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ICYMI- Ten Things We Lose Showing Horses

Originally published June 2015

Those of us who have been involved with the horse world all our lives have redefined what “normal” is. Our daily lives are vastly different from those of our peers. We may not realize it, but we give up a lot to live the lives that we do. Some might view it as losing out on things. But for those of us who chose to do this, few would trade places with anyone or do anything else.

Here are ten things that outsiders might think that we are losing out on when it comes to showing horses:

1. Money

This one is incredibly obvious. This is not an inexpensive hobby. Between the cost of the horse, training, showing, hauling, show clothes, tack, and everything in between, our lovely four-legged friends are never-ending money pits. We have become accustomed to the cost of things in our world, though. We may forgo a new car or an extravagant vacation to be able to afford a new saddle or go to another show.

2. Sleep

Sleep is a sacred novelty to those of us who have chosen to consume our lives with horses. Early morning practices and late nights at the barn are not uncommon. While “early” for some maybe 8 am, we consider that to be sleeping in. Eventually, this lack of sleep will no longer phase you. As a wise man once told me, we must live life wide awake… even if you are running on two hours of sleep.

3. Summer Vacation

When discussing summer vacation plans with our real-world friends, they may tell tales of exotic locations, sunshine, and tan lines. For us, the ideal summer vacation is hours upon hours on the road to exhibit our horses. Cruises and laying on the beach are not always on our to-do list, and sleeping in is a rarity, but for us, we wouldn’t trade it for the world (unless, of course, by world, you mean a world championship).

4. Sanity

When working with a creature ten times our size with a mind of its own, in a sport driven by long hours, lots of miles, and endless work, it may be easy to lose your mind on occasion. Don’t fret–this is normal for us. The more we care about our goals, the more they consume us. It may be common to feel like you are losing control from time to time, however, once you take a moment and get back on track, you will find that you are truly living the dream.

5. Patience

Even though we may try to pretend that we are always completely calm, relaxed, and collected, that would be a lie. When working in close quarters with other people and large animals, competing for the same title, it is not difficult to lose your patience. Eventually, though, we will train ourselves to keep our cool and turn that frustration into motivation.

6. Friends

Our non-horse friends don’t seem to understand the world that we function in. While we cannot give up on these people entirely, the time we spend with them may be limited due to obligations associated with this sport. However, this is not a huge loss. While our “real-world” friends may or may not have a difficult time understanding our world, we will make new, irreplaceable friends within the industry who understand us because they are us.

7. Sense of Normalcy

While “normal” is a relative term regardless of its use, this term indeed is skewed when you begin to enter the horse world. Let’s be honest, where else can you find people wearing pounds upon pounds of glitter while atop a thousand-pound animal, performing to determine who is the best of the best, to be awarded a title, a chunk of silver, and “points” than the horse world? For us, this is normal, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

8. Excuses

“Can’t” is not part of our vocabulary, unless we’re saying we “can’t” go out because we have to ride. Equestrians spend long hours perfecting ourselves and our partners for a few moments of glory. We endure sweat and pain to make it to the top. While this trait may be prevalent in other sports, it is especially vital in the horse world. The second you say it’s too hot or you’re too tired to push yourself even further, is the second we give up a shot at success.

9. Plans

When you ask someone who does not ride and show what they want to be when they grow up, the plans may be to be a doctor or a lawyer. For us, we aspire to be trainers and judges. If the answer is to be a doctor or lawyer, it very well may be followed by “so that I can still afford to show my horse.” Even outside of our career goals, we begin to plan every aspect of our lives around our four-legged friends. They determine our weekend plans, our primary financial purposes, and even what kind of car we drive (because, if there isn’t enough room to make it a mobile tack trunk, what’s the point in having it?)

10. Negativity

To truly last in this industry, it is impossible to go into every day with a glass-half-empty outlook. The real key to success is to find the silver lining in every situation. For instance, did you lose a class? While it may be easy to focus on your inconsistencies and failures, that will only lead to more frustration. Focusing on the positive shows real maturity and will only help you to improve in the future.

Ultimately, when it comes to showing horses, the things that others might see as things we lose in this world are substantially outweighed by the things we gain. While we may give up a bit of sanity, money, and more hours of sleep than one would care to count, the positive outlook, motivation, and determination horse showing provides to those who have chosen to make it part of their lives is irreplaceable. So when you look at it that way, we aren’t losing anything at all.