Most high schoolers travel to foreign countries to explore, relax, and enjoy themselves while seeing the country. Yet, the trip I began on June 8th was about soaking in as much information on German horseback riding as possible, and ending as more of a soul search than anything else. Sitting on the plane I read a note from a friend mentioning that what I was going to do – 5 weeks in a different country riding – was what I have always dreamed of doing, and what others dream of doing. Eleven hours later, I was walking into Düsseldorf and meeting who would be my boss and trainer for the next few weeks.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Regardless of the jet lag, when I got to the farm I immediately threw on a pair of riding breeches and watched my trainer teach a lesson, before getting on a horse for the first time in Germany. Day in and day out, I rode a horse or two, cleaned a number of stalls, groomed horses, and learned the ropes of a German horse farm. During the first two weeks I was incredibly homesick. All work, no play, it really made me sit and analyze myself, who I thought I was, and who I actually was. I believed I was a strong and determined person who knew they could get through 5 weeks easy peasy. But along the way I realized that yes, I am a strong and determined person, but I need the support of a loved one, where I could call on a whim and ask for help (which I could not without incurring large roaming fees). I learned what I wanted out of riding horses, what I wanted to know more of, and to keep moving forward regardless of what happened.
After having these self-realizations, I woke up the next morning in a new mindset and began the rest of my time in Germany. I worked hard, but also made sure I enjoyed that time. I had never loved cleaning stalls as much as I did not, with my iPod playing some of the most popular German songs of the summer. I went to horse shows in the pouring rain with my boss, and instead of allowing the wet and cold to seep into my bones, I figured it was better than the 100+ degree weather friends and family were experiencing. When I worked with a horse that was not taught proper manners, I did my best to complete its education rather than become frustrated by the person who did not do their job at teaching he horse to behave.
Though the trip was filled with a lot of hard work, there was one highlight. A few days before I left, I went to Aachen for the CHIO competition – the world festival of horse sport, the biggest show in the world. I stayed with one of the barn worker's family, who lived fifteen minutes from the show, from Wednesday to Friday. I got to watch the best horses in the world do what I dream of at night. These two and a half days sparked the flame in me once again to compete at the highest level, and to obtain a job with one of America's best trainers during the school year in order to reach my goals of being the very best.
This trip was anything but relaxing, but this summer experience allowed me to figure out myself, although it was thousands of miles away from home in an unknown place, and with a huge language barrier.
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