Monday, January 23, 2017

What to Do When the Odds are Stacked Against You

It seems to be that time of year again.  The time when little children are surprised with their first (or fourth) horse, when horses are leased and bought, when teams are being formed for the new year. These people would get to practice with their new partner all year--while I will most likely find out in September who my Nationals partner will be.

The odds are stacked against me.

I am only in my second season showing at the canter, and this is only my third season and third year riding saddleseat.   I am an adult, which means I don’t learn as fast as some of the younger riders.  

The odds are stacked against me.

I am shorter, my legs a little less “defined” than a lot of other riders.  I am slightly more curvy than some of the other riders, though I am working on it.    My neck is a little shorter and my jaw does this really weird thing when I am focusing really hard.

The odds are stacked against me.

This time last year, I only rode once a week.   I didn’t begin riding multiple times a week until a couple of months before Nationals.

The odds are stacked against me.

I do not have the nicest clothes, I don’t own my own saddle.  I lose my show gloves at least once a month.

The odds are stacked against me.

I didn’t make it past the second round last year at nationals, despite giving it everything I had.   

So why do I continue, even though the odds seem so insurmountable?    

Because I have two choices.  Give up, and let doubt control my life or work harder, stronger, smarter than everyone else.   It has been said that doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.  It is true. We do not know what we will look like when we reach our full potential.   And I think that scares us.  Makes us wonder if the work is really worth it.  Because, no matter how hard you work, you will also fail, many many times.   Muhammad Ali failed many times, yet he is still considered the greatest.    How good we are, and what kind of person we are is shown by how well we rise after falling.     If you work hard at something, and truly enjoy it, then you will inevitably become good at it.   

So how do you work harder?   Volunteer.   Work for lessons.   Watch lessons when you can’t afford to take another one this week.   Tune in to live feeds of shows across the country.   Ask questions.  Ride whatever you’re given, and don’t pout when you don’t get to ride the “fancy” horse every week.    Be a good sportsman.   Say thank you.    Pet your horse when he’s done a good job, and don’t punish the horse--or yourself for a bad ride.   Embrace your faults, but work to make them better.    Join a gym.   Buy or borrow exercise equipment.   Ask more questions.  Learn theory, and the “why” of what we do.  Know every part of the equipment and their function.  And when you think you have learned everything and done everything you can, ask more questions.  And most importantly, find the courage to try again, even after failing.   

So when the odds are stacked against you, when it seems like there is no hope in sight, keep going.    Embrace that moment, when you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.    That, truly is where you will find yourself.   

Everything you want is on the other side of fear.