Horse showing and life are full of ups and downs and one run – either in the show pen or in life doesn’t represent who you are as a rider or a person. Photo © Kirstie Marie Photography

Five Life Lessons Learned In 2017

“A year ago, everything was different. And now that I look back, I realize a year can do a lot for a person.” – anonymous

2017 was filled with triumphs and challenges not only throughout the country, but also in the horse industry. There were several losses and devastating disasters that made life pretty tough this year. But, there were times of glory and celebration. It is in these times, both positive and negative, that lessons about life usually emerge.

We should always be learning – during moments of happiness and sorrow, at weekend horse shows or at the World Show.

As we reflect back on the past 365 days, we are sharing the five lessons we learned about life while spending time with the horses and people we love.

1) Life isn’t always fair

Fairness is always going to be very tough to achieve, whether it is in the show pen or in life. Maybe the only time the judges saw your horse in a crowded pen was the few strides where he didn’t look his best. Or maybe they hardly noticed you at all because you were covered up by several horses at the time.

This is one of the great life lessons that we can learn from showing horses. Sometimes, it just isn’t your day, or you catch a bad break, and, unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it but accept it. Keep your focus on what you can control and try not to get caught up in it.

2) It is okay to say no

Taking time for yourself or saying no to something that you cannot fully commit to is okay. At a horse show, this might be showing less classes so you can spend more time enjoying the atmosphere, catching up with friends or watching other exhibitors.

In your daily life, this might be speaking up when you can’t handle another task or delegating something that could really free up your time. You don’t have to follow the same path as others, your situations are completely different so don’t feel pressure to keep up.

3) Goals sometimes change

You went to your first large show and maybe your goal was to make the finals in every class. As the show progressed, your goal changed to making the finals in one class. Goals can change as the situation changes. Reacting to the environment and adjusting your goals to what is obtainable at the time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Keep your original goal but adjust some others to show your progress and avoid getting discouraged.

4) Celebrate the small wins

Perhaps you’ve worked all year to perfect your horsemanship spin and at the last show of the year, you finally plussed your maneuver. While this relates specifically to the show pen, this lesson can be applied to any aspect of your life. Be proud when you accomplish something you’ve worked hard to achieve, even if it seems small. Look back on your past to move forward to your future. Celebrating wins, no matter the size, can fuel your drive to get better – in the ring and in your personal life.

5) One ride doesn’t define you as a rider

Just like one life event doesn’t define you as a person. Horse showing and life are full of ups and downs and one run – either in the show pen or in life doesn’t represent who you are as a rider or a person. Stay strong on your path and it will pay off. True winning will always be what you determine it to be. As long as you keep your focus on what is important, you will always rise to the top.


Showing a horse teaches a person so many more valuable lessons than just about winning and losing. It teaches us compassion, determination, preparation and dedication.

2017 was a difficult year for some and a momentous year for others. As we enter a new year, we encourage you to remember these life lessons and carry them with you to make you a better person and rider in 2018.


About the Author:  Julie Hoefling was born and raised in Akron, Michigan but now resides in Cave Creek, Arizona with her husband, Jerry. She works at Kahala Brands as a Director of Marketing. Julie shows her horse, Shady Impulse in the Novice Amateur Western All-Around events under the guidance of Ryan and Andrea Kail.