In 2002, I left home just a few weeks after graduating from high school for Great Lakes, Illinois. I was headed to Navy boot camp and for the start of a new journey. I left heavy hearted, leaving my horses and dreams that I thought were unrealistic behind. I had been riding for years and participated in some open shows and a youth series in barrel racing, among other events. I was not competitive in the speed events, though I dreamed of it.As I headed to Great Lakes I had no idea I would meet my future husband, Tyler, there at Navy boot camp. He was the most accomplished and driven person I had ever met. He had a big goal, to be a Navy SEAL. When I met him he had already had quite a few accomplishments under his belt, but he was going for his ultimate dream. I never doubted that he would accomplish it!From that time forward we were inseparable and I was blessed to witness what true drive and determination can do. He achieved his dream of becoming a SEAL, something very few in this world will do. We were married five years after we met and spent almost another three living military life. I had finished my enlistment in the Navy and began working towards my goal of earning my college degree.In July 2010, everything changed, forever. Tyler was killed in a base jumping accident. One of his many passions was skydiving. I was devastated and lost from that day forward. It took me six months just to be able to really function again. The next six moths after that I worked toward living, not just existing. I managed to finish my degree with the support of our friends and the leverage of Tyler’s desire for me to graduate.
In 2012, I graduated from Regent University with a degree in Psychology. During that time I began to see that I still had the rest of my life ahead of me and I was now charged with living life fully for two. I became open to new experiences and opportunities. This timing was perfect, as I soon after met a man who made me believe that it was okay to go after my dreams and be happy.
I then moved to Nevada to explore those possibilities further with him, and fate took hold. Within a few months, I found and bought Gigi, my amazing mare. I completed an equine sports massage therapy course and went to my first jackpot ever with his support. Gigi and I got a few races in before the season ended, we didn’t do anything spectacular, but my heart was bursting in amazement that I even had a horse again, let alone that I was actually barrel racing!
Then, I started to notice that Gigi was having some gait issues and after visiting the vet found that she had Intermittent Upward Fixation of the patella. Barrel racing was out and I focused on rehab for Gigi and working on my horsemanship with an amazing trainer that just happened to be in my area. When you look back, it is amazing to see all the puzzle pieces come together.
I thought we might be out of racing forever and even bought another horse. By May, it was clear that Gigi was thriving and I took her around the barrels. She did amazing, no stifle issues and that was the start of our 2013 season.
We had terrible runs to start. In the 20’s and even 22’s. We kept at it. I tried to learn all I could and work on the mistakes I was making. I thought Gigi could be amazing if I could be a better rider for her. We never gave up, no matter how bad we did, and eventually we started to improve. We even went to Las Vegas, not because we were clocking great, but just for the experience. We did place in the 4D the first day though!
We won some money throughout the season, but what I wanted most was to win a buckle. Every race that had buckles that we attended, we didn’t win. But, then, at the end of the season, we won the 4D buckle in the Northern Nevada NBHA series! It was a dream come true! It was so satisfying to accomplish that goal.
As the season was winding down we were starting to get faster and I believed even more that we could be great team. We just recently made it to the 2D and I couldn’t have been more amazed or proud!
This whole journey has taught me many things, but a few that stand out are NEVER GIVE UP and you really have to BELIEVE that it is possible. Lastly, no matter your goal, enjoy the ride. Make sure to keep perspective and be grateful for your opportunities. I want to help others every chance I get and strive to inspire those that might be sitting where I was a year ago.
I feel blessed to have this opportunity after a ten year hiatus from horses and I am looking forward to what Gigi and I will achieve together in the future!
There are plenty of other great stories too if you have time go read them! In the meantime come visit to read more about what Gigi and I are up to.
Thank you for visiting!
NEVER GIVE UP!
Blessings, Chelsey Stimson