2020 unfortunately was not the greatest year, obviously. It had its good moments, but overall it was pretty shite. I kind of knew it wasn’t going to be a good year in January when Eve had her horrible abscess that required me to wrap her hoof every day for 8 weeks. She got better in February which is also when I got a well paying cushy job with health insurance (because I low key was scared I wouldn’t have any – yay America!) and I began to think 2020 would be our year. Nope!
I had a ton of plans for 2020 that I wasn’t able to do. In 2019, I kind of took on less horse shows to shoot because I had been completely burnt out from it. I loved the photos I took from shows, but I absolutely hated the long hours in the freezing cold/burning hot (horse shows are on average 8 hours, but some have lasted for 12!), the long travel (shows are anywhere from 1-8 hours away from me) and the long editing hours and storage space I needed for all of it.
I had been spending almost every weekend at one or two horse shows in 2018. I forced myself to do it because I thought it’s what I had to do to be successful (spoiler alert: it’s not). I was forcing myself to put in these long hours with little payoff (click here to read how hard it was to shoot Kentucky). I finally had enough and decided to take a break and think about what it was that I really wanted to shoot. I cut back on the horse shows and shot photos at hockey games instead for the 2019-2020 season. My Instagram took a hit. My entire audience is horse related, so by not going to horse shows and posting content, my follower count dropped. I became irrelevant which was one of the reasons I forced myself to shoot Kentucky the second time in 2019 because I got so much exposure from it, I felt I’d be irrelevant if I didn’t go. My Instagram wasn’t even for me anymore. I was shooting horse shows to please the people I was shooting. I’d post a photo I liked, and if it didn’t get likes, I never posted a photo like that again. It’s hard to be proud of your photography when the likes don’t reflect it.
I don’t think it ever impacted my mental health – I was never depressed if my photos didn’t get likes. But it did make me question what kind of photography made me happy. I kept seeing my horse show photos get a ton of likes and trend – especially from the bigger shows – but did I want to keep shooting that? Horse show photography burnt me the hell out. I couldn’t keep churning out that kind of content every weekend like I had before. It would break me. So when I planned on going to a few shows in 2020 to get back in the game – I’m not glad they were canceled, but I think I really needed that forced break to kind of step back and re-evaluate where my photography was going.
In 2021, I’m going to shoot more for myself instead of for other people. I kind of already started to do that these past couple months. I do still want to go to some horse shows, but on my own terms. I learned that I like horse shows in small doses. I’ve been shooting since 2016 – so even though I’m technically a professional, it’s still a journey I’ve been navigating. I found out in 2017 that I loved shooting hockey, so what other sports will I like shooting that I haven’t shot yet? (Assuming sports are even a thing in 2021 – I swear if hockey gets canceled again I will drive to Canada to find a team if I have to.)
I barely touched my camera in 2020 sadly, and I really missed it. I missed it so much. Photography will always be a part of my life no matter what. But what I shoot will probably keep changing based on my interests, which means that the Instagram I have now will probably change too. And I’ll lose followers, but that’s ok. One thing I learned in 2020 is to just not care about Instagram in terms of likes/follows. I’ve spent the better part of 2 years trying to post what people wanted – to get likes, follows, comments – that sweet, sweet engagement. But it really doesn’t matter. Obsessing over my Instagram didn’t make me happy. It made me anxious. I have new goals for 2021. I just want to be happy and stay happy.
2020 with all the canceled events allowed me to spend more time with Eve. I don’t know if people know this – but most should – she’s a living fossil. Her days are numbered. And yes I see her every other day (or everyday in January/February because I had to wrap her hoof EVERY. DAY.), but it’s not really quality time with your horse when you’re only going to see them to treat their injuries. That’s not fun at all. There’s nothing more emotionally conflicting than when you feel your pride and joy of a horse has become a burden with all of their mishaps. And it’s not their fault, but it’s not like you can just take a break and walk away for your mental health. So it’s exhausting in that regard. How exhausting? Read about it here. The beginning of this year I was taking care of Eve’s hoof everyday for 8 weeks, then I was seeing her everyday once we moved to take care of her eye and to complete barn chores. When I wasn’t with Eve caring for her eye or doing chores, I was stressing about finding a new barn to move Eve to and working full time during a pandemic. It was hellacious.
It wasn’t until July 2020 when Eve moved that I was finally able to enjoy just having a horse. Her hoof was better, her eye was better, we had stability finally. We rode more this year than we ever have in her “retirement.” We explored our new barn, rode a bit, made some new horsey friends (and a horsey boyfriend…) and it was just really chill. And I think we needed some chill. Of course Eve had to go and stab herself with a nail that required a vet visit and briefly ruined our chill, but we got our chill back a few weeks later. We have been through a lot this year. Eve will be 30 in April; I just turned 27. I have some new goals for us, some new plans. I know that nothing is ever for certain, and what I think might be my plan now might completely change in a few months. And that’s ok. I truly, truly believe everything happens for a reason – even the horrible things that happen to us. And I only believe that because out of all the horrible things Eve and I have been through, we both made it out on the other side ok – maybe with a few scars (Eve, quite literally), but we made it. I don’t know how long I’ll have Eve for. It could be a week. It could be 12 more years (god help me). But whatever happens, happens. I’m just here to make the most of it. 2020 for sure set the new bar for lowest point possible, so let’s hope 2021 doesn’t try to beat that record.