I didn’t think I was the type of person who could succeed at a demanding sport like endurance riding. But with the help of two insightful coaches and their talented horses, I learned that I am.

I was up at 6 a.m. on the Saturday before Labor Day, getting ready to drive 30 miles into the hills north of Los Angeles to meet someone I’d seen once at a party. Her name was Lisa, and she’d told me that her endurance horses needed exercise while she recuperated from foot surgery. For me, her offer presented an opportunity to try something new—and to take a step toward a dream that has been nipping at my heels for a long time.

“Oh! Do you ride, too?” I asked, surprised, when I pulled up at Lisa’s farm. I’d found not Lisa, but her husband, saddling a horse.

“Everyone asks that question,” Shel grumbled.

Women may make up the largest demographic of endurance riders, but Shel has logged more miles in competition than most riders ever will. He began riding in midlife and rapidly became an accomplished competitor. My surprise didn’t get me off on the right foot with Shel, but fortunately, he gave me a second chance.

I didn’t embarrass myself again during my first five-mile ride with Shel. I embarrassed myself the next day instead. Click here to read more!

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