Riding High

Once upon a time there was a little girl who had a big beautiful dream, she wanted to ride like the wind and to some extent live dangerously.  She loved horses and admired their amazing strength, beautiful coat, luxurious manes and long tails.  She wanted a horse so badly it became much of who she was.  She lived and breathed everything horses, read horse magazines, collected horse figurines and helped out at the local 4H club – even though she was not amongst one of the youths fortunate to have a horse of her own.

After much pleading, begging and persuading, she convinced her parents to let her take riding lessons, hoping and wishing that if she proved herself well enough with the lessons, her folks would give in and accommodate her wish.

You may have already guessed who the little girl in this story is… and the dream of having my own horse was so consuming that it was all I thought about at 11 years old.

The riding lessons were the most exciting experience ever and the smells of the stables is a distinct scent; a sweaty, salty, alfalfa, hay and manure infused smell that you either love it -or- you hate it.  I loved it.  My desire for riding lessons was one for the love of the sport of horse racing.  I suppose there were other styles of  riding sports like vaulting or equestrians, but the large arena of the track and the rush of the speed and a winners circle was most exciting for me.

Successful Women Jockeys

Successful Women Jockeys

For those of you that known me for many years would agree that I would have been the perfect candidate for being a jockey, I had the racing attitude, the perseverance, the need for adventure and a (slight) element of living dangerously.

But most importantly, professional Jockeys range in height from 4’10” to 5’6″ and in weight from 108 to 118 pounds. I would have been perfect at 5′ tall and averaging 105 lbs. I have been the same size since I have been in high school (yeah yeah, before you call me names and say you hate me) let me just say that I highly respected this sport especially pioneering women like Robyn Smith, the first woman jockey, who inspired me as a young girl and made me want to learn more and succeed.  I was learning more with my riding, technique and gaining confidence, the basics on saddling the horse, washing and grooming them, all becoming part of my environment. Wanting to be the next Robyn Smith, to have no fear, have a job where you can ride a horse, get dirty and carry a crop, the ultimate thrill!

Robyn Smith - First Woman Jockey

As time passed, and as a vulnerable 13 years old gullible kid at this point I was very impressionable and malleable determined to know what I wanted at 13 , so when a grungy stable guy asked me why I was learning to ride and why such an interest if I did not have a horse?  My answer was simple “I am going to be a jockey and I want to learn as much as I can and be the best jockey ever, and not all jockeys own their own horses”.  I can still hear his cynical nasally annoying laugh  like it was yesterday, he followed by saying “what? a jockey? You? Are you kidding, if you wanted to start learning to train and ride to be a jockey, you should have started riding at five years old”.  He walked away snickering and shaking his head.

I was crushed.

I went home and kept asking my parents if I was too old like the dumb stable guy said and unfortunately they simply did not know.  Those were the days when you had to really research answers, there was no Google or internet at that time and what became my quest for answers quickly became my disappointment and disenchantment. Sadly, I never got my own horse, but that would be another lesson learned in my life, you don’t always get what you so desperately want. My parents were very frugal and wanted me to know this and understand this. Sometimes in life you know that you can’t have everything you want, no matter how hard you work, it’s just life.

The moral of this story is simple. You have a dream, a vision and an attitude to fulfill something of your utmost desires, do not let anyone stifle you or stand in your way, persevere and gallop forward no matter what.  Reflecting  back on this encounter, this was probably one of the best experiences I had at an early age so I can have this as a life lesson moving forward.

After all, would you take advice from a stable boy…. seriously,  I often wonder whatever became of the guy shoveling all of the crap at the stable?

Sonya Paz Gallery

Sonya Paz Fine Art Gallery


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7 Responses to “Riding High”

  1. Lynn May 22, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Love the moral of the story- screw that pooper scooper!

  2. Kathy Angelo May 23, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    That was Awesome!

    I alsofellinlove with the Sport of Gymnastics as a child…

    I hope it’s okay if I share a snippet of it. ???

    When I was Eleven,I wanted to be an Olympic Gymnast. My heroes were Cathy Rigby then Olga Korbut. I squeeze Tumbling classes out of my Mom, but the real Gymnastic lessons were way too much money. At the age of 13 my brother jumped on me and my back got totally messed up. By then, I knew I would never makeit to the Olympics, but I the Love of the Sport never left me. So I can totally relate

    …I blame my Brother for ending my, “Love Affair” with Gymnastics. But maybe it just wasn’t meant to be… I guess I wouldn’t be who I am today, if I hadn’t been forced to let go.

    —And by the way Sonya, I think you would have made a GREAT Jockey!

    —BUT— I also think, that you make an even GREATER ARTIST!!!

  3. Kim Niles May 23, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Great post! It’s unfortunate that when people are put in our path to change the direction of our focus, they aren’t given a great script full of wisdom and encouragement.

    In the end, his brutal honesty may very well have helped you avoid years of distraction from the other dream job – One, I might add, you so obviously WERE destined for.

    Congratulations on all your success by the way. You continuously impress me & even though your profession doesn’t warrant betting, I AM one standing among the crowd of fans, cheering you on. :)

  4. Pat Zahn May 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    You know, I don’t think it matters if your dream comes true or if your dream changes. The hard work, focus and dedication you took on at such a young age have all contributed to who you are today. Adults often make off-hand, stupid comments to kids based on their own fears. However, I will say the same thing to you I said to my daughter a couple years ago. Apparently, I made some negative comment about her and guitar playing (long story about motor skills.) Months later, she said, “Well, mom crushed my dream of being a guitar player…” My response was that if it truly was her dream, I couldn’t have crushed it. (and by the way I did not deny her lessons and I own a guitar that she could/can pick up at any time.) Sometimes things happen for a reason and maybe you WOULD be a jockey AND an artist, but then again…

  5. Sheila Collins May 24, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    I learned something new about you. Thanks for sharing. I could definitely picture you as a jockey, and a sassy one at that! Life is about the journey and how we choose to react to events along the way. While you didn’t get to pursue your dream then, the experiences prepared you for pursuing another dream…Sonya Paz Fine Art. And what a success story that has been. A wonderful ripple effect is that you’ve inspired others to pursue their dreams and “make it happen.”

  6. Betty Kaufman May 24, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Sonya, thanks for your wonderful article. To this day, I think you have what it takes to be a jockey. I’m sad for you that it never happened but thrilled for us that we got you as an artist instead.

  7. HT May 24, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

    I remember you telling me this story at one of our Intranet reunions. It inspired me to take up horseback riding, something I’ve always wanted to do…great message for following your heart despite what others may say. Thanks for being an inspiration.