Why is winning so dang important? It is not really our fault, actually, this is our society, winning is celebrated on every facet of sport, horses, or not. If we were all in Jamaica, it would be totally different, I am guessing we would all be too high to care about winning. Does winning define me as a person? no. Being a person defines me as being a person. You see it everywhere, though, winning seems to be the answer, in every magazine, all the stories seem to be about the winner, with a couple of do-gooder feely stories sprinkled in between, clients flip-flop around to trainers until they get satisfactory results, or feel like they have the right presence at the in-gate, instructors and clinicians telling you have to look a certain way, ride a certain way, ride to win or don’t bother coming to the party. High school seniors feel like they need the winningest resume to be recruited by colleges. The excuses seem to be ‘well it makes you better horseman if you are the most competitive and winningest person out there’. WRONG. ‘Well, that is what builds character in young people, helping them find their ambition’, no I don’t agree, but ok.
Years ago, I accepted the fact that I would never have enough money for the top tier of our sport so I made the decision to trade in winning for actually learning how to ride. I left home. I went everywhere I could get my foot in the door, and figured out how to do all of the things the top riders were doing and was satisfied with what I eventually came back with. It was a personal decision, and I knew it worked for me to become the best rider I could possibly be, on my own. The rest of it all sort of worked out the way it did, I found my niche, and I carry on with all those young horses around me, go to horse shows, help people that need help, yada, yada, yada. Like everyone else, I love to win, and celebrate when it happens with a party and bottle of wine, but I don’t look for it every day. I can’t, it would make me crazy….
So, why do I get so upset when the fees get raised? Because as a society, we have been so focused in general, as a whole, on winning, we have dropped the fundamentals of how to actually get there, the education. Americans are so guilty of buying their way to the top, it has become a joke around the world. And now I have to pay for someone else’s education. The basics. So in order to actually go to a horse show, have fun, sell my horses, I am now giving an organization money to fill in the gaps we created a long, long time ago. Someone saw the need for it, had a vision, and boom, here we are today. 14 educational programs within the USHJA.
There is no excuse for what we have done, and very little escaping it at this point. The end game is the blue ribbon and the name on the trophy. When I read a quote from a really well known rider, it stunned me “I am so glad for this win, because when you are not winning, no one is thinking of you”. Jeepers, Is that what everyone thinks?? I thought it was ok to just show up, but her words echoed over and over again. It was why our organizations are chasing the cheaters, our manufacturers are spitting out products to give you that edge, it is why knee rolls, and thigh blocks were invented on a saddle, custom bits, drugs, it is why politics exist, it is the core of our sport, right down to the very bottom.
People complain over and over again, about how they worry they can’t break into this sport, so why bother trying, and I hear you, it is hard. But we can’t all win at the same time, we have to accept it is a fluctuating sport, a fluctuating market, wins will pop up here and there and be celebrated, and over time we should probably start worrying about filling those gaps In education ourselves, rather than depending on an organization to do it for us.
I tell people all the time I don’t care about being on the cover of a magazine, it is not the end game for me. That is for someone else, I cannot imagine the pressure of being there. And once you start, you can’t stop. No, my end game is seeing the success in other people because of me, the satisfaction in their achievements allowing them to shine for a while. It works, then I go back and focus on my riding, and doddle along until the next big lucky break. I will eventually calm down and accept the fact that I am being taxed each year for laziness, just as I am in society, but it is sad and frustrating to see it all over the place.
Someone else recognized the need for education and has done a brilliant job in manufacturing the tools to get through to people, and it is probably making a fortune at it. Bernie Traurig. He saw the gaping holes we were creating and really saw an opportunity to help fix it, by developing Equestrian Coach. The whole time he was developing that product, I was mortified we needed it so badly. But he was right, absolutely right, and his answer might be the best one for right now. I have no idea what the future will bring, but, if you want your future horsemen to actually be horsemen, you better start doing something about it right now.
BTW, he credits pony club in his background (just saying)