In our teenage years, we're finding out what makes us tick, and thinking about what we want to be, and do, when we grow up. In our 20s, we're locked away in the library, slaving away at the university, trying to become educated and gain experience in our chosen field. Then in our 30s, we're bringing our best to the table as we strive to climb the corporate ladder and carve out our intended career paths. And when we reach our 40s, we stop to take a deep breath, relaxing just a bit, as we walk the path we’ve spent so much time and diligence constructing. It’s generally not until our 50s that we find ourselves lying in bed, staring up at ceiling, wondering where the time went, and now that the kids are grown, what the next chapter of our lives hold in store. It’s during these times of reflection, that we try to pinpoint our true passions, and how we can turn that passion into a profit. Of course if you are one of the lucky few whose career aspirations and passion intertwined at the very beginning, then perhaps this particular quandary is a tad bit difficult for you to relate to; but for many, I think this sequence of events pretty much sums it up.
But what about the extreme cases, the ones that don’t fit so nicely into a box. What if you knew what you wanted to do, had landed a nice, steady, and challenging job, were able to continue pursuing your passion activities during your free time, but became faced with a decision to stop it all, and begin again? Would you be brave enough? I’m sure that we all would like to think that we would, but when it actually came down to it, how many of us would truly find the courage to reinvent ourselves at the age of 50, or even before that at the budding age of 25?
Anna Skippon was this extreme case. She’d grown up in the UK, studied at the university, and had landed a secure yet challenging job working with troubled youth to find ways of redirecting their motives and energy into positive activities that would build character and independence. She had always been passionate about horses and pursued these activities in her spare time, and was happily surrounded by family and friends. But as life is anything but predictable, and situations can change in the blink of an eye, she was faced with the choice of moving to Luxembourg, and leaving it all behind.
Not sure of what employment she would pursue, but knowing what she loved and what she was good at, she put up self-made flyers advertising horse riding lessons for young children.
Luxembourg is full of horse enthusiasts who pursue the sport, however the youngest age that the schools accept is children of 8 years old. And instead of seeing this as a deterrent, Anna saw this niche market as an opportunity for growth, and decided to launch her own business. She started out teaching riding to one child after school, and before she knew it, in just a few weeks, had to turn people away as she had reached her maximum capacity of 50 children, and a subsequent waiting list of 50 more.
The children range from 2 to 12 years, and are offered a time slot once per week while school is in session. The kids are then divided into groups of no more than 4 children, and the duration of the lessons depend on the age group of the children. For the 2 year olds, some of them are being introduced to horses for the very first time. The sessions last around 30 minutes, during which time they are encouraged to let go of their parents hand, walk with Anna towards the horse, and brush it on their own. And if they are willing, are taken for a short ride around the ring. Anna encourages the parents to have realistic expectations with these sessions, which are intended to teach the children lessons in independence, while facing and overcoming their fears.
For the older riders, the sessions generally last 1.5 hours, where each child is responsible for preparing the horse before and after they ride, and the actual riding session lasts around 50 minutes. It is imperative that each child learn how to properly care for the horse, which teaches the children a sense of responsibility and accountability, and no child can simply just show up to class and expect to start riding.
Working with children has its challenges, but as Anna has gained experience working with both young and old, she is confident in knowing what to say and how to say it. She has a patient disposition paired with the right sense of discipline, and encourages her riders through praise and recognition. The parents of her pupils are extremely pleased with her methods, which is demonstrated through their dedication to enrollment in the school. In some cases, Anna started teaching children at the age of 2, when she first began, that have continued their training for the entire two years that she has been established. Anna has no plans of slowing down, and in fact is relocating and expanding her school in September 2016. She aims to double her current capacity, continue to build up her clientele, and expand her team as she is currently operating alone.
Anna is now 27, has been in business for 2 years, and is one of those lucky people who have succeeded in combining their passion and profession. And looking back now on her decision to move, she wouldn’t have had it any other way. She is one of the select few that found the courage to reinvent herself before the cracks of the ceiling became etched in her memory. In my book she serves as a pillar of inspiration and is someone to be admired. She took the reins of her life at age 25, stepped up into the saddle, and never looked back.
|Anna Skippon is the founder of Baybees Riding School|