We all know there isn’t one single way to succeed. Heck, the definition of the word “succeed” is going to be different for every person you talk to. It’s finding breakthroughs with a challenging horse, or tackling a difficult course in a lesson, or finally getting the dang rain rot to go away altogether. It’s getting ribbons at shows, or it’s building a connection, or it’s getting the confidence to try a new discipline. I could go on endlessly- and for most people I know, success is some blend of many different things that is constantly shifting over time.
So what does success look like to me right now- and what does it not look like?
As someone who loves to compete, part of my success looks like doing well at horse shows. It looks like being able to give my horse a thorough and efficient warmup, setting him up to perform well on course, riding my plan, being bold with some more assertive inside turns, and finding the right balance between softly allowing Frankie to do his job vs. surrounding him and providing him the support he needs to attack the course.
Success to me does not look like ribbons. I’ve gotten good ribbons for courses that I rode poorly- I got lucky and my horse bailed me out. I’ve had trips that felt extraordinarily competent- smooth, deliberate, efficient, and incredibly in tune with my horse- where an unlucky rail kept us out of the ribbons. I’ll never be mad about getting a ribbon, but I can walk away from a show without any ribbons and still feel satisfied with our accomplishments.
Success also looks like a happy horse. I don’t do this sport for a living- I’m an amateur. I do it for fun. For me, a cranky horse is not fun. I consider myself successful when I’m able to provide the care necessary for Frankie to be comfortable in performing his job, which leads to him being happy to go play the game. Success is teaching him the rules of the game and being consistent, so that he is able to confidently navigate the ring. I feel like a total winner when I feel him lock on to a jump and ask to carry me to it.
Success looks like individualizing our program to build on Frankie’s strengths, knowing that the skills he needs to develop are not the same as the other horses in the barn, and the way we work on them may not be the same. It’s lots of fitness work because he’s a chunkaroo at heart, it’s hand walks at shows to give him fresh air when he’s stuck in a stall, and it’s getting in his way a little to tell him the right answer when we’re schooling.
It does not look like being good at just one thing. Yes, our efforts are focused mainly in the jumper ring- but we enjoy hacking out, we’ve practiced our polish in the equitation ring, and we regularly ride with the hunters to practice nice smooth steady courses. He’s a wonderful show horse, but only because I ask him to be. Part of enjoying our partnership means enjoying different ways of working together.
Overall, success to me means improving our skills as a team so that we can go on adventures together with confidence in our abilities to navigate whatever comes up!
Your turn- what looks like success to you for where you are in your journey right now?