In recent years, I've become a little tired of city life. I used to live in Berlin, but when you're traveling around all the time to major metropolitan cities, it gets to be a bit much. I wanted to live in a completely different way than I do when I travel for poker tournaments, so I moved to a house in the countryside. The house is on 10 hectares of land in the middle of a forest with no neighbors in sight. It's just me, my spaniel, Churchill (he's my mojo), and my horse.
Well, to be honest, I don't keep the horse stabled on my property. But he's not that far away - maybe 10 minutes at most. And he's completely changed my life.
I don't even know how this all started. I guess I was searching for a new challenge besides poker and had the opportunity to go horseback riding. A few rides convinced me to learn more about how to handle a horse, rather than just trotting across fields and through forests.
Never one to do something halfway, I bought an 8-year-old Spanish stallion named Amadeus a few weeks later. Because of him, I now try to play more poker tournaments in the winter and the spring so I can reserve as much time as possible in the summer for training. When I'm home, I spend five days a week at the stables, usually for about three hours each day.
Riding Amadeus gives me this feeling of freedom and adventure that is almost intoxicating. To me it's the complete opposite of sitting at a poker table. I love poker, but at horse tournaments I meet people who have fascinating lives that are so different from my own. That's not always true in poker, where a lot of us tend to come from similar online-grinding backgrounds.
In January I spent three weeks in Andalusia, Spain training every day. Back home in Germany I'm trying to apply what I learned there with Amadeus. I know a lot of horsemanship, so I think that we're developing a strong bond. It helps that he's 8 years old. Before 8, they're too young, kind of like a teenager fighting against her parents. But from 8 to 14, they're the perfect age for tournaments.
I'm training in a mix of different disciplines - jumping and dressage and some cross-country too. I'd love to compete in the german working equitation championship (beginner level) at the end of the year. My sights are currently set on a small tournament in Germany in May. From there we'll see.
I know these riding tournaments won't make me as rich as winning an EPT might, but the rewards of being on my horse more than make up for that. I'm happy that I made the move to the countryside, because I'd never have been able to find the same sense of freedom and adventure in Berlin.
Sandra Naujoks is a member of Team PokerStars Pro