As a kid, I was competitive. I envisioned myself cruising the victory gallop, huge ribbon on my horse’s bridle and stupid smile planted on my face. Competitive may actually be the wrong word, I didn’t feel combative about my desire to win. I wanted nice things and someone to agree that I could indeed ride decently (which, my trainer was not always vocal about, as trainers are this way).

Because of this desire for blue satin, I would grow overwhelmed by the idea of showing. The mornings of horse shows destroyed my health, physical and mental. Consistently concerned with perfection and the possibility of something going wrong, I spent the hours leading up to my classes in agony.

Then I turned 18.

Once I started paying for these things myself, there was a lot less guilt and pressure to “have fun at all costs”. Since I approach each show now as sunk costs, it’s easier for me to be open to gasp – not taking home blue ribbons, or any ribbons at all.

I don’t need the victory gallop, I am cool with demonstration of growth, the days with the barn family, and the time with the horses.

So these days, when I do win big, it’s almost strange. It rustles up this old-time feeling I thought I had set aside in the attic of my mind. It’s difficult to name, but the feeling feels like a spotlight is fixed on your stomach, and the rest of the day is spent giggling and smiling.

I have to sometimes remind myself, it’s all one person’s opinion, one stranger’s opinion. But when this stranger does look at a class and says, yup, she’s the best from not knowing the history of your riding or horses, that’s a special moment.

This is his “game face”

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