As 2017 comes to a close, many of us start to reflect back on their past year. Did I accomplish what I set out to do January 1? Were boxes checked off the list? Did I make great strides towards being a better person? Did I reach a financial goal? Man, the list goes on and on and on....
Anyone can walk into their room of 2017 and start picking apart every single little thing that's wrong with it. That crack over there, peeling paint here, dust in the corners... hmm what else can we find WRONG. Its just so much easier to just create the list of everything we didn't do. It's the culture we live in. And we know how negative the equestrian industry can be, from the chattering of the rail birds, to the way students are taught and horses are developed. How is ANYONE, rider or horse, going to flourish in an environment that is constantly knocking them down?
2017's most important lesson for me was that positivity REALLY does pay off. I walked into that room years ago and instead of focusing on all of the problems I saw possibility. When I built Echelon in 2010, I had absolutely NO idea what I was getting into. Here I was, a corporate girl with a less than illustrious junior career as a serial barn hopper with great trainers, but some serious commitment issues, that had quit riding for 7 years after building a gigantic equestrian facility literally in the middle of nowhere. What the HECK was I thinking? It was a mid-life crisis type decision that happened WAY too early. There was this little voice inside of me, it said "keep going". From every single horse that started to slowly come in, the OTTBS, the Fresians, the Andalusians, the Arabs, the Quarter Horses - you name it, I rode it. Every single horse was an opportunity to better myself. In the middle of the night when I would lay awake wondering why I took on this gigantic financial problem, that tiny voice would say 'keep going'. I so desperately needed the money at the time, so every person that would call me to fix their problem horse, the tiny voice would say 'keep going'. Every day I woke up at 3 AM to feed, muck stalls, go to work for 8 hours, come home to feed, muck, ride and teach, then collapse into bed at 11 PM, that tiny voice said 'keep going'. Every horse show that I rolled up to in my four horse semi-stock trailer in used Dublin breeches, a 20 yr old saddle that made my butt cheeks hurt in the worst way, and the only thing decent about the picture was the helmet I had saved a few moths for... I saw the looks I got. I knew I didn't belong. But I wanted to belong SO badly. I knew if I just kept going at some point I would prove myself worthy. Every week, month, year that went by I begged myself to hang on, that its going to get better. I would sit by the ring at every show watching the bigger classes, wondering if I would ever be able to compete in them...
Then somehow it started. My students and my horses started winning. A LOT. Sponsorships started coming in, and I finally had a "real" saddle. People were coming up to me at shows, and Echelon's reputation was building. That tiny voice inside of me has finally grown into a confident, loud proclamation. Yes! I DO know what I am doing! I DO belong here! Every single tiny chance I took, every single person that was kind enough to lend me advice and TONS of riding and horse help, brought me to where I am today. Regardless of where I had started, what I had with me, what horses I had ridden... it built into this gigantic tidal wave that swept me into 2017 and beyond. My beginnings into this business didn't matter anymore. I wasn't the kid trying to keep up with the Joneses. And those classes I used to watch years ago wondering if I would ever have the opportunity to participate? I won one of those this year, on a horse I have been developing myself since he was a barely-broke 4 year old. I have never told him there was something he couldn't do.
If I had given up when I first rolled into a show and caught those looks, if I had given up when those problem horses wouldn't stop rearing with me, if I had given up because I didn't have the "right" equipment or clothes, if I had given up because I knew my riding had 7 years of rust on it, if I had given up after sitting in the hospital with a broken pelvis from a bad flipper no one else wanted to ride, if I had given up when I believed the person that told me I would never be able to make it because I didn't have the financial backing or the horses to go to the top, If I had given up when people told me I wasn't good enough, if I had given up when I didn't get onto a podium somewhere by the time I was 30, who knows where I would be today. Probably still sitting in a cube at Gulfstream, absolutely miserable.
Patience and Perseverance. Opportunity and Positivity. The words I will forever live by. If you want it, go get it. No one will stop you but yourself. No matter how long it will take, because we all know the time will pass anyways. Did I reach my goals for 2017? Heck yea I did. I know there are a lot of cracks left in those walls, and dust in the corners, but the space itself is so beautiful and so full of possibility that I don't even see the mess anymore. And as I hang one beautiful photograph after another, I am one tiny step closer to the image I have in my head. I know what it can be, and no one will tell me that its impossible anymore.
Remember to believe in yourself. That is all the luck you will ever need.