Our son's story has less to do with overcoming challenges than with finding and taking advantage of opportunities. He was riding a pony (bareback) before he could walk, but though he always rode, mostly on borrowed horses/ponies, he only got fired up for dressage at 14 when, accompanying me to a show, as usual, he took note of a friend and me finishing a hack class on a hot July day, drenched in sweat, and said, "Wow. That is hard work!" And being into challenges, he ate, slept and, for all I know, dreamt, dressage from then on. By then we had horses of our own, and he had taken over the ride on my mare. Showing was always his decision and responsibility: if he wanted to compete, he paid for lessons, made sure his horse and his tack were clean, and we learned our tests together. Coaching was hard to come by. I taught him what I knew, and then passed him on to the friend who was coaching me.
He did the usual "boy" things, hung out with friends, played pick-up hockey and little league ball, took music lessons. But his main focus was dressage. If that was ever a problem, we never knew about it. As one of only 2 boys competing in the junior classes, he was the focus of attention of the female riders in his age group!
When he went off to university, we looked up a dressage barn nearby, and he quickly found an "in" there. In one of his early phone class home, he exclaimed, "Mom, Dad, I love this sport! It's ninety per cent women in tight pants!" He took lessons,schooled horses for other people, and nearly flunked out. Before he was actually asked to leave the university, he accepted a position as working student for one of the clinicians who came to the barn on a regular basis. By then he was 20, and it was a perfect time to take the opportunity to see if this was an avenue he wanted to pursue. He worked hard, was exposed to some first-rate trainers (rode in at least one clinic with Charles de Kunffy on a client's horse), and learned a lot: most importantly, that while he loved horses and riding, this wasn't the way he wanted to make a living. He was a working student for a year and a half, then went on to another job, while still riding for clients he had met while working as a student.
Eventually he went back to school, graduated, and went to graduate school. By now, life and work and a family take up too much time for him to ride. But dressage opened doors and opportunities for him and, I dare say, kept him out of some of the trouble he might have got into during his teen years. With luck, one day he may be able to take up riding again.