I laughed, and told him that I didn't place in the first two classes and that I got 7th out of 13 in the third class. He looked down and said "I'm sorry". I wish I would have had twenty more minutes to explain to him that even though I hadn't beaten many people, I still achieved a lot that day.
I think we measure our successes and failures based on a ribbon. and while they are great (and I am staring at a ton of them on my wall right now), it doesn't necessarily show exactly what we accomplished. It is only a placement from a judge. A judge that is different every time, or one that prefers taller people, or higher-stepping horses, or even certain barns.
While it is okay to have healthy competition, your main goal shouldn't be "beating others". Because when you have that mindset, you are putting your attention, communication, and effort on something other than you and your horse. You should ride to "achieve" instead.
As I look back at my ribbons, I am reminded of all of the things that I have achieved this year:
I survived my first ever saddle seat show.
I won my first blue ribbon on a horse I had only ridden a couple of times.
I got to take my first victory lap.
I anticipated a "spook" and stopped it from happening.
I rode in another class, despite getting last place in the first class.
And then I won that second class.
I was able to quickly recover a wrong lead before the judge saw me.
I competed for the first time at walk, trot, and canter.
I showed one of the most challenging horses in the barn.
I didn't win.
But I showed him again, and won.
I kept on, despite a break in gait, or losing a stirrup going into the lineup.
I learned how to cheer on a teammate, even the ones that are my toughest competition.
I learned how to trust my instructor, even when I was afraid.
I competed against a group of some of the 13 most talented riders in the barn.
I survived my first workout/pattern class.
I rode in the mud.
I rode in the scorching sun.
I learned how to google my competition.
I rode, despite being sick.
I didn't win, but I learned how to push through and do my best.
I learned how to be humble.
I learned how to accept defeat.
And now, as I look again at the ribbons and ask myself, who did I beat in each class? I can only remember a few. In fact, on the back of each ribbon I always write what horse I rode and how many people were in each class. I struggle to recall the names, the different barns, the different horses and trainers.
Be competitive. Go for the blue.
But remember, your biggest competition is YOU.