HHS Senior Voices: WHAT I’ve Learned

She’s always filthy the day before a show. Cleaning a horse is tiring, especially when dealing with a temperamental mare. Once I finish with the curry brush and ignore all her angry head bobbing, I move to her mane and tail. I pick each hoof and run the soft brush over her body to take any excess dust off of her coat. I add a conditioner to her hooves and then she is all ready to go, or at least ready for her bath.

“She held a grudge,” my trainer said in response to why my horse, Tipsy, had bucked me off…again. I am used to getting up and back on, and all I wanted was another chance to work through Tipsy’s hostility. Everyone commended my bravery for getting back on, but my focus remained on having a calm horse. When she wouldn’t settle, I was told not to get back on to avoid serious injury. That day did not go how I wanted.

At another show, Tipsy was spooked when a horse near her jumped, knocking a rail off a nearby structure. I did not blame her for bucking me off and running away, but if I landed hard in my saddle, a sharp pain went up my back. However, I made the choice to try again. I was worried about falling off again and potentially hurting myself further, but I focused on my new goals: 1) a good ride after falling off and 2) ensuring Tipsy knew that throwing me off was not the way out of work. I did all three of my jump courses and was incredibly proud of my horse. Working through this mishap and doing a fantastic job made the pain worth it. Tipsy and I were able to come together and have an outstanding ride that felt great. The judge even came up to me and congratulated me for still riding even though she threw me off.

Due to riding, I have learned how to become resilient when faced with challenges, whether they are in the ring or not. The equivalent of getting bucked off in real life for me was my AP Chemistry class. It was so difficult to keep up and I had to put in extra work; however, horseback riding has taught me not to give up without trying my hardest. So, I made sure I looked up chemistry problems online and looked through my notes multiple times to make sure that I understood what I was learning.

Professionally, I hope to work with animals, whether that be in veterinary medicine, training, field research, or zoo work. To reach my goal, I need to be resilient. The work that I will have to complete will be very challenging, but even if I feel like I get “bucked off,” I will not give up. I may have to face the same fear I endured when I got back on my horse after getting tossed.

The field that I want to enter is incredibly competitive; it requires a demanding major and asks me to face both physical and emotional pain. An animal can get a little wild and try to bite and or scratch you, and emotions can show themselves when doing a difficult procedure. However, my experience with Tipsy has made my passion for animals grow even stronger. I have had to care for some of her injuries and ensure her needs are fulfilled: food, water, time outside, and a clean stall.

The most rewarding feeling for me, however, is knowing that I enable Tipsy to feel safe and healthy. Animals can be incredibly unpredictable and require resilient caretakers. My ability to handle an always-changing environment with a resilient demeanor will not only help me in a challenging profession, but it will help me to deal with anything that life decides to throw at me – including Tipsy.

Sierra Ostman is the first of our featured “senior voices”–reminiscing about the past and looking to the future. If you are an HHS senior and would like to share your thoughts, please email Mrs. Sandra DeRose at sderose@hopatcongschools.org.

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