When it comes to horses, “winning” doesn’t just mean a ribbon in the show ring, or a fancy plaque or trophy to set on your bookshelf. Winning is a symbol of achievement – the culmination of days, months, and sometimes years of hard work. Sometimes, in fact, you can win even if you lose…I know, it’s a strange concept, but hear me out. True horsemen don’t always think of the final result (even though beating out all of your competitors is a good feeling), rather they think of besting their own records, goals or performances. This idea works even for those horsemen and horsewomen who don’t even enter the show ring, because we are all working toward “winning”, and it’s the journey that matters most. This is what it means to have the winning attitude.
Stay True to Yourself
I’ve been in the horse industry for a long time, and I’ve been a human being alive on this planet for even longer, and I can tell you that there will always be people out there trying to tell you what you are doing, thinking, or feeling is wrong, inconsequential or simply not worth the effort. There is a fine line between taking the advice of someone you truly admire and changing things that you know in your heart shouldn’t be changed. This is called staying true to yourself, and there is nothing more important than that – if it feels wrong to you, it’s wrong. No one knows you or your horse better than you do, and even the most experienced of trainers or coaches can be wrong. Riding and training is best when it is done with the intention of gathering a lot of information, weeding through that information and taking away the things that you believe will work for your personal situation.
The above can be applied to life, as well. There will always be those people around you who will say or do things that will challenge your beliefs – from the simple, like why you feel uncomfortable doing certain things, to the bigger things, like why there is no possible way you can make it in your chosen career. Often times these people actually mean well; they are giving you knowledge based upon their own personal experiences, but those experiences may differ from yours – they just may not work for you. It’s always a good idea to listen, critically think on what you have been told, and then listen to your gut instincts and make up your own mind. Whether dealing with horses or people, this is the winning attitude.
Work Hard and Don’t Get Discouraged
The honest truth – from someone who has shown against and ridden with some of the top riders in the country – is that no one gets to the top of their game without putting in the effort. I’m sure we’ve all looked at those riders who seem to have and endless cash flow and a bevy of grooms, trainers and the like at their beckon call at all times, and often times they do walk out of the show ring holding the blue ribbon or the championship title…but is this really winning? Is it better to only do the minimum amount of work possible and occasionally “win”, or is it better to put in all of the effort, sweat and tears and come out in second place? That’s a tough question, but it’s one that deserves some thought.
Is second place, third place or even Top Five really losing if you put in a performance that you are happy with and your relationship with your horse is getting stronger? Remember, the winning attitude says that “winning” isn’t always a ribbon or title, it’s a progression of your skills and it’s a manifestation of your personal best. Think of the trail rider who has a spooky horse that in the beginning could barely get down the trail without jumping out of his skin…in three or four months – with the right amount of effort – that rider is able to get down the trail comfortably and happily. Even if that rider and horse aren’t the picture of the perfect “trail team”, they are still winners, because they have gotten passed things together and have progressed. In my book that makes them champions.
Stay Determined, Never Quit
The winning attitude doesn’t know the word “quit”. There is no “giving up” when you are working toward goals that are important to you. There is flexibility, course changes, method changes, but there is never a reason to give up when it comes to your dreams with horses…or your dreams in life. You have all of the power at your fingertips when it comes to “winning”, all that you have to do is stay determined and never quit. When it feels like you can’t make it out of bed and to the barn in the morning, remember what you’re working toward and force yourself to get up; when you’re tired or sore, or just mentally overwhelmed, focus on what you’re trying to accomplish and get out there and do it. Don’t let anything deter you from your goals and dreams, and don’t allow you to be your worst enemy.
So, whether you’re an avid showring exhibitor, an endurance rider, a trail rider, or even just a pleasure rider, remember that all of the above applies equally to all of us across the board. The winning attitude is one that we must all adopt. It means hard work, putting in effort (even when we’re tired, sore, or frustrated), remaining patient, and working toward “long term goals” rather than focusing on the short term. You can get wherever you want to go if you put in the work…so be a winner, because you have it in you!