What Does Success Look Like?

WM BigGirlI was walking a client out of the arena and doing the end-of-lesson list. I talked about the high points of the ride and things that made a positive difference. She has a wonderful young horse who trusts her and they get better every lesson. She told me that over the years, she had never had much success and I was genuinely surprised.

It was a disclaimer of sorts, she affirmed that she wasn’t a giant threat in competitions, but I could tell she loved her horses and enjoyed learning. Like a lot of us, she has worked on her riding for years. Humble and positive- it looks like success to me.

Way back when I started taking riding lessons, I was always comparing myself to other riders. I wanted to know, in some definitive way, where I fit in. To tell the truth, I am in the exact same place now that I was then: somewhere between brilliant and eating dirt. I think on any given day, we’re all right about there.

We are usually our own worst judges. Sometimes the list of challenges and shortcomings is easier to see and the desire to apologize for our horse not being perfect feels like a necessity.

Maybe a good place to begin being successful is to admit we all can’t all be Steffen Peters. There, I said it. That really takes a load off.  Once we let up on comparing ourselves negatively to other riders, success takes a giant stride right towards us.

After we forgive ourselves for our accident of birth, we should consider doing the same for our horses. Some people are forever selling and buying, looking for the perfect horse. I think most horses become perfect when we start to call them that; they certainly reflect everything bad we think of them. Why not perfection?

Sometimes we court failure by believing that if we had more money we could buy that thing we thing we are lacking. If that was true, Donald Trump would be riding for us in the Olympics. Pause here; just the image of that in your head is an attitude adjustment.

Because horses are a great equalizer. You can buy the horse, and the tack and all the extras, but the one thing you can’t buy is the ride. Partnership is not for sale, trust can only be given as a gift, in gratitude.

Do you want success with your horse in 2013? Start simple; remember how you felt about horses way back when you started. If that feeling isn’t still in your heart and all you can do is complain about money, you have my sympathy.

But if that horse-crazy girl is still there, that’s success. If you can walk into the barn and feel your heart expand, that’s success. If watching your horse run in turnout still takes your breath away, that’s success.

“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.”  ― Willa Cather.

Passion and a positive thought are free, and when used generously, success with your horse is an obstacle too large to avoid. See success as a tendency, more than a destination, and you are there already.

Are my standards of success too broad? Prove it.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

14 comments on “What Does Success Look Like?

  1. foodiemax says:

    Anna, JUST the kind of post I needed to read this morning. I’ve been thinking a lot about success these days, personally, and in what I hope for my future as a “crazy horse girl.” I don’t have a horse right now as I’m deploying in July and didn’t want to start and stop in the months between arriving here and then. So I’m thinking about what I want to buy and what I want to think is “success” to help shape that buy. And applying that to my own life….a balance between financial security and personal satisfaction…a lot of fodder for the brain. Thanks for positively pushing my direction of thought.–Max

  2. Good read, Thank you! Love the Willa Cather quote too. Here is another – “Happiness, to be dissolved into something complete and great” – Willa Cather

  3. Donald Trump Does Dressage – now there’s an image that made me smile. What would he wear on his head?! Sometimes all it takes to feel like a success is a kind, positive word from someone whose opinion you value, as you did for your client. I’ve known so many teachers who think that disparagement is some kind of encouragement – fortunately now an out-moded method :-)

  4. zanzanaglob says:

    Thank you for this great post. It is simply perfect when you say “Somewhere between brilliant and eating dirt” about riding and horses. Personally I don’t have the possibility to own a horse, so it is a real treasure for me when I manage to get to the riding center. In fact, what I really miss is not the exclusive property of a horse, but the fact to have more time to spend with them, doing something for their pleasure, not just taking care of my riding…

  5. designerchick2 says:

    Thank you for this post, says the 45 year old horse crazy girl. I consider my partnership with my mare Electra a huge success. Not for the ribbons won, but for the trust, love and knowing in my heart and my gut that we have an unbreakable bond and we take care of each other. I needed this post today, as I have been out of the saddle due to a bad car accident two months ago. Initially I was bummed that this season (which was going to be our debut at the rated shows) is out and the past few years of training were shot. But after getting being showered with nickers and kisses on my first visit after the accident I knew that we were already champions. You cannot buy that kind of partnership and you cannot buy love.

  6. designerchick2 says:

    Exactly. Silly human that I am, I was worried she would be mad at me, or worse – indifferent. Boy was I wrong. Moreover, Electra who tends to be on the hot side intuitively knew I was hurt. When I hand walked her she tip toed at the slowest walk I have ever witnessed. No trying to graze or frisky mare behavior. When I stopped to rest, she put her head on my shoulder and looked me in the eye with that wise knowing expression.

  7. mellchan says:

    What a nice message to take home at the end of the day!

  8. heccateisis says:

    Yes! Thank is so true. It is about partnership.

  9. One horse crazy girl, still here. (Jumping up and down.)
    You nailed it. I get so frustrated by my riding at times. I’m not interested in showing. (I just want to ride as if I *could* show, make the horse comfortable, and place.) That said, my horse has been taking care of me for the last year. Like designerchick said, they do know, and do know what we need. I needed affection, got that. I also needed to be pushed into ‘keep moving’. Got that too. :) thank God for my pushy, insistent gelding!

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