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Mackenna Lee


Disembark, Grow, Illuminate.

In the year since uncovering the magic of New York City, I’ve ceased a ritual. Transient people often adopt the norms of wherever they are living, but New York City is a separate animal.

Reminds me of Japanese game shows, where a cut-out of a ridiculous pose is silhouetted in a hard, flat surface. The contestant stands on a teetering edge over water as the cut-out surface moves toward the contestant. Ridiculously, the contestant is forced to mimic the silhouette at the risk of being tossed into food-colored water.

I disposed parts of my life when I moved, notably my beloved Pontiac, “Meryl”, my chariot of the Hollywood Hills, Appalachian Mountains, roadside Jersey truck stops, and everywhere in between.

Moreover though, I put down the sport of horseback riding, for at least a short pause.

By far, this was the most taxing trade-off I made in my move to urban wonderland. Unfortunately, the financial and time investment while living in Manhattan did not calculate favorably. This is hilarious for horse people, who know the expenditure to care for feed-heavy, land-intensive animals is never an economical choice.

Before moving to New York, I’d pretzeled myself into situations where I was begging, borrowing, and stealing time, money, resources to enable regular riding. I’d force time between demanding corporate jobs and a “social life”.

After riding half-broke animals in return for sweat labor, I grew tired of being financially forced out of a sport that is fundamentally constrained by city living. While it reductive to claim my heart was broken – it was not – I mourned a piece of me I held close for so long.


Riding incited regular turns of grief – lame horses, late nights, authoritarian instructors. But moreover, I reveled in communicating silently with an animal who – by nature – fears us. To overcome and subvert a horse’s ingrained resistance requires patience. Over time, the silent partnership with these magnificent and knowing animals grabs you in electrifying and pacifying waves of glee and fulfillment.

Structurally, riding put me on the outside. I never had “enough” to do what I dreamt of, so I could writhe in what I couldn’t have or work tirelessly to inch closer to what I observed others doing. Riding a single horse show a season, when so many were able to ride “the circuit”, hardened me. With maturity, I gave up an embarrassing jealousy in favor of inventorying my gratitude. I rode with sensational teachers who directed me on how to deliver and get feedback. I rode challenging horses who taught me humility. Moreover, I was able to participate, even in small part, in a sport that is a pendant of elitism.

If that’s not lucky, I am not sure what is.

Outside my own emotional turmoil, I bore witness to fissures of significant financial means. Access to the richest folks in North America was instructive as to how wealth does not create family, love, or enduring relationships. It buys scenic properties, robust staff, and high-caliber instruction, but the strain of being “on the road” has a visible destruction on family and friends expecting a normal existence. There is a darkness to desperation, and frankly, horses rarely generate money.

While seeing relationship fall-outs, I also encountered humans willing to make financial sacrifices to enliven my riding circumstances. Trainers, horse owners, barn managers exchanged slivers of their livelihoods for my happiness. I revere their generosity.

Ultimately, I never fought hard enough nor was I ever handed opportunities to match those I envied. I’ve stopped carrying the obdurate frustration of not having those experiences.

For most my life, I lived in constant want for something beyond what I could have.

It’s taken me 18 years of living, but I am finally over it.


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