I’m going to put this out there, because I needed to hear it this year, so I know some of you likely will too.
You can still love this sport if you don’t show.
I’m going to be real - 2019 has been a year of intense juxtaposition in my life. One of my most successful years professionally and one of my most lost personally. It was like I poured my everything into cutting in 2018 and then I woke up January 1, 2019 and a whole lot of “other” was knocking on my door. I had let A LOT of things slip.
For the last decade all I’ve ever wanted was to be a part of this sport, but more importantly to have success in this sport. That’s what I’ve worked for. Without realizing it, I correlated my sense of identity, and my sense of worth, within this sport, to the show pen.
“I want to be a world champion.”
“I want to show at the Futurity before I’m 30.”
Lofty, expensive goals.
Because of that correlation between our sport and my identity, it was easy to disregard the last decade. Because of it, it was easy to question whether I belonged at shows if I wasn’t showing. Whether I “deserved” to be there. Whether I fit in. Who I fit in with. Who was judging me. It was a shift I didn’t expect, but suddenly, after making World Finals, after launching a successful podcast, after becoming an NCHA Director, after developing significant friendships, after falling in love with the horses… I felt out of place, and I felt like I didn’t belong. Even surrounded by friends, and peers, and familiar faces, I felt out of place and I felt like a fraud.
Insecurities are a real smack in the face.
This year, what has been my major struggle, but in-turn, my saving grace, is that my long-term goals and aspirations caught up to me. I finally slowed down long enough to realize there was no way financially that I was stepping foot in the show pen this year, or likely next, or maybe even the year after that.
There was no hasty decision I could make to get back in the arena. Because, truthfully. I’m tired of the hustle. Tired of being successful enough to be able to get back into it but still not being able to afford it to do it properly. Tired of wheeling and dealing and scheming and dreaming to make it a reality, when realistically the reality is just to slow it down, take my time and do it right.
People keep asking me when I’m going to show again, and I keep saying “hopefully next year” but the truth is, it might be five years, heck, even a decade, until I regularly show again. I hope it isn’t, but it might be, and that’s okay.
I can still love this sport. Still advocate for this sport. Still promote this sport.
And I know many of you are probably feeling the same way. Maybe your horse is battling an injury and you are at home rehabbing it. Maybe you are taking a break to start a family. Maybe you are taking time off so that you can find the right horse for the future. Maybe it just isn’t financially feasible for you, but you love it.
Whatever your reason for not walking to the herd, know that you can still love our sport if you aren’t showing. Know that you can still be a part of our sport if you aren’t showing. Know that you can advocate for and promote our sport. Know you can make a difference without the LTE affixed to your name.
& if I can impart anything on you tonight, it’s that the best people to grow our sport are people like you. You have the time right now to really get involved, promote our sport, and change it for the better - so why not get involved? If you need a reason to be there, make that impactful reason, the reason you stick around.