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].
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.
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?