Words that Stick

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Photo courtesy of Rebecca Barber

As riders, we have all experienced “ah ha” moments, when the answers to long-standing questions finally become clear. Ironically in many cases these flashes of clarity are often related to a simple concept that we have been struggling with to understand. While the answer might be simple, often a considerable amount of time may pass before someone articulates the answer in a way that we can truly grasp. But when that finally happens, it sticks!

I experienced one of these moments at the Ocala Horse Properties Three-Day Festival this past spring. I had a disappointing early end to the weekend when I decided to withdraw my horse before show jumping. I am an extremely goal-oriented person and in the past I have let similar situations really upset me.

As I was discussing my situation with my boss, coach and mentor, Buck Davidson, he said something that will stick with me forever. Buck simply stated, “Any day that we get to work with these amazing animals is a good day. Watch the news for even five minutes and you will see hundreds of people who would love to be in your shoes, right now. Tomorrow is another day.”

Buck’s sentiment, while obvious, is true. We are incredibly lucky to be able to do what we do and to enjoy these magnificent creatures. While this sentiment has probably been shared with me on numerous occasions, something about the way Buck worded it, put things into perspective for me. And now, when I am having a frustrating day or I am dealing with a setback, I remind myself of this conversation.

I have benefited greatly from this new mindset, applying it while I was competing my horse at the Virginia CCI* this spring, and I continue to use it as we prepare for our move up to Intermediate.

While speaking with young adult rider Kate Severson, an active show jumper and USDF Bronze Medalist, she mentioned a similar moment that will stick with her for the rest of her life. When Kate was younger she had a clinician tell her, “Work hard, build on the good things in every ride and don’t let your mistakes get you down. The only time you fail is when you stop trying!” Although, the conversation occurred years ago, she still remembers and strives to live by that quote.

Sometimes, these conversations not only remind us of important riding concepts, such as keeping our heels down, but they also serve as a catalyst to remind us of all of the lessons taught to us by a particular mentor. Kate Kosnoff, founder of Riders for Wellbeing and a rider who has found much success in the USHJA National Derbies, fondly remembers her former trainer Pam Graham, who passed away a few years ago.

Pam used to tell Kate, “Sit up. You’re not a good enough rider to slouch.” Kate reminisced that this memory will always make her giggle and reminds her to sit up straight. “She’s been gone for two years but I still hear her scolding me in my head!”

After all these years of riding and being involved in our sport, I still find it amazing how the smallest things can make the biggest difference. Whether discussing a riding concept or a life lesson, always pay careful attention. You never know when someone will say something that will alter the way you think forever.

About the author: I’m Rebecca, a 24-year-old event rider currently based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Following my college graduation, I ultimately decided to delay my entrance into the corporate world, choosing instead to run away, horse trailer in tow, to Pennsylvania, where I spent nearly two years working for Buck Davidson. Now, I’m back at the farm where it all began, teaching and riding for Kiki Osbourne’s Dappir Ridge Eventing while I try figure out what it is that I want to do with my life. It’s been quite the journey, but I wouldn’t change a thing. 

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