We’re pleased to be bringing you the first entries of our International Equestrian Blogging Contest. Remember, you can still enter as long as all three of your blogs are submitted by September 30. You can find full rules here.

Round Peg in a Square Hole: Finding Your Nice, by Rebecca Barber

Burn out; it happens.  As an equestrian it is incredibly easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing.  How often do you hear people say, “If I don’t go X level by the time I age out, then I’m never going to amount to anything.”  All too often we find ourselves chasing arbitrary goals in an attempt to fit into a self-constructed box of expectations.  At the end of the day, is it really necessary to compete at a specific level in order to be considered a good horseman?  Is a rider who has competed at 3’9 on a schoolmaster, really any “better” than the teenager who has a produced multiple horses to competitive results at the local level?

One of the great things about equestrian sports is that there is a place for everyone.  Not only do we need upper level riders with team aspirations, but we also need patient instructors to teach the next generation.  We need trainers to produce young horses.  We need detail orientated individuals to run barns and groom.  If horses are your passion you can find your niche.

I’m not going to lie.  It has taken me quite awhile to accept the fact that I don’t have to have had competed at Advanced in order to be “successful.” In fact, I still have days where I wonder, “What if?”  What if I had stated riding earlier? What if I had owned a horse capable of taking me to NAJYRC? What if… my list goes on and on.  And while it’s easier said than done, we must learn to be OK with our individual journeys.  We need to own and be proud of all of our hard learned lessons: the ones we triumphed in as well as those filled with setbacks and heartache.  For at the end of the day, our experiences only make us stronger.

While, I still have aspirations to compete at the top level of the sport, I have found much fulfillment and satisfaction in teaching lessons and training young horses.  In fact, I often get more joy from a student’s “aha” moment or beautiful round, than I do from my own competition successes.  I have found that a large part of what makes me a good instructor is the fact that riding hasn’t come easily to me.  I wouldn’t consider myself a natural rider, but instead someone who has found success through good old-fashioned hard work.  I am understanding and I am skillful at addressing the mental side of riding as well as the physical.  Yes, I’ve never competed at Advanced, but that does not mean that I am incapable of teaching proper basics in my students.  The same premise is true in regard to the horses. I believe that we need more professionals, who are wiling to take the time necessary to provide young horses with the foundation needed in order to excel; to make the time to take the horses on outings, to mess with them in the barn, to find them the right homes.

Not everyone in our sport is going to end up being the next Boyd or Buck. But there is a place for everyone. Everyone’s path will be different. Make the story your own!