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It has been quite some time since I have sat down at my computer to write a blog! At first I felt horrible and ashamed that I had dropped the ball on my educational blogs, but I am human and sometimes, like everyone else, I fall.

When Covid initially hit, things got hard... like really hard. Nothing changed during or after the lockdown. I had just officially started up my business a few months before the shut down and didn't have the security or clientele of an established equestrian business to just keep me afloat. I had to just do what I needed to get by, barely get by. My drive and passion started to wane and dwindle as my focus had to shift from building my business to how I was going to be able to feed my animals and myself.

After what felt like an eternity, I was able to start focusing on building my business again and provide the educational program I initially put together for my clients and future clients, but it wasn't with the same gusto as before. I still felt defeated with all of the unforgiving curveballs life seemed to throw my way. My physical health was fragile (after getting covid myself and having to seriously change my life due to my back injury, how could it not be). My mental and personal health waned (finding relevance as a Latina in the professional equine industry is an ongoing uphill battle). Then I lost my rock, my heart horse, my Mandi, the one I knew I could always count on and had rightfully been dubbed my life partner. :(

Honestly I felt defeated. Universe: 100 Michele: ZERO. After all of my hard work, planning, determination, more hard work, tears, picking myself back up again...and again...and again, some more hard work, and endless education, my can do attitude seemed to just not be around like it used to be. It seemed like every time I attempted a come back, there was something else around the corner waiting to bring me back down.

But I am not writing this to throw a pity party for myself! I wasn't raised to kick myself when I was down, or to wallow in my own despair. But we are all human and sometimes life just seems to be a bit too much. I remembered who I was. I felt like I was drowning but all I could think was that there was no way I could give up now! I had poured so much of my soul into my dreams and vision for my business that I was not anywhere near throwing in the towel. I thought about that little girl, the one who would bring carrots to the horses in Central Park. The girl who would do anything to stay at the barn for just 10 more minutes. The little girl who felt so outcast, alone and like I didn't belong, and no matter my discomfort, still chose to stay at the barn, pick stalls and volunteer at camp. Even though there were so many that made me feel like I didn't belong, I knew in my heart that that was exactly where I was meant to be.

I couldn't quit on that little girl, or the countless little girls who felt just like me. I wasn't just doing this for me. Yes of course I love what I do and I want my business to succeed, but my driving force and motivation behind my passion was to be a beacon for little brown girls and boys. To be a professional woman of color in a cut throat and predominantly white profession and sport. To be an Indigenous and reconnecting woman, who's connection to earth and spirit is in every breath that I take. To be a Latina who grew up loud, fun loving, spirited and maybe just a tad hot headed at times! To be Boricua, to hustle and grind as our people always have because so much has been against us in life, yet we are still here, we are still fighting and we never give up! Somos Boricua y tenemos fuerza! This isn't just about me and never has been. This is for every single person out there who is like me, can relate to me, my story, my hustle, my passion, my fire, in a world where many tell you to put that fire out, that its not for you or that maybe you should just give up, THAT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU DON'T BELONG. Skrew that! We deserve this space just as much as anyone else does. We fight tooth and nail, day in and day out for our seat at the table and I'll be damned if I were to just throw in the towel and give that seat up.

So I kept on. I saw something the other day that read "Be the inspiration and representation that you wished you had when you were a kid", and that's what I set out to do! And let me tell you, perseverance pays off! I may have just barely kept myself afloat, but I did so long enough to get the opportunity of a lifetime! A partnership with the backing that I needed to grow my program to what I had dreamed of and more! A business man, mentor and friend who saw my hustle, my passion, my drive and excellence and thought me worthy of a legit shot at this. To give me the means to be successful without having to take years and years of continued hustling and exhaustion to do so. When I tell you I was in shock, that puts it lightly! I was SHOOK! This isn't something that generally happens for people like me. But it did. And this opportunity pushes me to go even further beyond my wildest dreams in what I am capable of in this industry, because again, this isn't just about me. Now my dream can include doing the same for someone else, maybe more than just one someone else. I can continue in uplifting the outcasts, the hustlers, the horse lovers who would do anything just for a seat at the table who are more than deserving of that chair. This is so much more than running a business, offering a service and being damn good at what I do, it is about growing a community. It is about uplifting others and setting the stage for proud, confident and beautiful equestrians for generations to come who can be themselves, comfortable in their skin and never feel that they have to dull themselves down just to fit into this world.

Representation matters. I look back at these images and I see me in every single one. Pieces of me that when put together make a beautiful image, but often times that image was never whole. I remember all too often being in spaces where I never felt like I could truly be myself for fear of not being accepted. Hell sometimes I feel this way today, but I remind myself of just how spectacularly bad ass I am. And of how unsettling that feeling of not being me is, and that it's not just about eradicating that feeling within myself, but for so many young people (and adults) who feel the same because they've never been represented and given the chance to shine.


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