All the hard work, all the dedication, the frustration, and the hopes, come down to this event. It is a test of sorts. If you study for a math test for a month, the day that test arrives can be stressful. Looking at a horse show from the outside it is often easy to forget the purpose of such an unusual event. Dress up in clean clothes adorned with as much “bling” as you can cram onto every allowed article of clothing or leather. Spending hours achieving a spectacular shine on your horses coat, or perfecting the French braided tail. All to splash around in the rain and mud, covering your fabulous work with horse sweat and dirt. And then, kids and horses moving quietly around in a circle, while some mysterious person, who is revered with both awe and fear, decides if you pass the test. Unlike math there are no red checks on the part that was wrong. Imagine walking out of a math test with a grade at the top of the page and not having any marks on the rest of the work that indicates where you mastered the skills needed and where you fell short. Some children walk out of the test with a big colored ribbon, others are left empty-handed and wondering why they did not measure up.
The 4H venue that I spent last weekend coaching at is better than many at filling this gap. The classes that are judge on the riders skill refinement are awarded a second round of ribbons where everyone gets on. Not just the top 8 riders out f 20+. These second ribbons are coded in 3 colors, similar to getting the grade on the test. A red ribbon means you met the basic requirements asked for, a white means you did not, blue is those that exceeded or were exceptional. That being said the kids can get all white and someone will still be in first pace. I have yet to see that happen, but it is possible. And a third ribbon at play is the “high point”. Each of the 1-8 placing’s is awarded a certain number of points, with 1st place being more and 8th being less. At the end of the day the totals are tallied in each category of rider ( divided by age, and riding level) And The rider with the most points gets an award that is much larger than the rest.
To watch these kids you might think it silly that they work so hard for a piece of colored ribbon. But unlike your math grade, the ribbon will be paraded for all to see, and is awarded in font of family, friends, and all. It has a different sense of glory. Imagine what would happen if you were watching your child take every math test and be awarded a grade that everyone would see. A small percentage would bask in glory, some would accept an average title, some would drop out of school.
Part of my goal is to create perseverance in the face of defeat, and show them the path to success is not “shiny object” you can buy. I can put a child on the most highly trained horse, they can go out and win all the ribbons, but that does not make them riders. Only mastery of the subject will bring true success. And the feeling it leaves you with is beyond anything that a ribbon can bring. This is such a hard life lesson. And I am so humbled and proud to watch the group of athletes I coached, show growth, and maturity, and sportsmanship, and leadership, and teamwork. They help each other, they cheer for each other, they hold each other up through the tough moments, and they shine…
So I want to take a moment to share and honor these young athletes, and amazing humans.
Ciera, you are a leader, a role model, dedicated and strong and beautiful, not to mention High Point, and Reserve High Point queen. Your constant drive to know more, to know why, to challenge your self, and to share your talent and knowledge with our younger herd members who look at you with stars in their eyes. So well deserved.
Nicole, your quiet determination is unmatched. The loyalty and dedication to perfecting your craft with compassion and respect for the horses. I honor and respect you took a complicated path (Sammy) and have created a beautiful combination of horse and rider that brings compliments from all who are lucky enough to see you and your beautiful horse “dance”. Truly a beautiful thing to watch.
Kaitlin, A Bold and bright star that has risen this year. The tears and frustration are just growing, because they build character. And boy have you grown this year. You have what I call momentum….on ward and upward, the world is your oyster. Yet kind and sincere, an uncommon combination.
Jennifer, your commitment to seeing and knowing the how and why, and implementing it when you understand is such a joy to watch. I have seen you change the life of a pony, and now she understands as you do. Your sportsmanship, and supporting your friends and competitors, your work ethic, and always done with a smile, are a model to so many and don’t know it yet. You have such a bright future.
Sam, You bring the attitude of confidence and happiness to all you touch. What a gift! Tenacious and determined, you have the talent and drive. And will fly…Of that I have no doubt. Thank you for sharing your wonderful nature with me and the others, we all learn and pull from your strength.
Alex, My brave child. Everyone you touch loves you. Watching you grow and thrive is such a pleasure. She who can literally get backed into a corner and come out a winner. She who does not have a mean bone and is a perfect example of pure joy. Who makes me smile every day. ….And now the recipient of a ribbon almost as big as she.
Ava, I feed you a crumb and you bake bread! Amazing.
Our new members
Phoebe and Emily, welcome to the family. It has been so great to have sweet new faces in the mix. Our first venture together, and the first of so many great memories you are making.