4:30 a.m. my alarm goes off. I stumble into my kitchen, pour my coffee and let my dog out. I Hurriedly get ready, grab my helmet, which is covered in unicorns I might add, and I throw my vest on. A typical morning for me. I pull into the parking lot of the racetrack. Quiet, free from hustle and bustle… for now anyway. It’s dark, well before sunrise. 

I arrive at my barn, by my barn I mean the barn I gallop for. That’s right. I gallop racehorses. I’m one of the riders you see out there getting on 1,200lb animals every morning. Come rain, or shine. I must be crazy to do this every day right? Who in their right mind would want to get up at the crack of dawn, in the heat of the summer, the bitter cold of winter and try to comfort a hot blooded animal the size of an elephant who has no real interest in cooperating with that gal perched over it’s withers. Oh that’s right, me! 

I didn’t always do this though. In fact, I did the farthest thing from it. I’m from California, and when I say California, I mean smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. I was an actor as a teenager, and then started writing movie scripts. I even started my own production company at nineteen years old. So how did I get from Hollywood to horses right? I grew up around horses, dabbled in show jumping and barrel racing. In fact, I was so young when I barrel raced they had to velcro me into the saddle! To make a long story short, at fourteen I began modeling, doing commercials and by the time I was fifteen I had landed my first movie role. 

From that point on my career kind of started, I guess you could say. By the time I was 22 I had been in 10 movies, written 2 scripts, produced 3 films and directed one. I had been very blessed and very fortunate. From the outside looking in it seemed like I had it all. I lived in the Hollywood Hills, my films were getting recognition. Offers and opportunities were coming left and right, but somewhere deep within me, I just found myself going through the motions. I wasn’t truly happy or fulfilled and I couldn’t quite figure out where my spot was. I thought this was what I was supposed to be doing, and maybe it was for a season. But I found myself doing all of this for other people, and not really myself.

So I hit a wall and I decided I would get back into riding, something that I loved as a kid. Something just for me. Where I lived, wasn’t far from Santa Anita Park, the racetrack in California, so I decided one day I would go and see it, I mean why not right? There I met a trainer, a few actually, but one that offered for me to come learn to gallop at his Thoroughbred farm in Southern California. I took him up on that offer. I started driving 3 hours a day, 3 times a week to go and get on some of his horses. All while still juggling writing scripts, and having 2 movies in pre-production. 

Soon after I realized this is what I wanted to be doing. I didn’t want to spend all of my days at a computer screen, or on set. At the time I was supposed to be the lead in one of my films. I knew in my heart I just couldn’t do it. I called my producer from the racetrack and told him that he had to find someone else for the role. Of course, there were hours of troubleshooting and going back and forth, but I won’t get into all of that. 

The point is, I knew in my heart I found what I wanted to do. I realized that I wanted to move, I wanted to get out of the city. So where did I go? Louisiana. Yep, home of crawfish boils and everything ends in “Eaux” – where in the dead of summer it feels like you’re walking through soup, and where Louisianans are never talking about Los Angeles (where I am from) when they say LA. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier. 

Horses have taught me so many things that don’t actually have anything to do with horses. They’ve taught me how to live a happy life, to get out there and try, and if you screw up, try even harder. I’ve had some amazing people come into my life, some of which I would have never met if it wasn’t for the horses. The horses have taught me it’s all about the heart, no matter where you find yourself in life. They’ve taught me more about myself, who I am and who I want to be, and for that, I will always be grateful. 

By Anna Mclain

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