It’s hard being an equestrian. This sport is not easy; in fact, a lot of the time it can be downright defeating. It seems like we all learn to survive, and thrive, on the little moments. For some it’s a hard-fought ribbon, for others it might be a quiet trail ride, or even something more simple like a therapeutic grooming session. Whatever it takes put a smile on our face and a happy, fuzzy feeling in our soul.
And sometimes, in those quiet little moments that otherwise seem so insignificant, it’s someone else’s words that can bolster our spirits in momentous ways. They probably don’t even realize the weight that their words carry, but when we hear them they instantly warm us to our very core and make us feel like all the blood, sweat, and tears have been worth it.
Maybe it’s the trainer that says you have a great seat. Maybe it’s the vet that says your horse looks amazing. Maybe it’s the friend who says they wish their horse was as good about xyz thing as yours is. Whatever it may be, it’s a compliment that stays with you and helps get you through the hard days, or makes you feel an intense sense of pride in what you’ve accomplished.
In the past two weeks I’ve heard the exact same sentence from two trainers. I’m not going to lie, their words meant more to me than is probably reasonable, but I can’t help it. They both said “You’ve done a great job with this horse.”. Both times, tears immediately sprang to my eyes (and I am not a cryer, crying is the absolute worst, there’s no crying in eventing, crying is only allowed in private, etc) and I had to grit my teeth to be able to swallow the flood of emotion. It’s a simple sentence, but one that carries so much weight with me.
I’ve always had young, green horses. Most of them I’ve put some miles on and re-sold, moving on to the next project. Henry was originally purchased as a project as well, but he’s become so much more than that. He’s been a bit of a challenge for me, and I constantly second guess myself. Am I doing the right thing? Is this what’s best for him? Am I bringing him along correctly? These are decisions I’m sure all of us struggle with. I mean… if I’m asking the question to myself, I think I’ve done a decent job with him, but it’s SO important to me that it be true, it holds more weight when other people (who’s opinions I greatly respect) say as much, especially unprompted. This horse is just so genuine and so honest, I feel an extra sense of duty to make sure I don’t mess him up.
That responsibility sits on my shoulders all the time, and guides every decision I make with Henry. So when two different pros who have watched Henry and I’s relationship develop over time tell me that I’ve done a great job, that compliment goes a lot deeper than they might realize. The sense of pride that I felt in those moments means more than any ribbon ever could. As we slog through our day to day struggles, doing all the hard work it takes to make us better, I’ll always keep those words stored away in the back of my mind, and feel a little bit more confident in my choices and abilities.
So in the interest of taking a moment to celebrate our small victories, I want to know– what’s the highest compliment that anyone has ever given you, and what did it mean to you at the time?