As I opened up my Facebook this morning, I was greeted by a “See Your Memories” photo that I posted exactly one year ago today. This photo was of my horse getting settled in St. Louis, Missouri for a show that I had very much been looking forward to. We traveled 12 hours to get to St. Louis and my horse had been going very well leading up to it. This would be my first time competing under my current trainer so I was eager to do well.

But, as is always the case when working with horses, things did not go as I had planned. To put it simply, it was not good. At the end of the week, my trainer sat me down and said, “It’s time to regroup”. So, we did just that. We returned home and began the course of rebuilding what had crumbled during that week with baby steps.

In January, we headed south for winter circuit. Spending the winter competing in Florida was exactly what my horse needed. He impressed both my trainer and I more and more with every round of the 10-week circuit, over the course of our three months in the United States, he changed completely into a horse that was confident in his job and thrilled to be doing it. At the end of March, we returned home to Canada and he relaxed in the post-circuit downtime until May when our summer circuit began. He did not put a toe out of place all summer. He answered every question thrown at him and excelled doing it. Every week, he entered the ring with his game face on and left it like he owned the place. Of course, I was thrilled.

Now, as the year is quickly coming to a close, I’m able to reflect on just how far he has come and how incredibly proud of him I am. Seeing that photo today really struck me because I remember how that week in St. Louis felt like the end of the world to me at that time, but now I’m able to look back on it as a learning experience (not an enjoyable learning experience, but a learning experience) knowing just how much has changed in only one short year. Since this day exactly one year ago, my partnership with my horse has become closer and stronger than any I’ve ever experienced and I owe a huge thank you to my trainer for understanding my horse and for giving him and I the opportunity to experience such rapid growth together in just a short period of time.

It’s easy to become fixated on setbacks but I encourage all of my fellow horse junkies to take a moment to look back with pride on just how far you and your horse have come. While this sport often comes with many frustrations, it will fulfill you in ways that nothing else can if you let it.