Finishing Last

I always tell people, you learn more by losing than you do by winning. Failure is an opportunity to learn. And I believe it, but that doesn’t mean accepting loss or failure is okay. To grow from these types of experiences requires effort. One must dissect why the loss or why the failure.

That takes courage too. The answers we find are not always the ones we want.

This past weekend I attended my first ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) ride. I really like the idea of being judged on realistic obstacles on the trail. Jigs is a trail horse after all and we cross over logs and water every day. He’s great at looking after me, especially when we are riding alone. In the past we’ve entered obstacle classes where the obstacles were nothing like what we encountered on the trail. We did okay with these ring trials but I was excited that we would get to show others how good he is on the trail.

Now I knew Jigs and I are are still figuring out some things like side passing.  Last year it was backing up, but we seemed to have that under control now. I jokingly told everyone I was going for last place which came with a free pass to a horse training clinic.  In my own mind, I figured we would not finish in the ribbons but we wouldn’t completely bomb.

I was wrong. Jigs would not  back up, balked at the water before crossing, shied at the log pull, wouldn’t stand next to the gate, and, refused to step over the log. It was this last refusal that sent me in a tizzy. We step over logs every day. Granted this one was high, but it was doable.

During the two hour drive home I agonized over my failings as rider. Is it fair for a fun and talented horse like Jigs to be stuck with an old woman like me who has a poor seat, over treats, and will never give him a chance to win?  Would he be happier with someone as athletic as he is?

I was really feeling sorry for myself.

But this morning I woke with a realization. Well, maybe a rationalization.

The log was high. On the trail we would have gone AROUND it. Jigs knows I don’t like to jump. When we stood at the obstacle, at one point he gathered himself to jump, but stopped before launch.

I can’t help but wonder this morning if he was protecting me? Keeping me safe? Isn’t that what makes a great trail horse? A great horse? One that cares for his rider?

We’ll still work on backing up. We’ll still work on side passing. I went into the ride knowing these were areas still in need of work.

However, we won’t work on log crossing. He knows what he has to do to keep me safe and comfortable. He’s a horse who takes care of his rider. I wouldn’t change that for the world.  Finishing last made me realize what a great horse he is. Odd no? I win by loosing?

And we will go to the free training clinic. After all, that was my goal for the weekend. And I’m sure I will learn something to make me a better partner for Jigs.  He’s my best guy!

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