“Beauty is the first thing to go. If you don't have anything inside you, you are going to be so lonely."
- Carolina Herrera’s advice to her four daughters, 1997
Carolina Herrera is known not only as one of the most famous fashion designers, but also as an exceptional equestrienne, avid reader and one of the most elegant and confident women of our time. The quote above was published in an interview in Town and Country Magazine when I was 25 years old and it has had a profound effect on my entire adult life.
A CIRCUITOUS ROAD
When the article was published, I was two years into my first marriage and living on a vast cattle ranch in Southern, Idaho. Although the majority of our time was dedicated to building a 30,000 acre operation, evenings were often spent reading and time away was dedicated to traveling to unique locations and visiting individuals that we found interesting. The latter activity was difficult as time and money was limited as expected in the formative years of creating a business. All the while, I never forgot my interpretation of Ms. Herrera’s words as I continued to organically enrich the fabric of my being and also develop a personal value system. I refer to this period of living in a remote area as when I truly grew up. I learned to appreciate nature and the solitude of spending time by myself, the difficulty of physical labor, and most importantly, to value the core being of individuals from all walks of life.
Next week I turn forty-six years old and it will be over three decades since reading Ms. Herrera’s advice to her daughters. As physical beauty might decline by societies description, I have always kept her word's close to my heart and tried to live by them. Thirty-two is the age where I felt the full effects of transitioning from a young woman to a full-fledged adult as I was tested through a painful divorce and had to make decisions that tested my character. The thirteen years that have followed have been front loaded with growth. The critical points that stand out include building a successful corporate career, earning my MBA, challenging my mental and physical fortitude with marathon running, meeting a man (now my husband) that levitates my intensity, evaluating and accepting personal mistakes, learning to forgive myself and finally, feeling truly comfortable in my own skin. The list is much longer, but the lessons of life never stop and I choose to never become complacent and neglect to evolve.
IMAGES:( clockwise from upper left) My corporate career in marketing & e-commerce management allowed me to ride again 2) Feature article as "Woman with the Most Style" in 2016 in MORE MAGAZINE 3) My husband, Tim lightens my intensity 4) Marathon racing has been a test of mental and physical fortitude.
A NOTE TO YOUNG WOMEN
I have passed Ms. Herrera’s advice to my three stepdaughters, but I also find it important to implore this advice to our young equestrians. Success in our industry is intense partially due to the increase of costs, particularly in the last two decades. Money alone does not bring success, but rather grit and discipline. There are many generous individuals in this sport that will reward riders of substance, and passion, regardless of a young rider's bank account. This is your test to show how much you want to succeed. I often refer to the relationship of Judy Richter and her support of a young student with limited resources, Andre Dignelli, and his subsequent success as a professional rider. He went on to create one of the finest hunter/jumper programs in the country, along with his brother, Michael. The Dignelli's now perpetuate the generosity, which all started with one woman that gave a young man a chance, by assisting other young riders.
America allows you to have the ability to create your own future. There is no need to be star struck or feel defeated if you are “only” a visitor at the bigger shows. I often seen an overwhelmed look at the quintessential American circuit, the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). We all, including the U25 riders, put on our shoes the same way and many of these talented young riders are in the process or have earned their college degrees. I encourage each of you to pursue higher education. If you have a passion for riding, trust me, it will be there for you either during or after university.
My MBA is what ultimately paid for me to re-enter riding and compete on my own terms. Riding is a passion that can ultimately be a business and you must also have the ability to dig deep into your gumption to become excellent in the sport, regardless of your socioeconomic level. Advanced education can help you build a career within the industry or allow you to pursue other revenue sources. Do not lose yourself in this singular world. Instead, become well rounded because as the decades pass your passion may evolve or you may have unforeseen changes in your lifestyle.
AS WE MATURE
For female equestrians of a more mature age, embrace your inner self and find the beauty in your accomplishments and future aspirations. Don’t compare yourself to others, especially the junior riders, but instead be the best that you can be. If your comfort level is the “rusty stirrup” class, do not discard how tough it is to remember a course, ride a rhythm, build trust in your horse and work through nerves. This is your victory against yourself and no one walks in your shoes or has your responsibilities away from the stable. Riding is only one piece of who you are.
IMAGE: Sazerac and I. To all of my amateur friends, respect the work that it takes just to walk in the ring. Every ride is a victory.
WHAT FILLS YOU UP?
As I look at my birthday next Friday, I can finally allow myself to embrace where I am in life. It has taken many twists and turns, but I have made the best decisions at the time given the tools I had. Some I am proud of, while some I wish a “do-over.” I am still a BIG work in progress in fulfilling what I wish to accomplish for myself and how best to help others. Everyone's personal formula is different if they choose to heed Ms. Herrera's advice in how not to be lonely. Mine is directly correlated to the ability to enjoy time with myself, the fortitude to continue to grow, and cementing a small tribe that makes me laugh and supports me in being a better person.
It is never too early or too late to ask yourself, "What fills me up so that I am never lonely?"
Kristin M. Thornton
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