by Laura Schonberg
Despite working as a full-time commercial pilot whose horses live a county away, Erin fancies herself an eventer and aspires to have her soul compliment her gelding, Guinness. More alike than they are different, their struggles have lead Erin to a place where she first seeks to support her horse before working on goals.
Why I horse: I have no choice. I don’t say that lightly because I actually believe in complete choice, but horsing for me feels genetic. My life is miserable without horses in it. I know that because I’ve had those times in my life. I am not my best self without horses. My mom loved horses but was never allowed to ride (even though she grew up on a farm). When I was five she put me on the back of a horse and liked my reaction, so she bought me a pony. The rest is history. I’ve been competing since I was seven years old, starting with my friends. We’d have competitions about who could get on/off faster; stand on their pony’s back galloping through the woods the fastest without falling off; get their pony to walk the furthest into the earthquake-rifted caverns in the roadbeds of California; who could swim the farthest in Punch Bowl Lake; or jump the highest bareback. I was the youngest in my gang of “barn rats” so I always felt had the most to prove.
When I think about horses: I am incredibly thankful my mom introduced me to the world of horses. I don’t know who I’d be without them. One of the things I’m most thankful for is that they’re unlike anything else in my life. Most of the time I can get by in life being distracted, but horses demand that I show up and fully participate. To make the most of my horse time, I have to be totally present. There’s something special about my relationship with my gelding and I feel like I owe him all of myself. It’s taken us a long time to bond and the closer our bond becomes, the more I want to do that for him.
Finding the time: This is the first horse I’ve owned as an adult and I did not think it would be as difficult to find the time to ride. It’s why I’ve had this potentially competitive horse for four years and never gotten to a show. When I bought him, I was commuting to Atlanta for work. I upgraded to captain and was away at training for an entire summer and home only a matter of days every month. My career doesn’t leave me with any energy to ride, but I’ve found that if I force myself to get out there, I always feel better.
What I like best: The people I have met that share my passion. There’s something different about good horse people, a self confidence I notice in my horse buddies that is so refreshing. There isn’t anything in life that could derail them— horse girls are tough. Sometimes my soul gets left behind on a trip and reconnecting with the girls at the barn brings me back home.
Advice for others: I appreciate that my horse Guinness forgives – things happen, he’s over it and instantly we start fresh. Have as much patience with yourself as you do your horse. Find somebody who has more experience with horses that you respect and pick their brains on a regular basis. This helps break bad habits, learn patience and sets a positive foundation.
Advice for self: Learn more. Given how many years I’ve had horses, sometimes I’m shocked by the things I don’t know. For example, equine nutrition. Now that I’m partnered with a woman who obsesses over it and loves the details (like tracking protein levels in hay and supplementing appropriately), my horses are healthier. Take time to notice little things affecting my horse so the big things go better. It would be easy to make excuses and not spend time with my horse on cold and rainy days or when I’m majorly jet-lagged.
Thankful to call the Pacific Northwest home, Laura Schonberg is an educator in a local school district and is outside at her place when she isn’t inside at work. Summers are spent cow-girling at a friend’s ranch, with forrays into the Cascade Mountains as time and weather permit year-round. Winter finds her at a local barn doing dressage lessons to support her ranch riding, and re-starting horses through the county’s equine rescue program.