Anytime you throw horses into the mix (or any animal or human being for that matter), however, things get a little more complicated. Horses are often good teachers of sportsmanship and patience.
Sometimes, even with all the practice and preparation in the world, you still won’t achieve the results you expected.
After showing horses for more than 18 years, I’ve come to realize that success often isn’t measured in blue ribbons, belt buckles, and high point prizes. Success often comes in the small accomplishments that occur as the result of long, hard work.
You could say I learned this the hard way. When I was about 12 years old, my mom graduated me up from my “push-button” horse, Pony, to a green, but broke 5-year-old mare. Hope became my project horse and you could say we had our struggles. Hope helped me learn the importance of practice and patience. I can remember many times when I would get frustrated because we missed leads, spooked at a random imaginary object in the ring, or failed to complete part of a pattern. Over time, as we grew and learned how to work together, we started doing better in the show ring. Step by step, we accomplished our goals and the hard work started paying off.
I continued to show Hope in local and regional horse shows until she was 19 years old. Arthritis slowly started taking its toll on her joints, and we decided to let her retire to the pasture. At that point, I started the journey all over again with a young green horse – Hope’s half-sister, Roo.
Fast forward a couple of years.
In my last blog post, I mentioned the struggles that I have been having with Roo, my 6-year-old mare, when it comes to neck reining. The show this past weekend was our first show this year, and the first time I would ride her single-handed in a curb bit. My one goal for the show: survival – simply entering the ring and exiting the ring on top of the horse. No real high expectations for placing or even earning a blue – just surviving.
My next goal for Roo is to continue polishing what she already knows about neck reining, and to eventually help her understand that "lope" or "canter" does not mean hand-gallop at full speed! Slowly, but surely, we'll get there. One day at a time.
So what’s the point I’m getting at, you ask? If you’ve just started working with a new or young horse, set goals and work progressively toward them. Don’t be disappointed with setbacks, or when things don’t come to fruition as quickly as you want. Whether you are a novice or a pro in the show ring, don’t focus solely on the blue ribbon. Focus on what you and your horse can achieve together, and I guarantee it will be a much more fun experience for both of you. Plus, you might even learn a thing or two along the way!