Competing at the World Championship Paint Horse Show is a big commitment, not only the time required, but also financially, emotionally and physically. Having put my horse, Kay Ceeya Later, aka ‘Casey’, on the back burner in recent years, I truly missed the shows, the camaraderie with your training mates and the bond with your true teammate, your horse. As the American Paint Horse Association and hundreds of anxious equestrians from all over gear up for the 2013 World Show in a few short months, I reflect on my own journey.
Just last summer, after a year and a half off from riding, it was announced that submissions were open to Seattle employees for Weber Shandwick’s No Boundaries program. While I knew it was ambitious, visions of the World Show immediately popped into my head. I applied and shortly after was on my way to Texas thanks to Weber Shandwick.
The program paid for my show entry fees and with the extra days off, I voluntarily put myself in a pre-World Show ‘bootcamp’ for six days before the trip. I clocked a minimum of five hours a day at the barn riding and practicing until I felt confident that Casey and I were ready to compete with the best.
While I didn’t bring home the ‘gold’ so to speak, I held my own in the company of some pretty stiff competition. Casey and I walked away with two Top 5 and two Top 10 awards along with being a finalist and also the winner of one of my preliminary rounds. I was proud of consistently landing in the top handful of riders in each of my events.
Who knows if there will be another Paint Horse World Show in my future, I’ll have to wait and see. And while I wait, I’ll be cheering on everyone riding for their dreams in Fort Worth come November. There are many takeaways from competing at that show, and from horses in general, that can be applied to life both personally and professionally:
- Celebrate your successes big and small. And be truly happy with them.
- Learn from each performance so you’re that much better the next time.
- Have trust in your team and make sure they know they’re appreciated. And sometimes a little incentive is all they need. For Casey, all it takes are a few golden Oreos.
- Practicing, focusing and preparing builds confidence and optimal performance, though know when to stop. There is such a thing as over-preparing.
- Be ready for the unexpected. You can practice and practice, but be flexible and confident in your knowledge and skills for when those judges, or clients, throw you for a loop.
Title image courtesy of Linsey O’Donnell.