Winning. What is it really all about? The pinnacle of competition, bringing home the blue or tri-color tells those around you that above all, you’re the best at what you do. But how do you arrive at the point you need to be at in order to find success?
In all likelihood, if you consistently push yourself to be the best you can be, if you strive for perfection in all your endeavors and if you never settle for a mediocre performance, no matter what, you’ll be a winner.
For most of us who compete on a regular basis, the grind of preparation is all part of the big picture -- and without proper prep, an exhibitor won’t find the winner’s circle. You need to be dedicated beyond belief to your horse(s) and your goals, so you’d better have those goals outlined before you ever fill out an entry blank. It all starts with the desire to achieve. If you’ve got a trainer, sit down with her or him and explain what you hope to accomplish with your horse. Otherwise, talk it over with horsey friends who share your show ring enthusiasm. Then design a program to reach the goals you’ve set out for yourself and your horse.
One of the most important aspects of winning is being a good loser. No horse, rider or trainer wins every class every time out. A few come close, but even the best of the best have gotten beat before when the heat was on. Knowing how to handle defeat is vital to being able to conquer the show ring. Even when you don’t place where you think you should, congratulate those who won. With a little luck, you’ll be in their shoes one day soon and will appreciate their graciousness.
Many, many years ago, the first time I ever had the opportunity to show a Saddleseat English horse, I was confronted on the rail, while waiting for our turn in the ring, by a girl in my age bracket with a fancy chestnut horse. My older grey gelding, a former Western horse, was no match for her sleek mount -- who actually looked the part of a flat saddle horse. I nervously glanced at her, then back to my horse, uttering something to the effect of, “This is my first time to show Saddleseat, I hope I don’t get bucked off!” Her retort? “Well, I hope you DO, because I like to WIN!” It’s a moment I will never forget and a moment I sincerely hope most little girls (and boys) never have to endure. By the way, I smiled at her, wishing her good luck...then promptly went out there and beat her, winning the blue ribbon in my first English Pleasure class. Woo hoo!
Nothing ruins a good performance like sour grapes and a poor attitude. Let that also be a life lesson learned. Having a top notch horse, excellent skills and abilities, beautifully made clothes and a lot of money to flaunt it all does not make you a winner. There are many folks out there who seemingly cannot compete with the upper echelon, yet win time and again because of their dedication and spirit. Remember, “winning” isn’t only about what color those ribbons you bring home are. That’s just one facet of being a winner.
Entering the ring with supreme confidence goes a long way toward establishing to the judges and your fellow competitors that you mean business and deserve to win. There you have yet another aspect of the ‘winner’ equation. Couple those with hours of elbow grease and you’ll be well on your way to gaining the altitude necessary to claim your place on the top rung of the horse show ladder.
Showing horses is all about having a good time, win or lose, and doing your best. Sure, it helps to have those things mentioned previously, but many exhibitors have to make due with less than ideal circumstances. How do you overcome such deficiencies? Easy. Well, okay, sometimes easier said than done. Be a realist, but never stop dreaming. Hard work pays off! Every time you think you’ve given all you can to this pursuit, dig a little deeper. For some, just getting an approving glance or a positive mention from a judge constitutes victory. Others thrive on covering their walls with blue ribbons. Whatever path you choose, make certain your actions speak as loud as any words you utter, and most of all that those actions say, “Look at me and see what a winner looks like!” Then you’ll have accomplished that often elusive goal of looking the part.
Congratulations! You’ve made it this far...now get out there and smile!