I started riding lessons at 10/11, which is probably an average age for kids.  For many years though, I considered that “late” because I started my first competitive sport when I was 5.  Even though I’ve always loved horses, the lessons came later in my childhood because my first love in life was ice skating.

Growing up in North Carolina, ice skating was kind of a spectacle to folks.  It was still super rare, and I have no idea how I came into it.  The story my mom tells me is that I saw skating on TV when I was three, and said “Wanna do that”.  She took me in for lessons when I was teeny tiny, and I think I did my first competition when I was 6?  It was to the Captain Kangaroo theme, which is pretty damn adorable.  All I remember about the routine is that it contained swizzles, and my dress was sparkling and neon pink.

Figure-skates-2

I should apologize in advance in lacking adorable photos of me in tiny costumes.  They’re all hard copies at my parent’s house in NC.  Just imagine a tiny pale person with white blonde hair covered in sparkles – that was me.

I skated from ages 5 to 13.  In that time, I was above average at times and bottom of my group in others.  At my high point, I competed in the Juvenile division, which is kind of middle of the pack when you start out at the baby division and top out at Senior (which is what you see at the Olympics).  To give you an idea of what moves I did, basically everything you see on TV just not as many rotations in the air and not executed as well.  So when Michelle Kwan is doing a double axel (two and a half rotations starting forward), I did a single axel.  Where Nancy Kerrigan did triple loops (two rotations starting backwards off both legs), I did double loops.

Axel_Paulsen_jump_without_text

We competed up and down the east coast in our division.  Though I was never a superstar, I did win some.  Skating competitions became family vacations, and we went as far south as Florida and as north as New Jersey.  At the height of it all, it was stressful and fantastic – I loved it.

My favorite part were the freestyle programs, which is what you see on TV.  Picking music and costumes were my favorite, as well as the choreography.  I still remember the routines I did for competition:

  • Captain Kangaroo Theme
  • My Three Sons Theme (hated this one)
  • Home Alone / American Tail Theme (loved this one)
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Country Western Music
  • Octopus’ Garden (complete with purple octopus costume… now THAT I have to find pictures of)
  • Babe Theme
  • Plus more I’m not remembering…

I did other routines besides freestyle, but they’re boring so I’ll spare you the details.  All in all, we practiced usually 2-3 hours a day during the school year and sometimes more in the summer.  It was super intense.

Camel_spin

Somewhere along the way, my love for skating went away.  Part of the problem was that I’ve always been tall for my age.  Height is not an asset in this sport, and every time I had a growth spurt I would lose all my jumps.

With horses, we usually know better to drill the same thing over and over again because we’re good about making sure our horse’s are okay mentally.  With skating, there was no horse to worry about.  My coaches were tough.  I would get screamed at on a daily basis, and I carried that internally.  When my  jumps started to go downhill when I was 12 or so, I would beat myself up.  Would literally do the same double sow cow over and over and fall down hundreds of times in an hour.  Again and again.  It got to be very not fun.

There’s also a very dark and not-so-great side to figure skating that I may have to blog about sometime, but not today.  Let’s just say the older I got, the more aware I was of it… and not super pleased.

Even though I had quit competing, in high school I started coaching as a side job.  First just group little kid classes, but then I got a few private lesson students.  One in particular I loved to death, and we traveled to competitions together.  She is such a great kid, and it was a joy to teach her.  I don’t regret any of the coaching I did!  Such a huge learning experience.

Me, my student and a fellow coach
Me, my student and a fellow coach

When my lovely student graduated onto a more skilled coach and I went off to college, I put away my skates for good.  Sometimes I think about it fondly (or not so fondly), but I don’t miss it.  I still feel very comfortable on the ice, but it’s frustrating not to have the same fitness and dexterity I used to.  Maybe if I had more funds and free time I’d pick it back up – it’s fabulous exercise.

Sometimes I wish that my parents put the money and time that they did into skating into horses instead.  I wonder where I’d be showing wise if that were the case?  Can’t go back, and honestly I loved it at a time.  Skating shaped me into the person I am today for sure.

Did you have another sport or love that came before horses?

32 COMMENTS

  1. I tried soccer for one season in middle school (my parents were trying to get me *off* of horses), and it was a COMPLETE disaster. I absolutely hated being the worst person on the team, and the team didn’t appreciate the lack of skills I brought to the table. The experience has pretty much sworn me off of team sports in general- too much pressure! For me, it’s horses and it’s probably always going to be horses!

    • I haven’t! Although I was interviewed by the local news during that fiasco. I was just a little kid, and they legit asked me if I was “worried someone would hit my leg at a competition” to which I was like ‘uh, no…’

  2. I played soccer for about 5 years. Loved it, but quit when I hit high school because I moved to a new area and just didn’t have the confidence to dive in without knowing anyone 🙁 Instead I ventured into horses when I was around 14 and I haven’t looked back 🙂

  3. So interesting! I’d love to hear more about your experience, I’ve always had an interest in figure skating, along with the crazy dedication it requires.

    For me, I played softball for a long time. Never super competitively but from age 11 through early high school – I was never very skilled (aka a benchwarmer) but I liked being part of a team. I was used primarily as a pinch runner because I was fast haha.

  4. I was a 4 sport athlete from about age 5 and on. I did soccer, softball, basketball, and rode horses. I was a slightly above average softball player but was a top athlete in both soccer and basketball throughout middle school. HS came around, my parents were divorced, we didnt have much money, and so I chose the most expensive one in horses 🙂 I regret not being able to pursue other sports throughout HS and college but I wouldnt ever give up horses.

  5. Fun! I also figure skated quite a bit when I was young- only in a few local competitions. We had a local ice rink that had a “show” every winter- I capped out when I did my solo!
    Then I moved onto riding, then volleyball, swimming, and tennis. Paul and I pull out racquets once in awhile and go knock some balls around!

  6. I did Irish step dancing from 5 or 6 till 18, not world championship quality by a long shot but there was a good group of us with fab teachers and we traveled around Europe promoting Irish culture as Riverdance/Lord of the Dance was making waves – get those images out of your head though and remember we were amateur kids ☺

    I also did ice skating at an early age, but gave it up for horse riding lessons. My parents worked full time so during school holidays we’d be sent to sports camps where possible some were straight tennis (although we didn’t play any other time of year) and others were mixed sports from swimming to crazy golf with basketball & indoor rock-climbing mixed in (each day a different activity).

    It was really just Irish dancing & horses for me though ☺

  7. I love this entry! Learn something new every day.

    When I was a kid, I went ice skating with my dad in NYC every weekend. It’s a fond, fond memory, though I never competed.

    I hear ya about the ‘late start’ feeling with riding. My first competitive sport was gymnastics at age 6. I also have an extensive sailing history, including national level competition, before my life with horses. It’s cool to see what other pasts horsey bloggers are hiding.

    Also, I thought it was funny that the furthest north you competed in skating was NJ. I’m from NJ and the furthest south I’ve done endurance is NC.

  8. When I was 8 years old I decided to try ice skating as well. I ended up in the class filled with 4 year olds because I was so bad at it! I didn’t go back after the first few lessons. Thank goodness my parents let me start riding horses at 10 because team sports are not my forte.

  9. Oh my goodness, I was an ice skater, too!!! I even decided to give it another go when I was 30ish and got to train with a World Champion and Olympic medalist. I think I had way more fun with it the second time around than I did the first. I just recently found out there is an outdoor rink set up every winter about 30 miles from here. I’m so putting my skates on this winter! Bundle up!

  10. Horse were first and last for me, but I did fence in high school. It was a winter sport and with no covered arena, I couldn’t ride anyway. I never loved it and tended to break even at big meets (equal wins and losses). I wasn’t willing to divert any funds or time in the off season when horses called my name.

  11. I dabbled in YMCA league basketball and soccer when I was a 7 but truly LOVED doing Theater in middle and high school. I attempted to act, ride/event, and sorta study (school work def was the last on my list of cares- whoops 😉 Mom didn’t care for that!) I was successful until I got the worse case of Senioritis 2nd semester senior year!!!! But then sadly gave up acting in college, though did take 2 theater classes and realized I wasn’t that good- much better at riding! I have great memories from the plays but glad I chose riding horses over acting in plays 🙂

  12. I’d love to know more about it. I’ve only ever seen figure skating on tv at the Olympics. I have known a couple figure skating girls and they were a little 0.o, but I never knew if that was a culture thing or them just being a little weird.

    No skating here, but I did ballet and ballroom dancing, if that counts.

  13. I was a big time swimmer kid before I started riding. Parents were NOT happy when I decided to quit so I could ride instead, right when lots of doors were opening for me. Otherwise my other sports have only been the things that I do concurrently with with riding… the triathlon and cycling stuff.

  14. I started out the same way in ballet, and then somewhere around 10 or so I started to really dread/hate it. I couldn’t get out of the classes fast enough, and I started to really fall behind the other students that obviously had the natural build and talent for it. Took a couple more years to convince my parents, but I found my love in horses.

  15. If you replaced “ice skating” with “gymnastics” you’d have my life story. I was good but I was never going to be a super star so when I tore my ACL and saw how hard it would be to get back to where I was, I gave it up and concentrated on horses.

  16. I never really got into to other sports. I ran a 400 m relay once a long time ago(I was 7 maybe) and that was about it. It’s cool that you did skating!

  17. Loved this ! I fenced in college. My weapon was the saber and I quite literally beat all the guys. Hahaha I loved that sport and was a shoo-in for the school team but my coach never managed to get the team organized before I graduated.

    Now, the sport that I REALLY loved only second to riding was bodyboarding. There is nothing on earth like being at the mercy of the ocean while riding the waves. I wanted to compete (Puerto Rico hosts some pretty bad ass international level surfing competitions) until I realized that if I wanted to surf the Really Big Waves, I’d have to learn to deal with coral reefs. After my first encounter with a reef while bodyboarding (it’s no fun getting slammed into a prickly reef of coral, volcanic rock and sea urchins by a solid 12′ wall of water) I gave up on the idea of competing. But it didn’t keep me from bodyboarding regularly around the island. I discovered the sport when I was 18 and continued until I was 25, when I moved to the US.

  18. Oooh an inside look into the glamorous world of ice skating! I tried out lots of different sports growing up, and did very well in soccer for some years, but horses were always my #1 love and passion.

  19. I did tennis then had to choose between that and horses. I picked horses but maybe tennis would have been cheaper??? Would love to hear about the darker side!

  20. I did ballet from about 6-13, and then I got pointe shoes (every little girl’s dream, right?) After two months of bloody feet, I told my mom I was quitting. She said fine, but I had to take up another sport, like tennis, volleyball, or horseback riding. I pick horseback riding, and I think to this day she regrets ever suggesting it!

  21. Horses came first, but I couldn’t afford to own or compete as a kid. Instead, I got my competitive fix running track and field. I did the 100m hurdles, and high jump. I was actually pretty good at high jump for a relatively short girl (At 5′ 6″, I am not short, but compared to high jump competitors, I was tiny!). I actually went to the State competition for varsity high jump in high school and tied a school record for awhile. That was pretty cool.

    As I got older, I transitioned from being a sprinter to being a distance runner but haven’t gotten back into the competitive aspect of running. Races stress me out. I’ve always suffered from pretty intense asthma, and the pressure of racing brings back some nasty comments from a coach about “being lazy” when I would have to stop due to being unable to breathe. Luckily, running quiet distance with my dogs is something I really love!

    Ice skating is super cool! I bet you have awesome balance. I would totally fall over if I tried that!

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