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We Ask the Industry: What is the Best Thing Competition has Taught You? 

Legendary basketball player, Michael Jordan wisely said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

This same sentiment can be used when discussing equestrian sports. Horse showing is a great way to learn life lessons on how to win and lose. We asked several top trainers and exhibitors about what competition has taught them over the years. Read their insightful answers below.

Joetta Bell – When I was younger, I taught myself to focus on the things I was weakest and strongest at. Strengthen your weakest link, always. I was a dancer and loved it. I always worked on my weakest side or my tightest spot stretching. I began applying that to riding, and I found the same issues. I had a weaker leg and a stronger leg, and the same was with my hands. Once you know your strengths, apply that to your horse. Know your stronger and weaker sides. Secondly, I decided on my favorite events. I can honestly say, mine was Equitation because I loved riding without irons. Always challenge the rider you are to become the rider you hope to be. When I became a mom, I decided to push them for their strongest and weakest things. If you don’t think you can, try harder. If it’s easy, make it tougher. Life isn’t easy, and this, my dear, is life.  There are life challenges, but horses make you stronger, and it shows. And always focus on your absolute best, not someone next to you. Compete with your personal best.

Darci Rapley – Competing has taught me that the key to being successful is motivation. Staying motivated and doing all I can do to prepare and be ready on any given day comes from self-discipline. Self-discipline is the ability to control your feelings and to remain focused, no matter what the situation may be. Although sometimes harsh, don’t ever let fear stand in the way of going out of your comfort zone. Perhaps a pattern looks tough at a horse show. Instead of opting out or scratching, maybe give it your all. There is always something to be learned when you tried your best. Work hard, be humble, give it your full effort, and you will almost always be satisfied. You will not have regrets when you did everything you could. This holds not only in competition but in life itself.

Whitney Vicars – I would say the best thing competition has taught me is trust. First and foremost, trust in the Lord. I’ve also learned, to be successful, you have to trust your horse, and your horse must trust you too! If there is a lack of trust from either side of this partnership, the odds of you both giving 100% and working together as one unit are slim. Trust between horse and rider is something developed and earned over time; it’s not something that happens overnight. Finally, I’ve learned you must trust the team you’ve chosen to be behind you. (Meaning trainers, those helping prepare you and your horse, and your family) I don’t think anyone gets to the top by themselves, and at the end of the day, you have to trust that your team is supporting you 100% and that you all are working together to help you and your horse become the best team you can be.

Melissa Shetler – The best thing that competition has taught me is patience. Sometimes it’s your year to shine, and sometimes it’s not. You have to be willing to wait for success and be ok with failure. It teaches you to work harder for what you want. Nothing worth having comes easy.



Julie Petonak – The best thing competition has taught me is that showing horses is so much more than showing. It’s the life lessons and bonds created in and out of the arena. It may seem like it’s about that one class, point, or achievement. But at the same time, it also instills a hard work ethic, dedication, sportsmanship, and responsibility. For a lot of exhibitors showing horses is a family endeavor, and I could never have had the opportunity to be involved in this industry without my family’s constant support. A lot of the friends we make showing even end up becoming as close as family, and I could not be more grateful for that.

Ashley Dunbar-Clock I think the best thing competition has taught me is to be a hard worker. I have learned you don’t succeed just sitting around. It takes long nights and early mornings. It makes me strive always to be a better person and make my horses better.

Vanessa Froman – Competition with horses and in Taekwondo – I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously. There will always be more competitions; it’s never the end of the road.

Kyle Defreece – Competition has taught me to win and lose with the same amount of grace.

Alyssa Casa – The best thing competition has taught me is always to stay the course. Sometimes it doesn’t go the way you thought it would, but that doesn’t mean you won’t learn something from it for the next time. Be better, not bitter.





Beckie Peskin – It has taught me the ability to analyze a complicated situation and make a plan for success.  I love the process and the strategy of competing, which I think has translated well into my career as well.


Jan Shepherd Pittman – The best thing competition has taught me is to be grateful and never give up.








Claira Bingaman – The best thing that competition has taught me is there is no trophy worth the demise of your horse/partner.

Allison Hinson – The best thing that competition has taught me is that I am my biggest competitor.  There will always be better horses and better riders, so my goal is to be the best that I can be. There are so many little battles that I need to win within myself, and I think a lot of times, we forget about that and focus on how we place in the class. Our goal for last year was for me to have good rides, for me to think about my position in the pen, to plan my moves, and, most importantly, to do it confidently. I’ll never forget, I was in the warmup pen at Congress, and I felt so good about how we were going around. Steve Reams said, “if you’re feeling bold, go in first,” and I did. I didn’t even make the finals, but you would have thought I’d won the world. I’ll never forget that feeling of being, and that day, I had won a massive battle within myself. I need to add that I did not know Steve at the time. That show was the first time that I had ever met him.

Kimberly Lloyd Wright – Not to focus on how many are in my class, who the judges are, worrying about getting points and about just concentrating on my horse and I doing the best we can do. I have learned confidence and humility and to support my classmates.


Kaye Nell Ivins-OchettoCompetition with horses has taught me resilience. Every day with showing a magnificent animal that has a mind of its own is a different adventure. The hard ones teach you the most and the good ones you treasure beyond comprehension. The question is, are you resilient enough to keep going in, getting back on and trying to perfect every ride for the victorious moments. And even those may not land a trophy or big title but are big wins for each of us and our partner. Being a Financial Advisor by career, I use this resilience daily. Every day is a new adventure, but it makes the victories for each client oh so sweet. Horses and competition have developed so much of my identity.

What has competition taught you? Let us know in the comments.