Dear Younger Self
“True belonging doesn't require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW
Dear Younger Self is a project exploring belonging as an experience, a moment, a community where we don't have to change who we are, belonging to equestrianism is
being who we are.
Creating a safe, brave space for equestrians to show up and be seen is about cultivating spaces so vulnerability, courage, shame resilience and empathy skills can be learnt, dismantling age old systems; bullying, bashing, racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, sizeism and homophobia.
At the heart of being change ready is psychological safety.
When we feel safe, seen and valued, diversity & equity can path the way for a new horse advocacy - promoting horse justice.
Dear Younger Self is a unique gift for our future gatekeepers of horse welfare, with the hope to stretch and grow diverse equestrian communities.
This is your safe space to be seen, heard and valued.
Send in a letter to your younger self, sharing hindsight on a specific event or a liberating philosophy.
Collectively our letters will support equestrians negotiating belonging, complexity, toxicity or trauma, trying to fit into equestrian norms; practices, processes, power relations, and relationships.
Each Dear Younger Self letter has the potential to shape a renovation on today's equestrian culture;
small acts of service supporting the mental health of our young equestrians today and in the future.
Email your letters to
Dear Thirteen Year old Me
by Kyle Hayes, NI
Hello You, this is me, your 30 year old self.
Firstly, and most importantly I want you to know that things will get slightly harder but rest assured they will get a hell of a lot better too. Take every opportunity you can to get near horses, ponies anything equine at all, I know you are doing this now in small ways but I want you to realise that you will get to where you want to be - the horse of your dreams, the yard, the tack - we all know its about the tack! Haha!
Do not take notice of what others say when they call you the “horse boy”. Trust me - work hard - get through school and out the other side - pass yourself day by day - pass the exams and keep your head down - you have the goals to get to college and study Equine Management and you will do it - oh and another surprise you’ll be a lecturer and instructor there for a while - Yep I know you’ll be shocked - you working in that capacity - yep for sure - you’ve worked for it! You are different from everyone around you - but they are just not able to cope with the light you shine right now - the name calling, the embarrassing neighing noises will be worth it - they are not as important to you as you think - actually in fact I can guarantee you won’t even remember half the things they said by the time you are me - hey even more so We can’t even remember their names at this grand old age!
You’re thirty now - you’ve got your own yard with the stables full, a big arena, posh Freelander jeep, a Grand Prix showjumper - you name it you have it because you have worked night and day or it - yes literally night and day - foal watch is coming for you with all nighters watching mares for weeks and weeks of the year - but you’re the special one that is there the first moments of these amazing foals lives. Remember that night as a child with daddy bringing you to see Victor’s mare who had just foaled? The smell of the straw, the orange lights the middle of the night? This will become a yearly reoccurrence for you and you’ll thrive off it!
On a sadder note, Dad and Ian are away at this stage of your life, only quite recently but these losses will show you just how strong you actually are. Mum, your bother and your sisters will really see how well you can hold it together and be strong for everyone else at these times. Dad left this world having given you what I think will have been the best gift you will ever possibly have had in your life - I will consult with 50 yer old us to make sure nothing has topped this gift - Im not gonna tell you what that gift is right now - I’ll get your imagination run wild with this one - trust me its worth the wait!
On my leaving note to you - because I have to go and teach stable management and riding/road safety training to pony club members on the computer now - yep thats right teach them virtually through a video chat room on the internet - I am deffo not going to tell you why I am doing that other than this….. Horses are and will continue to grow in your life as you get older - being the horse boy is going to give you the best life you will ever have.
Remember to keep learning more, get to know everyone and be true to yourself - heels down - thumbs up! Kyle.
Dear Young Katy
by Katy Broughton, UK
What’s happening to you is not your fault and it is not acceptable. Their behaviour says a lot more about them than it does you, stay true to your integrity.
Unfortunately, this is part of life’s rich tapestry where the past weaves each thread to create the best person you can be. Treat every experience as a learning opportunity you are going to grow into a wonderful human being.
Do not dwell on the negative, there is so much to look forward to and brilliant people to enrich your life.
Love Old Katy x
Dear Young Bekki
by Bekki Schofield, UK
Dear Young Gill
by Gill Keegan, India
Dear Young Naomi
by Naomi Ainley, UK
Well, firstly, you make it to at least 50 years old and despite your protestations that you will never have kids – you will produce two kick arse young women who have way more confidence to speak up for themselves that you did at the same age. Pretty cool huh? You will also probably be relieved to hear, that you have not grown out of ‘the horse stage’ and your parents, despite many exasperated comments over the years, have been supportive throughout. You are very lucky.
I know you feel at little bit ‘out on a limb’ within the equine world. Thankfully, I now know that it is perfectly OK to just enjoy ‘being around’ horses – you know the failure you feel because you have no competitive desires? Well, it turns out, that is perfectly normal, and lots of others feel exactly the same. You will eventually find a group of similar souls and realise you are not really that weird (and even if you are, weird is an asset in itself). Likewise, for feeling scared riding some horses – turns out it’s normal too – and even better, you don’t actually have to do things that really terrify you if you don’t want to. Like twitching horses, for example. I know you hate having to do that, and it scares you when they freak out, but then you are made to feel like a wimp because you don’t want to put yourself in the position where a 500kg+ horse is in full explosion mode and you are in firing line. Guess what – you’ll be relieved to hear that you don’t have to put horses through that, and you were right to not want to be involved in that practice. Go you! Shame it has taken 30+ years to be a ‘thing’.
On the flip side of this, avoiding risk taking becomes a bit of an issue – just remember to measure your performance against your goals, not the performance of others. I would tell me not to give a toss about what others think – but would give a toss what others think which eventually leads to not taking any steps towards doing things that you love but subconsciously feel are being judged by others. It’s pointless and stops you doing things that bring you joy. So NO comparisons – do you think Tiffany Stubben-McTwaddle is really judging your shoulder-in when looking in your direction? Probably more likely to stressing over the drop in ‘likes’ to her latest InstaFaceTw*t post. Seriously, stop it. Now.
You know you think you have this magic way with sharp horses? Sorry to p**s on your bonfire here but you are just fairly effective at applying negative reinforcement. Look it up – follow the developments in this area, it will change your life.
Empathy is good, listen more, keep taking every chance to be around horses – the experiences you have will be invaluable – and you have made a decent career out of it. Never worry about making a ‘wrong’ decision – you will learn regardless.
There are three things that the future you would like to ask of you:
1. Understand that you are responsible for your actions, but you are NOT responsible for how others react to what you do and say – that it their job. Your responsibility ends with what you can control. It will save you a lot of heartache.
2. Be really disciplined about the ratio of work vs rest. I know my employers value me at this time, but if I died tomorrow it would be really sh*t because work is my life and you deserve better.
3. Sort your posture out – I look like a wizened old crone.
Oh, and steer clear of the Red Witch at Hickstead…..
Dear Younger Self
by Shirley Ferber
I know you are struggling,
Let these challenges guide your path.
Bending to hide, you might not be believing,
But you will not break, you’ll snap right back.
I wish I could be there to give you a warm embrace,
And tell you how well you are doing.
Wish you didn’t have this inner fighting chase,
Between your truth and their call for braving.
I know you are drenched with doubt,
Listen to the generous horses around.
Shutting down to bellows, you will cry out,
But trust the storm will fade, stand your ground.
I wish I could promise you no losses,
But control is not for all ways.
Hope you could help all horses,
Though with courage the seeds spread.
Know you are the best you can,
Learn so you can do better.
Being true will keep you from shame,
And your horses will thank you forever.
You might be older now, for a start,
But not much the wiser.
Only learned to listen to your heart,
And not the outside banter.
Many paths are kept on your shelves,
While away from the toxic you canter.
Dear older self,
Do not forget to be younger.
Dear Younger Self
by Jan Beckstrand
There are many goals in life, but the main goal and the most important when you are young is to get to know yourself. This is a fun, amazing and thrilling thing to do, but the normal things young people do - like watching TV, or interacting with friends or reacting to the experiences you have with others, or doing things for thrills or pure enjoyment, or knowing you are liked or admired or even criticized by others don’t really help you learn about yourself. Instead, you learn about yourself when you take deliberate self-initiated action to do things with your hands, body and mind. Luckily, these actions can be anything – and try out as many things as possible. When you are doing each of them, look at who you are. Watch yourself thinking and how you are solving problems and what you like about doing it and what you don’t like. Notice what you can achieve that you didn’t know you could. You will see and learn who you are and how great you are in the way you do each thing. And you will become more and more talented with each thing you do.
Here are some ideas: Can you teach your cat or dog to do some things, even simple tricks. Can you make potholders for the kitchen out of old worn out clothes? Can you choose a color and paint a bench? Can you make a fountain for the birds out of junk around the house? Can you do a jigsaw puzzle? Can you make music using spoons or other things around the house? Can you make a skirt or dolls clothes or a coat for the dog, sewing it by hand, then can you learn to make one with a sewing machine if you have one? Can you make your own pattern? Can you make a bird house or feeder out of old wood or other things you have around the house? Can you learn what books and other things there are at the library? Can you then find some information there or on the web and read about how to do some of the things that interest you? Can you also look at a lot more of the different kinds of books or videos available at the library and find out what interests you in them? Then take action to read, at least little, in some of the books on a lot of the different things you see there to find out, among all the possibilities, what you actually like best to read, learn and do. Can you grow food? Can you name the birds you see? Can you make something work better around the house?
Do everything you can to take action to do work that can allow you to learn what you can do and who you are. At the same time, take action to learn about the other people around you. What do they like, what can they do, and what has their life been like?
Dear 13 Year Old Amy
by Amy Frost
Well what can I say, you get old! Yes it happens, talking as 36 year old you, please don’t worry so much because you do get through those fears you were so scared of! You reach for your dreams no matter how impossible they seem at the time, and I’m so super proud of your courage, determination and the kindness and compassion you show to others. You’ve always been kind and you continue to take that through all the decisions you make.
So my advice to you is to have courage from now! You let your fears and anxiety take over for too long and because of that you missed out on so much fun with horses, you let the ‘mean girls’ get in the way, so carry on being kind, shrug them off (they end up miserable adults anyway) and you will make new friends who are kind, fun, caring and compassionate like you. Friends who appreciate loyalty and you’ll be friends for years!
Be strong and committed in your heart to continue riding, be brave to go on the hacks, put your hand up to volunteer to help the yard and continue to smile every moment you are with the horses for you can forget those around you and enjoy being in the moment. Your bond with horses stays with you forever and you have something very magical there.
I know the bully’s are tough to you at school, but keep your head down and continue to learn because you need the qualifications. If you want to run your own yard and support other children as you dreamed, then you’ll need to learn the skills to run the business. Don’t let anyone tell you having horses is not a proper job… it can be an incredible career and you will be great at it! You’ve always loved the care side and there are heaps of jobs you can do caring for horses!
Learn other skills too though, work in different businesses because it will give you incredible management and communication skills that will benefit you when you own your own yard. Knowing how to communicate well with people is just as vital as communicating with horses.
Money isn’t everything, you don’t need to be rich to follow your passion, but you do have to work hard, research and learn. You never know everything, we are constantly evolving, so soak in as much as you can because you’ll need it!
Things unexpected happen in life and you WILL cope, you WILL get up and you WILL keep going. I promise you nothing can hold you back except yourself, so never give up, and for every fall or failure there will be a lesson learned and a future success so don’t dwell. Some of those lessons mean your life moves into something even better so never be afraid of change or trying!
Be kind to others and be kind to yourself, stand up for what you believe is wrong and champion those that are successful, be an advocate for change and improvement and listen to those more experienced. Be grateful for everything, even the smallest things, because they are what will help shape you.
I’m proud of you, you will be happy, you take the paths that are varied and interesting and they all full circle back to what you love most, the passion that is in your DNA, your love for horses.
Finally, remember to keep your head up, heals down and look forward over the next three jumps with Juliette… you might stay on that way and not break your arm! ☺️
Most of all enjoy yourself every single day, because I promise you, your adult life with horses was worth every moment of fear and anxiety as a child and I want you to enjoy a life with horses as much as you can ❤️.
Founder of HorseHour, UKs No.1 Equestrian Podcast and owner of Cross Trees Retirement & Injury Livery.
Dear Younger Me
by Sam Evans, UK
Follow your dreams - this is one time mum and dad are wrong ( it doesn’t happen often!) - there are tons of amazing jobs working with horses - take those opportunities your offered xx
It’s ok to not follow the crowds - you don’t need to fit in - follow your heart - you will meet others that have similar beliefs to you - your relationship with your horses is far more rewarding than competing and winning - really you’ve won what’s most important ..
You will meet some amazing horse people - learn what you can from each and everyone - some things you’ll always have in your toolbox other things you’ll decide to never use.. treasure these journeys...
You will share some amazing journeys with some gorgeous horses - have the opportunity to ride for Wales - and have the honour of having some horses from World Horse Welfare... you don’t need to pay thousands to have a special bond ...
Remember your circle of control - don’t worry about the things you can’t change...stay true to yourself - it will be ok xx
P.s mum and dad will never say yes to a dog - no matter how many puppies you bring home - they’ll all be going back - don’t worry once you leave dogs will always be part of your life 😍
Dear Younger Me
Your legs are strong and serve you well. It is long boots that have the problem, and not your knees. Also, white and cream jodhpurs are difficult – generally. There’s a reason why the world’s choice of casual wear is denim and not tight, flesh-coloured leggings.
Perhaps you can start a jodhpur and competition wear revolution? Start a movement for inclusive, body positive equestrian wear – maybe it will be a thing?
Also, when you are riding, no-one cares that you think your legs look shorter than your upper body, please don’t spend any more time or energy. Honestly, please just spend more time thinking about being kind to your body, and making it strong so you can ride in the best way possible.
Eat healthy food (you are allowed to eat).
You feed your horse well, do the same for yourself.
Please love yourself, you will grow up to be really proud of who you are.
Love from your anti-cream-pant older self.
Dear Younger Me
by Dr Donna Baker, AUS
There is a quote from an author Charlie Mackesy I would like you to remember
“We have a long way to go" sighed the boy , “ But how look how far we have come “ said the horse.
This quote is not only true in your horse training, but in life in general.
Focus on your success, however small, and not what there is still to do. Learn from the horse and be in the moment more . Don't compare your self to others … EVER .
Your life is your journey .
You have never followed the masses and you never will so stay comfortable with that. This may mean some uncomfortable conversations with people in authoritarian positions in the equestrian world, but stay kind, focused on the horses welfare and be objective and not emotional. Remember one small act , word , conversation, can add up to be effective.
You will have moments of doubt in your horse training but keep solid about always putting the horse first. You will experience imposter syndrome in your professional life - see it as a tool to drive you to keep learning and not self doubt.
Younger self .. my goal is to get you where are now, when I write this, sooner than I got there ...
Dr Donna Pyke BVSc (Hons) MANZCVS ( small animal surgery) IVAS
Dear Younger Me
Dear younger me,
It’s been quite a wild ride! You will become a strong and confident rider and represent both Latvia and the USSR in equestrian sport. Nothing much phases you and you will spend your career coaching, riding and competing. It is a great career, I have learned so much and met interesting people, I’m writing this from India of all places - travelling for jobs has become a way of life.
I did want to warn you though - you were very lucky in your early career, you worked hard, but were surrounded by good people. You visit other countries later where this is not the case. I want to establish a few ground rules with you now, in case you find yourself in a different position. Listen VERY carefully.
As a young person, looking for work in the equine industry NEVER agree your employment terms over the phone. Go to the yard and take someone with you who cares about your well-being. Look at the way the horses are kept and managed, look at the working conditions, check how many grooms they have per horse and look at where you will be expected to live. Don’t trust that your love of horses will get you through what can very quickly turn horrendous.
You might be excited about big names and fancy stables, but when you are working 15 hour days in the cold, wet and wind without a lunch break, or even a decent toilet, it gets tough. Your accommodation is filthy and your bed damp and you can’t find place in the crammed fridge in the tiny kitchen to put your milk. You will muck out many, many stalls a day, but you can’t remember the last time you had a lesson - you were told on the phone that you’d have three a week, but for one reason and another, they never seem to happen.
Oh, and money? Don’t talk about money - why should you need to get paid a living wage when you are doing something you love? You might be able to go on for a while like this, but in a few years when your alarm goes off at 6am, you ache like crazy and you are dreading the day ahead, you can’t feel much love.
Seeing such varied experiences and adversity fuels you, you seek the support of equestrians who really care, for horses and people. You become skilled at navigating challenges with clear boundaries - you stand up for horses, yourself and others. Keep on doing this - and surround yourself with people doing the same thing.
You can be the change that you’re looking for.
Dear Younger Equestrian Self
by Lauren Mauldin
No matter how old you get, you won’t forget the afternoons you spent alone at that first barn. You won’t forget the way the grass ring felt with its slope on the left side, and how you always had to collect a little at the trot to not go racing away. It wasn’t fancy, but it didn’t have to be. Those four stalls, the wood worn smooth by generations of family horses, were your foundation. And it carries you a long way.
One day, it won’t matter that you didn’t grow up at the horse shows. People will be amazed that you fox hunted. If you want to impress them, you can share a few of the good stories like taking off and catching the loose pony that bucked its kid off (only to have your own horse run away thirty minutes later when you had to dismount and forgot to hold onto the reins). They will think you’re so brave and fearless. And yeah, you might disagree. We don’t always feel brave. But getting back on, continuing to jump, and always being willing to learn is the bravest thing you can do.
If I told you now all the things you’d accomplish, you wouldn’t believe me.
It won’t happen the way you think.
Not through an expensive horse, a rich husband, or some other kind of financial change that makes everything easy for you. In fact, it won’t be easy at all. It’s a lot of riding anything you can. Horses no one would call fancy. Ones that buck. Ones that don’t steer. Ones that stop. You’ll get a little banged up, but not too bad. You’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way, but that’s okay. You’ll learn from them too. And as you keep learning, keep working hard and looking for opportunities.
Always offer to help. Some of your favorite moments with horses won’t have anything to do with riding. Getting up early to feed, turnout and muck before the pony kids arrive. Watching your favorite mare foal. Seeing your horse pack a kid around at their first horse show. Photographing some of the best hunters in the country, at shows so big you don’t even realize they exist yet. There’s so much you get to experience. I’m a little jealous of you, with so many great firsts in your future.
One day you’re going to meet this horse. You won’t like him initially, and he’ll have no reason to trust you either. He won’t look like much at first, but keep the faith. One day he will whinny to you every time you go to the barn. Every. Time. And it will be the best sound you’ll ever hear. That horse is going to pick up the broken pieces of your heart, patch them together and carry them for you. Through bareback hacks with nothing but a rope around his neck. To big, fancy ribbons and victory gallops. You will fly together. He will make you believe you can do anything. And you’re going to cry remembering him not just because you miss him, but because of how lucky you were to have him in your life at all.
If you think riding is hard now, I have bad news for you—it gets harder. The more you know, the more there is to know. But you will never be bored. And you will meet amazing people, lifelong friends, through horses.
When you doubt yourself (you will), try to look back on all that you’ve done. Don’t focus on the unmet goals or the setbacks. There will be a lot of those. It will never come together as fast as you want it to, but it will come together. And it will be better than you imagined.
Just keep going, and never sell yourself short.