During the past year, life has taken me on a wild ride and left me in the dust more than once.
By Annise Montplaisir, spring 2015 AQHA intern
To say that life is like riding a racehorse sounds absolutely ridiculous. But in all honesty, it’s completely true – and I should know. One moment, you’re galloping along feeling like you have things figured out, and the next you’re sitting on your butt in the dust scratching your head as you watch the horse cruise down the track without you. At that point, you probably mutter to yourself, “Where did that come from?”
I’m the type of person who always has a plan for my life – what I want to be, where I want to go to school, the jobs I want to work. But life doesn’t always go as planned.
Exactly one year ago I was a freshman in college at North Dakota State University. I had a handle on classes, rode on the NDSU hunt seat equestrian team and participated in the Horsemen’s Association club. But something wasn’t right – I didn’t have a plan for the upcoming summer. Let me remind you that this was in February.
Well, as destiny would have it (with a bit of planning on my part), I found myself working my summer dream job at the North Dakota Horse Park, a racetrack near my home. Horse racing has been a passion of mine since I was 12 years old. At some point during my 8-year affinity for the sport, I got the (brilliant) idea in my head that I wanted to gallop racehorses someday.
That someday ended up being this summer. In addition to my other job at the track, I climbed on the backs of 1,000-pound athletes and exercised them in the mornings. I called it fun, but I think my mother would use different words to describe it… something along the lines of crazy.
When racing wrapped up for the year at the North Dakota Horse Park, I headed to Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota, to work as a journalism intern until school started. I continued my job as a “gallop girl” in the mornings, hopping on race horses for a trainer I knew from the horse park.
I distinctly remember the first racehorse that truly ran away with me. We were riding around the training track at Canterbury, and I thought I had a good handle on him… until I felt something. Maybe it was the slight tensing of his muscles or the way he clenched the bit, but I felt myself losing control. Within a matter of about 10 seconds he changed gears from a trot to a gallop. We whipped around the track – not once, but twice – as I held on for dear life and prayed I wouldn’t fall off. The wind stung my eyes until they were watering and blurred, and my legs started to shake from fatigue. Thankfully, I never hit the ground, and the horse eventually tired and slowed so I could regain my composure. I pretended as though I had total control of the situation, but the horse was quite pleased with himself.
A walk, trot and canter down the road, and I was back in school doing the same activities as the previous year. And the next semester I would probably be doing the exact same thing – or so I thought.
In October, I was presented with an enormous decision that knocked me on my butt. This decision would involve taking a semester off from classes, moving halfway across the country and leaving everything I’ve ever known. This decision involved (gasp!) deviating from the plan!
An agonizing week later I picked myself up, dusted myself off and changed my plan. I would be moving to Amarillo to work as the 2015 spring online communications and publications intern for the American Quarter Horse Association. I felt thrilled, terrified, stressed out and a million other emotions associated with making big life decisions.
It wasn’t easy. Within a matter of two months, I had to re-arrange my plan for college classes, survive finals, spend time with friends and family and perform the dreaded task of packing. There were moments when I questioned my decision, and a few family members thought I had lost my marbles. I am only 19 years old for that matter – still a baby in the words of one trainer from the racetrack.
But in my heart, I knew this was the right thing that came along at the right time. So on New Years Day, I embarked on a new journey, headed to a state I had never seen before.
A few weeks into my internship, I had the opportunity to help out at the 2014 AQHA Racing Champions Awards and winter sale at Heritage Place in Oklahoma City. This meant spending a weekend rubbing elbows with famed owners and trainers in the Quarter Horse racing industry, admiring many-a-fine horse flesh, and drinking in every drop of knowledge that I possibly could. Each day presented new challenges and incredible experiences that solidified my desire to have a future career in horse racing. I never would have been exposed to any of it had I not taken a leap of faith and changed my plans for the semester.
At one point, I found myself talking to a seasoned racehorse owner who was curious about my past in racing. I mentioned my experience galloping racehorses, and he asked if I’ve hit the dust yet. My mind flickered back to a particularly close call with a certain racehorse.
“Nope!” I responded. I’ve been pretty lucky so far.”
“Oh, you will!” he informed me in a jovial tone. “You just wait, and it will happen.”
But in reality, there’s no use trying to have total control over your life. It’s absolutely inevitable that at some point it will take off and leave you sitting in the dirt. The important part is to jump back up, dust off your dirty jeans and start chasing after that horse, because life is too short to let it run away without you.