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What is Success to You

What Is Success To You?

I love to read and have ever since I was a kid. My Kindle is amongst my most prized possessions and one of my favorite things about traveling is being able to add new books to my eReader. Recently, I branched out from my usual favorite fictional genres and began reading a personal development book entitled Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for SUCCESS by G. Richard Shell.

The book takes a scientific and academic approach to defining “success” and includes inspiring stories of people who have found their own brand of this elusive American Dream. While I found the book a bit dense, there have been some truly intriguing nuggets of knowledge that I’ve found myself pondering lately. What is success? How do I achieve it? While this question is really difficult for me to answer for certain aspects of my life [like what I want to do with my professional career], I found it much easier to answer for others [like what a successful marriage would look like to me].

G Richard Shell

But I’d like to hear from you: what is success in terms of your equestrian pursuits? In the second chapter of Springboard, Shell says:

 …Most realize intellectually that success is more than just a list of achievements. When I press them to say what that something is, they almost always say ‘it’s about happiness.’ Then I push them to go one step further and define what they mean by happiness. And that’s where it starts to get really interesting.

It’s interesting to think about this quote as an equestrian and I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing; ribbons are fleeting successful moments to me, not the overall definition of true and lasting success. So what then makes me a successful equestrian? I thought about the times in my horsey life when I felt most successful and a common theme emerged: experiencing a moment of brilliance after a lot of hard work.

key to success

For example, in a lesson last summer I remember going to a 2’3″ oxer and I hit that perfect distance and we sailed over. The jump felt amazing and I could tell that I’d done everything right going up to that one fence: I got the correct pace during the approach, closed my leg at the base, kept my body centered in the air and it all culminated in a jump that my trainer praised as “the best jump she’d ever seen Miles and I have.” But when I think about that moment more, I realized it was more than just what I did in the moments immediately preceding that jump that allowed me to achieve my best jump ever. I’d worked all winter and summer to condition both myself and Miles to peak fitness; I’d worked tirelessly to build our relationship and learn how to ride this horse to the best of my ability.

I can name dozens of experiences just like this, with Miles and other horses, in hacks, lessons and horse shows, where I felt supremely successful; like I’d finally made it. This led me to realize that I define success and happiness with horses as dedicated, hard work culminating in a moment of brilliance. For me, it’s important to remember this adage when things aren’t going quite so well and it helps me keep perspective in and out of the show ring.

How do you define success as an equestrian?

What is Success to You


Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

19 thoughts to “What Is Success To You?”

  1. I love what you define as success! With Estella being my first baby horse and buying her as a “clean” slate, I can definitely relate! To this day every time she offers her leg for me to pick her feet or she puts her head through the blanket hole, I am reminded of how hard I worked for those things and LOVE the feeling of my hard work paying off.

    Success for me is simply summed up by a Ray Hunt quote, “When you ask your horse to do something, he wants to do it, he likes to do it, he understands how to do it, and he does it.” When my horse understands what I want and is WILLING to do it for me, THAT is success :).

  2. Love this post. I don’t show, so no ribbons to say that I’ve succeeded. I just have to rely on my horse. My big moments of success were when Red started collecting himself, and properly using his body. I can remember so well the big, goofy smile on my face when he started jogging and doing an extended trot. As trivial as it may seem, we overcame something that no one else could get him to. (plus it made the trot wayyyy better, lol.)

    The second and third times were perhaps my favorite – when we rode tackless for the first time, and when he joined up for the first time. Magical moments that proved to me that doing liberty was so so worth it, and so was my hard work with it. And both times have impacted our whole horse/rider relationship. Majorly. 🙂

  3. Great post! Success to me is making sure my boys are loved, and are happy. I like to keep it simple. My most important role in life is being a wife and mama. Everything else is secondary. Have a great day!

  4. I have been trying to figure out what success looks like in my life lately! It can be as simple as happy horses and happy husband but I do have some goals that would make me pretty happy.

  5. This does sound like a good book. I was just talking to my roomie the other day about all her little successes with her mare this year, how she’s jumping lower than before but instead has a reliable half halt, and when she has a runout isn’t paralysed with fear any more. I think it’s very good to think of success outside of our typical definition!

  6. This is a tough one – without concrete goals (show at X level or compete in X) I don’t have a good barometer of success. I guess just being able to enjoy myself. If I’m having fun, I’m good.

  7. Your first commenter prompted a memory of my first ‘baby’ horse. She was a just-backed four year old that I bought ‘off the farm’ – literally, she and her dam were the only two horses on a dairy farm in West Cork. She was not easy to load, we ended up backing the trailer up to the stable door, barricaded the sides of the ramp and four of us literally pushed her into it from one end and pulled her into from the other.
    A couple of months later, I had planned her first day out – I would trailer her to a riding school for a lesson. I debated setting up the same way again, back the trailer up to the stable door etc but I thought no, she’s really connected to me, I’ll just try like I would any horse. She strolled sweetly up the ramp beside me and I thought my heart would burst with pride in what I had achieved in those short few months. A success like that means more than any amount of ribbons or trophies ever could.

  8. I define success as achieving a goal. I am VERY goal oriented; I have many goals, but they tend to be really small. I need to feel successful regularly, or I am not very happy. I’ve found that by having lots of little goals, I feel successful most of the time which gives me confidence. That makes me think of your post from yesterday. When I find that things aren’t going so well in my riding, I make a goal that is really small and achievable in a very short time. Maybe Miles needs to feel some quick success to help him feel better about his job.

    I am riding the neighbor’s horse for her while she recovers from some issues. He’s a lovely boy, but he’s been ridden by a lot of people and can be pretty lazy and unmotivated. We hatched out a plan to take him on a group trail ride at the end of the month. He’ll need to load in my trailer to drive to the venue. Since she’s only had him 6 months or so, she didn’t know how he’d load so we picked a quiet afternoon for some practice. He hopped right in, fumbled around while unloading and then re-loaded and unloaded perfectly.

    On the walk back to the barn, he had the most incredible swagger. You could see it all over his face; he was PROUD of himself. He really thought he had gone somewhere and was happy knowing he had done whatever it was well. Maybe Miles needs to feel successful too. :0)

  9. My definition of success would be walking away from any ride- show or lesson- feeling like my horse and I are a team- that we have a true partnership. That I trust them explicitly and they trust me. It’s the BEST feeling!

  10. i think about this topic a lot – usually in very small ways. when something isn’t working with the horse and i want to correct it, i try to think: ‘what is the response i’m asking for? what must the horse do for me to release pressure?’ thinking like that helps keep me objective and on-task.

    it kind of follows the idea that horses ‘learn in the release’ – but i think that can be extrapolated to people too. when i go to an event or a lesson, or even just a schooling ride: what outcome do i need to feel like we did what we set out for? what do i need to feel that ‘release from pressure’?

    the flip side to this tho is that i don’t tend to have well-defined long-term goals or plans, as they’re a bit overwhelming haha. the little things tend to work well for me tho, so i’m ok with it 🙂

  11. For me success with horses is all about that connection. Oh, not from hands to bit – from one heart to another. It’s about that intriguing and inexplicable thing that the equine heart does to the human soul. To build a friendship so intense with this wonderful and wordless creature that words become too clumsy for communication – that’s success. Horse and person, both enjoying what they do, both doing it for one another. Call me sentimental, but I find that willingness to do anything for their person to be the purest way a horse can love.

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