Matt Brown and his wife, Cecily, launched an ambitious fundraising plan a few short weeks ago to help them reach their goal of traveling to the American Eventing Championships and Fair Hill this fall. Thank to the generous support and help from friends and family alike, Matt has achieved his fundraising goal and is packing his trailer to head east. He posted the following on his Facebook page to express his gratitude. Best of luck on your trip, Matt!
As many of you may know, I am preparing for a month-long trip to the American Eventing Championships in Tyler, Texas, and then on to Fair Hill in Maryland for my first CCI3*. I am working towards a larger goal of representing the U.S. in eventing and am hoping against tiny hope to be in consideration for the 2015 Pan Am Games, the 2016 Olympics and beyond!
We’ve just concluded a fundraising effort including a dinner and online auction in hopes to raise the funds for the trip east this fall. With the incredible support of my own students and family, fellow riders, competitors and industry professionals, we somehow put on a dinner and two auctions in three weeks, and not only did we reach our fundraising target, but we have surpassed it!
I feel it is only fair, given how much so many of you have done to help me get to this point, that I share some of my reflections on this experience so far with you.
It has always been hard for me to ask for help. I never want to put anyone out or inconvenience anyone in any way. But, there always comes a time in one’s life when help is needed. No one person alone can have all of the necessary time, resources, money or expertise to accomplish a goal.
When one comes upon this dilemma, there are only a few choices: You can give up, you can try in vain for that goal by yourself, grasping for something that will never be in your reach if you stand alone or, you can learn how to get comfortable with asking for help and reach for your goals by standing tall upon the shoulders of others.
Sometimes that goal feels too big, that even if you can muster up the courage to ask for help, it could never be enough. And usually the people surrounding you are just like you: short on time and short on money.
I’ve spent my life with horses. Starting out like everyone else, a horse crazy kid who couldn’t imagine anything better in life than the smell of horse sweat and slobber that lingers on you long after you’ve left the barn. The satisfied exhaustion that comes after riding 10 horses and mucking 10 stalls, or working for hours days, or months on one skill that is just out of reach, but close enough you can almost feel it.
That exhaustion and hunger to learn is what has driven me for all of my life and is what compelled me to forgo a more traditional life path and become a horse professional.
When you start out, of course you think and hope that you will become good enough to make it to the Olympics one day. As a kid, that somehow seems like the inevitable conclusion of a lifetime of hard work. In the juvenile mind, it seems that everyone that never made it just must not have worked hard enough or wanted it badly enough.
But, as you get older, you realize how hard EVERYONE in this industry works. You learn every day how much you do not know, the skills that you don’t possess, the experience that you don’t have, how short the days are, how meager your bank account is and how even your best horse doesn’t seem to measure up to the ones that you see on the Olympic teams.
Slowly you start to come to the realization that you probably don’t have what it takes after all, how mistaken your childhood assumptions were. Maybe you have the talent, but you don’t have the time. Maybe you have the time but you don’t have the money. Maybe you have the drive but you don’t have the experience. The list goes on, and it becomes far easier to come up with the reasons why you can’t accomplish something, and far more difficult to come up with ways that you can.
And then that becomes your reality, and you grow comfortable in that. Maybe not completely happy, but comfortable, resigned and accepting of it. And that voice from your childhood grows quieter and quieter, until he’s almost gone, just a stifled whisper. I’m not quite sure what it was that made me listen to that voice again, maybe it was the grey hairs starting to reveal themselves at my temples, or a temporary dropping of my guard that let that voice bubble up to the surface of my consciousness.
Whatever it was, I heard that voice again, loud and clear, and somehow I found the courage to speak the words out loud. And the most amazing thing happened …. Someone heard me. And that gave me hope, and a little bit of tentative, fragile confidence, so I began saying those words more loudly and more often, and more people heard me, and more people told me that they believed in me.
And now I find myself on this journey, self conscious and doubtful still, leading me in the direction of my dreams. Who knows whether I will ultimately even get close, there are still so many literal and figurative miles left to climb. But what I now know, after putting my dreams out there, putting a voice to them, asking others in my same situation — with little time and less money — for help, is that if you ask a question, you just might be overwhelmed by the response.
My fellow riders, who I compete against on a regular basis, and who no doubt want to win as much as I do, have gone out of their way to tell me that they believe in me, and that they are rooting for me. They’ve donated their time and money toward my goals, no doubt taking precious hours and dollars away from their own efforts. For the record, guys, I believe in you, too. You all drive my hunger to learn more, and you push me to get better. Your talent, hard work and dedication inspire me to work to be the best horseman that I can be.
My students have been patient while I have traveled more, been home less and have shifted some of my focus back on to my own riding and developing my own skills. They are just as excited as I am, if not more so, when I do well or reach a new milestone. They greet me with signs of congratulations when I return home, and they conceal their understandable disappointment when I tell them I’m going to be gone for another extended period of time chasing down this dream. What they show me instead of disappointment is enthusiasm for what I’m doing, and they rally with me, spending their own time and money to help me along the way.
Other professionals in our industry, from show organizers, videographers, photographers, tack shop owners, saddlers and everyone in between have eagerly offered their assistance and excitement in helping me toward my goals.
I am completely overwhelmed by the support that everyone in Area VI and beyond has shown me. Those I know well have gone above and beyond, and even those I don’t know well have stepped up to offer a kind word and their support.
When I was a kid, I thought that if I became good enough and worked hard enough, success would surely come my way, and my dreams would be achieved. Time made me realize those qualities in themselves would not be enough, so doubt crept in and then I thought my dreams would forever stay out of my reach.
What I realize now is that my own hard work and determination are an important part of achieving success, but that success never comes from a singular effort. In order to find a path of successes, to reach for my dreams, I must not only allow myself to be propelled forward by the generosity and enthusiasm of the members of my community, but I need to ask them for that boost.
Ultimately, after putting that call for help out to the Area VI community and the eventing community at large, I’ve found that not only can we reach our goals, but we can exceed them.
Thank you to all for your incredible support. I know that you all have your own dreams, goals, obligations, challenges and hardships, which makes your support mean that much more to me. I hope that I can thank you by not only doing you proud and reaching some of my own goals, but by returning the favor in kind, and letting you stand upon my shoulders when you need your own boost.
I promise, if you ask me, I will do what I can to help. It will more than likely not be all that you need, but when our community comes together and everyone does what they can, even if it’s only a little, we can accomplish a lot!
And I must send a special, massive thank you to Bob and Valerie Fish and Mary McKee and Lance Hurd for believing in me enough to ride your incredible horses, and the incredible depth of support that you have shown to me over these past few years. I love your horses and riding them more than I could ever possibly adequately express.