Now this tends to surprise people but I’m a little bit country. I love camo, boots and country music, but what I love the most is riding horses.
I have been riding horses for over half of my life. I had my first lesson when I was in the first grade and started competing in local horse shows in the 4th grade. I started competing in state and breed level shows and got my first horse. I was a freshman in college when I gave up competing in horse shows and switched to barrel racing and rodeos and was a sophomore in college when I bought my first barrel horse. I competed in my first college rodeo as a junior.
I have been competing in horse related events for pretty much my entire life and it is very hard to not have my horses with me this semester or to compete in rodeos and horse shows.
I am an equestrian and an athlete. You may not think an equestrian is an athlete, if you do think this you would be wrong. I am part of a team, not with other players, but with my horse. We trust and depend on each other just like a quarterback depends on his receivers. We form a partnership and work together to compete to the best of our abilities just as a tennis doubles team does.
When a horse and rider are working together in perfect sync, it doesn’t matter which discipline, be it western pleasure, barrel racing or roping; it looks effortless.
Just like basketball players must control the ball, I have to control my horse. And let me tell you, a 1,000 pound horse is a lot harder to control than a measly basketball. Horses have personalities and feelings which basketballs, footballs and baseballs do not. Sometimes horses just do not want to work with you. These are the days that being an equestrian sucks.
I remember times after a particularly bad class, getting back to the trailer and just crying because our performance was that terrible. Those are the days you just want to pack up, put the horse back in the trailer and drive home. But you have to get past these hard times, especially if you want to perform better in the next class or event.
Horses can feel if you are upset or angry which might sound silly to people who are non-riders, but it is the truth. If I was mad at my horse before going into a Western Pleasure class, my horse could feel it. This would negatively affect our performance in the class and for the rest of the day, unless I put the anger behind me. Or if I was extremely nervous before running a barrel pattern, my horse could sense it; which would make him more anxious.
Through competing in horse shows and rodeos, I have learned to not let my emotions get the best of me. I have always let my nerves and doubts get to me, but through riding, I have learned to suck it up and just go for it.
The first time I competed in a barrel race, I was a nervous wreck. I was shaking with nerves. It felt like pterodactyls were flying around my stomach. I almost didn’t compete and many people thought I didn’t have what it took to do this discipline. But I did it and it was amazing. Running the pattern felt like my horse and I were flying. If I hadn’t run in that race, I would have definitely regretted it. It is a moment like that which reminds me I can do anything I put my mind to.
My first barrel race was one of my favorite memories in my entire riding career and I almost did not compete. I almost let my doubt and other people’s doubt keep me from doing what I love and what I am good at.
I look back at this moment whenever I feel myself thinking I can’t do something or when I feel like others doubt me. It reminds me to block out all of the negative thoughts and just perform. You really can do anything you put your mind to. You just have to block out all the people who are not there for you and remember a special moment, like my first barrel race. Remember how it felt to prove others and yourself wrong.
Now I am not saying if you try your hardest you will be a champion or the best in the world. I am certainly no where near that caliber in either riding or writing. But you won’t regret trying.
Column by Jaci Kohn, Assistant Sports Editor