Life Lessons From the Competitive Horse Industry
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Life Lessons From the Competitive Horse Industry

Pick yourself up off the ground, get back in the saddle, and try again.

Life Lessons From the Competitive Horse Industry
James Burgun

What do you do when you fail before you even cross the starting line?

You get back in the saddle, of course!

At this point in my life, I've been horseback riding for almost eight years. I've gone to countless shows and fallen off more times than I care to admit. I've gotten to a point where I now know what to expect from a horse-show. Much like life, however, it didn't start out that way.

My first memorable horse showing experience was at the Limestone Creek Hunt Club in a big field. The horse? A 15.1 hands-high, ex-racehorse with no shortage of sass and a passion for life that matched my own. I was all grins, so excited to be showing in a class where I would get to jump two fences.

The time came for my trusty steed, Nobel, and I to warm up before our class. I clambered up into the saddle from the bed of a pickup truck and headed off at the trot to warm up before our class. In the warm-up "ring," really just a wide open field, there was one jump that utilized some hay bales. I thought nothing of it because obviously Nobel had seen them before and wouldn't be bothered. While we were cantering around, the seemingly innocent bale of hay must have grown fangs. In the blink of an eye Nobel was bucking sideways and I became a lawn dart.

I was mortified. I'd fallen off in the warm-up, failed before I even started. I was sitting there in the grass while Nobel grazed nonchalantly next to me. The class was starting soon, so I stood up, grabbed the reins and got back in the saddle. I was nervous, but I didn't have time to freak out because the class was starting. I made myself take a few deep breaths, gave and Nobel and myself a mini pep talk, and into the ring we went.

The class was rough, I was one of the newest riders in the class and I was worried about having fallen off right before entering the ring. The first part of the class went off without a hitch. When the judge asked us to line up for the jumping portion, things started to get interesting. The girl in line ahead of me, a girl I rode with every week, got nervous and moved so that I was first in line. The judge told me what I had to do, just jump the two fences and then halt after them, and I set off. I used the world's smallest circle (sorry, Nobel) to attempt to line us up straight to the fence. Nobel, being his usual peppy self, took the 12-inch fence like it was three times the size. We then proceeded to charge full-speed ahead to the next fence, jump it like a rabbit, and then buck before halting about two yards to the left of where we were supposed to. Needless to say, it was not the glorious, graceful first attempt that my trainer and parents had been hoping for.

As for me, I couldn't care less that we didn't place. I had fun. I'd gotten back on and done something I'd never done before, and I hadn't died. In my book, that was a pretty good day. Falling off at the beginning of the day - something I had perceived as a failure - made this accomplishment feel so much better. The major takeaway I obtained from this experience was that it's okay to mess up, as long as you are failing forward and treating your mistakes as lessons.

In the horse world and in life, the things we view as failures are actually chances to learn and grow. It's okay to be upset or afraid if you mess up before you pass go. What's important is that you pick yourself up off the ground, get back in the saddle, and try again.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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