It’s the end of a few crazy weeks. Pinto World Championship and Appaloosa National are over and I could not be happier with how they went, both of my horse came home with championships and more importantly I, and my horses, met and surpassed accomplishments that people said would never happen. To me the latter is a bigger win than the things you get trophies and ribbons for. Some say that makes me strange. I think it makes me who I am.
I have been thinking about the definition of winning for a while. I saw a Chad Prather video not that long ago (https://www.facebook.com/watchchadprather/videos/1935394733162107/ ) and at first what he said bothered me. I don’t believe that the most important thing is getting the trophy or blue ribbon every time but I felt in my gut there was more to his message.
Don’t get me wrong, when I heard my name called as the Pinto World Champion I bawled, it is an amazing feeling to be recognized for how hard you have worked, but I also cried when my mare won 5th place in her Hunter in Hand class. As I thought about why Chad’s video bothered me so much, it hit me, he is right winning should always be the goal, but what makes people different is how they define winning.
For most people winning is being the best among other people, it is coming in first, it is being the best when measured by others. The problem I have with that definition is two-fold. First it means someone outside of you gets to subjectively set your goal for you and secondly it total ignores the effort level or amount of work you have put it.
Riding and horses is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Where school, work and intellectual challenges come super easy for me, physical things are really hard. Some of the difficulty comes from the nerve damage and lasting issues I have from being so sick in the 90’s, but even without that, I have zero sense of rhythm, I have terrible coordination and balance, I have a very slow path between my brain and my body movements and those have always been. So learning to ride, not starting until after I was 40, and doing it well enough to not make a fool of myself (or my trainer) takes more for me than most of the people I compete against. This comes anything but naturally to me. Add in that I love pattern classes yet have no functional depth perception and love ground pattern classes and trip over my own two feet and on paper my trainer should run screaming from me. But one thing I know is you don’t get to choose what you are passionate for and thank god I am as stubborn as they come, because I am willing to put in the work, no matter how long it takes, to reach my goals. And I am blessed now to have a trainer who is willing to do the same.
And maybe it is how hard this comes, but I find victory and celebration and my WINS even when the judges don’t call me off the wall or place my horse as high as others would want to be. I came in 3rd in showmanship at Pinto World, to me that was a massive victory. That pattern called for a level of symmetry that frankly is beyond my ability because of my depth perception and that we managed to do well enough (even with a major flaw on my part at what should have been the simplest part of the class) was like winning the Olympics to me. To me I won. Is that what the judges card says, is that what my ribbon says, is that what will be published, but to me I won. I did better than I have ever done before, I beat my own goal for myself (which in that class was don’t be last) and in looking at the score sheets the part that scared me the most I did really well. That is how I measure winning, am I doing things I couldn’t do before, am I being things better than I did last time, am I always pushing myself and my horses to the next level or next challenge.
Winning for me is about goals, about having them, about reaching them, and about smashing them. This goal mentality also can lead me to boredom fast though. I tend to have a goal bucket list and once something is met I am mentally off to the next goal, even if I could easily repeat what I did and ‘win’ (in the traditional sense) again and again. That isn’t me and probably never will be. I will always want to win, I think the video is right, we should always want to win, but I think it is important to have your own definition of winning and to stay true to it. No matter what others may say or expect or how your wins may let them down. I have used the phrase before, know your own crazy. I am adding a new phrase, know when you are winning!