By Alex Marlow
APHA has partnered with the National Collegiate Equestrian Association to help support the advancement of Women’s Equestrian on the path to National Collegiate Athletic Association championship sport status. NCAA equestrienne Alex Marlow shares her insight about competing as a varsity equestrian.
Everyone has a dream, everyone has a passion and everyone has a story. From the start, most equestrians’ dreams are the same: to see themselves in the eyes of a horse. As life continues, passions and stories begin to vary. My dream and my passion are the same, but my story is different than I imagined. I have struggled more times than I can count with my 1,000+ pound best friend, but he has taught me more life lessons than anyone else.
As an NCAA equestrian, I am continually reminded that the main skill one needs to succeed on such a competitive circuit is not necessarily a technical one—it is passion. It cannot be taught and is only found in the heart of a true equestrian. Riding is a love like no other. Before you try to get recruited by an NCAA team, you must know why you ride and who you ride for. You owe it to yourself and to your team to be true to the person forged by riding horses. Horses recognize and appreciate that passion. This will enable you to embrace the nerves and use your competitiveness to your advantage. But most of all, it will enable you to establish a connection with any horse on which you compete.
My dream horse walked into my life, and we achieved more than I ever thought we would, sooner than most do and at a level most never experience. After a lengthy showing career, I quit showing as a freshman in high school. I needed a break and just wanted to enjoy riding again. I accepted the fact that quitting meant that being on an equestrian team in college was probably no longer an option. But I needed to rediscover my passion, the thrill that hooked me, the reason I began to ride in the first place. It took two years, but I found it, and it came back all at once. Suddenly, I was more motivated than ever. I wanted everything back: the showing, the nerves, the competitive environment. As a junior in high school, I started showing again, this time fueled by passion for my craft.
The passion that I thought I had lost was never really gone; it was just hidden. Complexities, triumphs, shows after shows—one can only handle so much until it begins to dilute one’s euphoria of the sport. We should not ride merely to win; we should ride for the animal with whom we match stride for stride. I ride for my team, my horses, my family, my friends and for the children who were never privileged enough to be able to ride such incredible animals. Most importantly though, I ride out of pure love and respect for horses, and I always will.
Alex Marlow is a Junior at Texas A&M University and competes on the NCAA Equestrian team. She competes in the western discipline, in horsemanship.
[Reprinting all of part of this story is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provide back to apha.com.]
The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA promotes, preserves and provides meaningful experiences with Paint Horses.