Beyond the Blue
By Stephanie Parker
When I was in my early 20’s I went to Latvia for a year. As in, go to a third world country and try to help the poor. A wise friend told me to pack my boots and breeches. I laughed and told her “Are you kidding, there are no horses in Latvia, and if so, they have all been eaten because the people are starving.”
My daily goal was to find a few carrots and bread to feed myself. There wasn’t much time to help the poor because I was too busy trying not to starve too. I did meet with a group of teens and tried to pay attention to them. One of the teens heard me give an introduction of myself in broken Latvian. She heard ‘horse’, one of a few words I knew how to say.
Later the girl came up to me and asked for my city map. She drew a circle, pointed and said “horse barn” in Latvian. I was adventurous and tried to find the spot on the map a few days later. Looking back, you couldn’t pay me to make the dangerous trek through the capital city of Riga, which was mob run at the time.
With directions from a bowlegged woman pointing her walking stick, I stumbled upon a magnificent equestrian facility. It was a time warp. As if I stepped into the 1800’s where a King & Queen built their dream stable and then let it rot. The entryway was like an abandoned theatre with heavy ornate wooden doors. There was a balcony overlooking the indoor arena. It had crumbling red velvet seats. The far side of the indoor had two stories of floor to ceiling windows letting sunlight brighten the Soviet grey. I thought to myself, “horses live here?”
Long story short, horses did live there. The Latvian Olympic Training Center was hidden on the edge of town where corrupt city met rural peasant. The riders were subsisting on carrots, potatoes and Vodka. Lots of Vodka. Working 15 hour days, living in shanties and riding because they loved it. And yes, I ended up training with the Latvian Olympic team during my stay. Walking 8 miles roundtrip to ride twice a week.
As a child I used to ride my neighbor’s Suffolk sheep because I didn’t have a horse. I saved my own money to buy a sheep halter so I had something to steer with. Those neighbors ended up giving me my first Shetland pony. Early on God placed a purpose in my heart and it wasn’t about winning blue ribbons.
The reason I started Parker Eventing is because I believe in the value of the horse and how they reach inside a person’s soul. Connecting without words. Bringing humans together through a common bond. Teaching us the real meaning of life and carrying us through storms.
I have met many people who would have ridden a sheep if they didn’t have a horse or who would have walked 8 miles through a former communist country to ride with Olympic hopefuls. These are the people I love to partner with.