When you were 17, what did you want to be?
You know, I honestly wasn't very sure. The equestrian part of my career has been a lifelong passion pursuit. My mom was a casual rider, but she said the second I was born I just had tunnel vision. Riding is all I wanted to do. I don't even remember starting riding. It's just always been my life. My area of expertise is in jumping. It's high intensity, adrenaline-packed, really fun, and I'm definitely that way; I want to go fast. I've done a lot of other things too like western-style riding and ranch work, cattle work, all that kind of stuff.
When I was in high school, I started working as an assistant to one of the top trainers in the area. That was really fun because I was doing what I loved every day after school and every weekend and getting paid. That supported me through high school, and then when I moved to college, I continued doing that same line of work. It was definitely something I could see myself doing for a career; I just wasn't quite sure yet.
How did you decide to attend University of California, Santa Barbara?
I did a couple of years at community college and then I transferred because it made the most sense for me financially. I really liked the Santa Barbara area. I wanted to be far enough away from San Diego, which is home to me, that it felt like I was going off and doing my own thing, but still close enough that I could go back for a weekend. And I just fell in love with the area, so I ended up staying there for seven years.
How did you choose your major?
I was kind of all over the place. I got a scholarship to go to Hawaii Pacific University and considered marine biology. My dad's a die-hard water man, so I grew up on a boat, on a surfboard, just consistently in the ocean. But it just made more sense to be in Santa Barbara.
I majored in communications studies at UCSB. It was just a really interesting mixture of the psychology component, the sociology component, looking at family units and the workplace. It was a really interesting way for me to delve into, "Why do people act like this and how can you have a healthy family unit?” Then I took a lot of courses on business organization and people skills. I don't really work within my major, but I do use the things that I learned every day because all of my work is working with people really. It's just human relationships, as is everything else.
How did you get from college to where you are now?
After graduation, I went full-time into training. I started my own business in Santa Barbara, coaching kids and adults, and then training horses and selling horses in that market. I was really, really happy. It paid for me to have a great little place in Santa Barbara, and my life was just busy and fun. I did that for three years until I moved to Europe, and just kept doing it in Europe.
I was married to a great guy who also worked in the equestrian industry. About two years into our marriage, he had a head injury and came out of it a completely different person. At the end of it, he got a job offer in a different state, which was really rough, but in the long term, definitely a blessing in disguise.
I went back down to San Diego, and I had started dating a Hungarian guy. He had to go back to Hungary, and I thought, "Well, if I can find a job out there, I'd be more than happy to just take on a new adventure." So I contacted a bunch of people and ended up getting a job out there competing and riding. It was a dream that I never really thought would happen, but it felt like my opportunity to do something wild.
I did some teaching there, but the language barrier was really difficult, so it was mostly training horses. There was a level of difficulty there with the language barrier, with the culture, everything. My ex-boyfriend's family was intensely old school as far as their views on what a woman should be. I felt like his parents expected me to be barefoot, pregnant, and cooking in the kitchen. And I was out there fighting for my career. That was really intense, being a single woman in a field dominated by men, especially being a foreigner. I really had to dig deep to get some street cred, but once I did, it was really good.
It's interesting because there are a lot of people in Hungary that are ready for a change, and then there are a lot of people holding on to these old school values. Hungary is a country that has been through so much turmoil and they've had so much loss, so there's these old values that they feel like they need to hold onto.
Working in Hungary was just a completely different world. It was very, very intense. There's a big competition circuit across California, so I had my clients and their horses that want to compete, and then my own horses that were for sale that need exposure, so I competed a lot. But they have a different mentality in Hungary - you just get tough or die. And the workload is crazy. We're a lot lighter and fluffier here. But it was such a good experience.
I was there for two years, and through my work, I was able to travel to 10 different countries. But the winters there are like nine months out of the year, and they're brutal and cold and miserable. I felt like I reached a point where I had gotten what I could get out of it. I feel like I was stagnating; or I could go home and take this experience and move forward in a really cool way. I'd been there for a long time as a single person in this rural village an hour away from any major city. It was fun to be able to focus so much on my career and the horses, but I was ready to be back and have a social life. I feel like I have a family there any time I go back, but I was ready to be back on American soil and feel comfortable again.
I'm really proactive, so I set it up so that I would have work when I got back. I have horses for sale now, and it's been going really well. Also, about four years ago, I started really getting into artwork. Somebody contacted me and said, "Your pictures are so cool. Can I commission you to do my horses and my dog?" So that turned into a side thing for me. It’s really fun because while I’m not physically working with the horses, I can come in and just paint. And it's been a fun way to connect with different people.
I don't want to go sit in an office, I don't want to work with somebody else. So I just charge into these situations that are kind of crazy, but I do have always a plan. And it does require so much self-motivation. Yesterday I spent half my day going around to different places in the Design District in Solano Beach talking to people about collaborating on artwork and selling it. I think I have that mindset of very much being a go-getter and wanting to fight hard so that I can continue to do my own thing and not have to take a 9-5 somewhere.
It's been fun to see my career segue. I feel like I have my hands in a bunch of different pots right now. Like I'm currently studying for my real estate license, because my mom's in real estate and she needs an assistant. I'm really enjoying having a lot of different things. In my ideal picture - which is funny to say because five years ago I could've told you my ideal picture and then I ended up in Eastern Europe for two years - I would like to continue to do the artwork and continue to do the horses, but maybe not on such an intense physical level. As I'm getting closer to 30, it's so much physical work every day, and I want it to be something that I can continue to enjoy for the rest of my life. I see so many people lose that feeling of being so passionate about it. And I feel like as I'm transitioning into more of a professional phase of my life; I'm kind of ready to not finish the day covered in dirt head-to-toe, you know?
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
It'd be amazing if I could jump back to being 20 years old with the knowledge and experience that I have now, but that's an impossible thing. There are definitely times that felt rough to go through, but I don't think I would change a thing.
I was really fortunate to know young in life what my absolute passion was, what made me feel energized, and that was with the horses. Then, it's navigating this boundary between what you're passionate about and what makes you money. If you can find a way to put those two things together, incredible. I read something funny the other day; one of my friends who's in the same industry as me posted a picture that read, "Do what you love, and you'll kind of work all the time." But I think you just find a balance.
I would say, never let go of an opportunity to really chase something that you love, and don't get stagnant. That's something that I fight like crazy. While some days it's tedious and exhausting, I honestly don't feel like I go to work. If I wasn't working, this is still what I'd be doing. I've never let an opportunity pass me up, even if it seemed like it might be difficult to get into. And that's landed me in a lot of different, fun, odd jobs.