive hate mail regarding the way in which I rode—not very good, when you think about my physical and mental condition. This was not a first for me, this hateful response—it had happened before and it had been at the barn that tried very hard to make me hate my riding, my body, my mind—myself. I just had to drop horses.
This is where a girl named Liz comes in and Liz basically saved me. She heard that I had stopped riding and in the final weeks before the seniors of my high school walked across the football field to graduate, I met Mercy.
Mercy was an enigma. She had been rescued from an auction, extremely ill, at seven months old. She was broke Western at two years old. As a four-year-old, she decided that she didn’t want to be a Western pony at all and was put out to pasture.
I got on her, more as a lark than anything else, and wow—we clicked. I think it was because we were both so angry. I didn’t want to be there. I hated the horse world. Liz had more or less been forced to drag me to Mercy’s stable. Mercy didn’t want me to be there. She didn’t want to be ridden and she certainly did not understand this strange concept of English riding—something that she previously had little to no experience with at all.
For some reason, though—I wanted her. I wanted every bit of this angry, sassy-ass pony who had too much buck and too little a forward engine. The month’s flow of events ended in one thing: I was to help train Mercy English, Liz’s horse would train alongside me, and we were going to have the time of our lives.
Slowly, I was happy again.
For two weeks—two absolutely wonderful weeks—Liz and I rode and cantered up hills and threw manure at each other in the fields with pitchforks. It was going to be a wonderful summer. My knee was in the best shape it had been in for a long time—I was going entire weeks without pain pills. Mercy and I were beginning to get this whole riding thing figured out. As she was ridden, she became toned and muscled. Her neck had a proud arch to it; he pride gave me new pride. I was finally sure that in her, I had found where I belonged.
Two weeks later, Napoleon died suddenly.
Two months later, Liz moved away.
Mercy and I are alone now. I spend multiple hours driving every week to see her; she lives far away. I ride her, I train her, and I compete her. We rode at the 2011 Equine Affaire in Massachusetts.
—but I’m getting very tired.
We don’t really have anyone. We don’t really have any money, either. No one has ever said that they believe in us. No one even really wants us. I thought that with her, life would stop doing what it had always done—bending, straightening out, and then performing another hairpin turn to knock me off my feet again. Thinking about the last few years in this game is very unsettling. It’s been physical therapy sessions that made me want to die. It’s been seeing my angry self reflected back at me in Mercy. It’s been seeing Napoleon’s dark eyes and touching his face and expecting him to twitch when the summer flies land his pretty golden face and then…he doesn’t, because he’s dead. He’s dead, he’s dead, and he’s dead.
Mercy: I will never give up on her, but I am certainly tired and I am ready to give up on me. There is nothing wrong with me feeling that I am finally done with this game. I’m sore and Mercy is just a pony with no one behind her but me. We are not the Crowns or the Springsteens or the Boggios or the Kesslers. We don’t have that kind of talent or that kind of money. What we do have, however, is the ghost of a palomino pony beside us. What we do have is what Napoleon taught me. Eventually, in some far-off time, I will find it in me to forgive everyone. I will forgive the trainers who broke me and the ponies who left me and the people who refused to look at me when I felt so alone. I will forgive myself for the way I went to Mercy and I will forgive Mercy for the way she treated me, too—because in her, I found pride, and in her, I will continue to live, and she and every person and every pony and every dream that is or has died will live in us as well.