Every year my parents would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, and like any small child, I would say that I wanted a pony. Unfortunately that wish wasn’t financially smart or practical, so I grew up only being able to be around horses when I went to horseback riding birthday parties. I always dreamed of being able to ride horses consistently and after moving to Kansas, I’ve finally been able to make that dream a reality.
I heard about Hunter Hill Farm during a Tough Enough To Wear Pink Campaign from Ms. Flannigan, Ashley Duda’s mother in law. Ms. Flannigan told me that Ashley owned a farm where she took care of horses and gave riding lessons. I thought that if I could persuade Ashley to let me volunteer, it would be a great way to gain some greatly needed horse experience. I got in contact with Ashley and even though I had absolutely no horse experience whatsoever, she allowed me to come out to the farm and learn how to work with and take care of horses. Since I started volunteering in August, I’ve been able to learn more about horses and myself than I ever thought I could.
When Ashley said I could come out and learn from her, I was ecstatic. My favorite part of my week was driving down Tuttle Creek, turning down that dirt road, and seeing the sight of the farm as I came over the hill. Ashley has taught me how to clean pens, groom horses, the different diets of horses and different medical issues that they may have, horse behavior, and how to be safe around them.
After volunteering for a few months, I asked Ashley if I could work to pay for lessons and she said yes! Riding is something that I have grown to love and is the one time during my busy week that I can just be relax and be truly happy (even if I did fall off my horse during my first lesson). I’ve learned to be disciplined and how to work outside my lessons to strengthen my muscles to help me become a better rider. I have a long way to go, but I know if I keep working and taking lessons with Ashley, I may be able to accomplish my goal and compete in horse shows in the future.
While learning about horses and riding is amazing, what Ashley has really taught me is how I can work harder than I ever thought possible. Working on a farm and taking care of over 20 horses is hard work. There’s always back-breaking work to be done, and it has to be addressed so that all the horses are fed, watered, blanketed, and taken care of. Rain, snow, and freezing cold, it doesn’t matter. Whatever the weather may be, the horses still need to be looked after, and that means being cold and wet and just dealing with it. Most people wouldn’t want to have a job like that, but it has made me a better and stronger individual. I’ve gained so much respect for the men and women who take care of livestock and work on farms since getting a small insight on what their days are like. I feel like this experience has given me a greater understanding of the industry that I love and advocate for every day and has given me a passion for discovering more about the equine industry.