The Tomorrow Rider


Nia Ramsey 

Rants Editor 

Hooves thunder across the dirt, pounding to the sound of drumming war angels as one person, one girl holds tight to the one thing that will either make or break her.

This is the story of Justine Donovan, a sophomore girl who puts her very life on the line, who goes above and beyond the realm of extremes, a girl who rides the mightiest steed of them all, the horse.

“Horseback riding is more than just a profession, it is a lifestyle and relationship that’s formed through a bond with you and your horse, a bond as deep as a best friend that you would tell all your deepest, darkest secrets to,” Donovan said.

Donovan’s love for horses was practically born with her. For as long as she can remember, the excitement and beauty of the horse has been a stampeding love and admiration to her, and she knew she would strive to be the best horseback rider in the world.

“I remember as a little girl, I loved animals. I love them still. And one day, I saw a girl riding a big, majestic creature and suddenly I wanted to do it too. I knew in that instant that I would be a horseback rider no matter what,” Donovan said.

To some people, horse riding is nothing but sitting on an animal and letting it do all the work. However, Donovan shows us that this is not the case. Horseback riding is something that one needs to have utter confidence and more importantly, complete faith put into a single animal over your own life.

“You have to keep calm even when something really bad happens, because horses can sense your emotions and if you lose composure, you can lose your life,” Donovan said.

Riding a horse may seem like a foreign concept to many. But actually, Donovan said that being made fun of for what she does has never happened, not by her friends, family or even complete strangers.  There has been however, harassment from fellow horseback riders.

“At competitions, I would get made fun of because I was different, because I didn’t like what they liked and because I’m more of a nerd, which to them is unacceptable,” Donovan said.

Yet, Donovan does not let this get her down, in fact she pays little attention to them.  For her main focus is the competition itself, the rush of wind whipping her hair as she and her steed surge and dazzle the crowds.

“I don’t race, I jump. Jumping is based on how you look, how many mistakes you make, and how much you and your horse can present jumping. They see who is put together and who is all out of sorts and how good of a bond you have with one another,” Donovan said.

Jumping allows Donovan to go many places. With her horse, Pete, life is a truly a journey. On the road, into different cities, seeing the swirl of the world’s many different colors, for her, horseback is the best experience to ever have.

“I go all over the place. It could be in Keller, in a different city, more than forty five minutes away, or out of state,” Donovan said.

Despite all the enjoyment she gains from horseback riding, one will always have to work in order to have fun, and this is no different for Donovan.

“You have to groom the entire coat and pick hooves, meaning you take out all the dirt wedged up in the hoof, and it takes about forty five minutes if you want to make sure your horse can go at full potential,” Donovan said.

However, the work doesn’t stop there.

“As you’re brushing your horse, you look for any leaves or small branches because if it gets caught under the saddle, it can rub against the skin and get in the way. Before competitions, I walk him like an athlete and stretch him. He’ll touch his nose to my feet several times, then I trot him and start a canter,” Donovan said.

Lumped with the various other sports that are disregarded as such, Donovan feels distraught over how people mistreat the sport of horseback riding and its constant belittling.

“It is a sport. Its a sport for me and its a sport for my horse.” Donovan said. “People don’t realize the workout you get by horseback riding because they’ve never done it. Leg muscle and core muscle is a key role in your daily training. So it aggravates me when people who know next to nothing about horseback riding start to claim otherwise.”

In fact, horseback is not only a sport, but its a dangerous sport. Recently, Donovan had a bad fall on her horse and it was by sheer luck that she lived mostly unscathed.

“What happened, well, I don’t really know. All I remember is that I fell off my horse and he fell onto me. It happened so fast, it was unbelievable. I was stoic, I didn’t know what to think or how to even respond,” Donovan said.

The fall affected her in ways she never would have expected. After the incident, her faith in her thoughts about her career wavered like stone rippling a pond.

“I became tired. I would just lay in bed and not want to ride. I was afraid. But, then I recalled how much I loved Pete and riding with him,” Donovan said.

It was a spark, like great lightning, that ignited the shadows. Just like that, she had remembered the most crucial thing in it all. Donovan rose out of the cold bed with the wings of a phoenix and stepped outside, glowing, burning, discovering the truth among her ashes.

“I knew I couldn’t let that fall get to me, I had to learn from it, because tomorrow would be a better day,” Donovan said.