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Leading Each Other | Katie & Diego

'23 Special Edition

Horses have always been an animal I’ve adored, but I never had an opportunity to be around them. After graduating, I thought maybe Ride On St. Louis could help me decide what I wanted to do next with life... Although it did take some persuading from my family!

I’m not a big fan of “first-days.” I was very nervous. Anxiety can be overwhelming. I remember pulling into the lot, sitting in my car, worrying. But the anticipation of being around a barn and the welcoming nature of everyone just dissolved everything. For instance, I remember sharing one day that I just felt worthless. I thought I deserved pain, even death, just for merely existing. I wanted to hurt myself in retaliation to every negative emotion. Thoughts of self-harm were a daily struggle. Sometimes I had thoughts or preoccupations with death and suicide. I thought that no one would miss me. I didn’t do well trying to deal with these thoughts on my own... I would talk about it to my close friends and journal about it. [Purchase Katie’s book at] One day at the barn we picked up a daily prayer book and happened upon a meditation on our worth through God’s eyes. It still amazes me years later; that was something I desperately needed to know, because I used to believe I was worthless. Without Ride On St. Louis, I wouldn’t have a support system.

As I continued as a Barn Buddy, I began to learn basic horse care. Taking (proper) care of a horse, takes more than you think! There’s a why behind every task and action at Ride On St. Louis from how, when and what everyone is fed, to the way the turnouts and property is maintained. I went through many hours of caretaker training, side-walker training and leader training to be around and handle the horses safely. There was a lot of information to absorb, but I loved it.

When leading a horse, I learned to concentrate on the horse, regulate my emotions, and always plan ahead. One day, I was just having a really hard time. I was also going to lead a horse in a session for the first time. I remembered everything I was taught, and as we walked, I felt myself getting calmer. Keeping my attention outwards on the horse helped my anxiety; it brought me peace. That moment was the first time I felt such a drastic change in myself. For the first time, I successfully dealt with my suffocating anxiety. And I learned I could be a confident leader! I like to say that Diego is the horse who trained me. He was comforting to be around because he was so patient and relaxed, and through our time together he taught me to be patient with myself.

I really enjoy being a leader, and I love being a part of the experience others get to have with the horses, too. I feel accomplished in the barn management and handling skills I’ve learned not only because of the effort and practice it takes, but also because I’m trusted to do some of the care on my own now.

The changes Ride On St. Louis made in my life started by seeing that I had a purpose in a mission that I believed in. I knew I made a difference somewhere and had an impact beyond myself. I found joy in the work I did and applied it to other areas in my life. Ride On St. Louis happened when I needed it the most. And now I know that I can make it through whatever comes my way.


If this story resonates with your heart, consider supporting us in our goal to raise $50k before December 31st, 2023!

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