What is is success? So many different things to different people! Let me tell you what it is to me.
I am the average Joe riding the average horse and the, lets say the 'less charitable', among us may be thinking, why does she bother? She never wins, hardly ever gets placed. Success for me is not winning or getting placed. It is so many other things. Things to me that are much more important than winning a class or title. Don't get me wrong that is also very cool, but it is the icing on the cake, not the measure of success. For me anyway.
I bought my horse as more or less unstarted. He had had someone sit on him half a dozen times, he'd walked, trotted and cantered under saddle and was then turned out again. He didn't know anything about steering, brakes or what go meant. He was just over 4 when I bought him. My partner had him for a week, long reined him, mouthed him and had the first ride on him. I've done everything since. I'm not a brave rider, competent but I don't consider myself overly brave. I was riding a newly started young horse and learning as I went. That is my definition of success.
My horse took 18 months, 18 months!! to learn to canter consistently when asked let alone on a circle. I was despairing I would ever get it. Not having ever produced a young horse before, I wondered what I was doing wrong. Everyone said 'Get longer spurs', 'When he bucks use your whip more', 'Do heaps of cantering and galloping', Ride with other horses cantering' and other 'helpful' suggestions. NOTHING worked. I went to a well known coach, he told me he didn't know what to suggest and just to keep trying different things. I tried a different coach, he explained why I was having trouble and taught me a method that works for me and my horse. He is still my coach 2 1/2 years later. Him and his fiance who teaches the same method, are different but the same (very hard to explain!) both teach me and I get a huge amount out of each lesson regardless of which one it is with. They are amazing. We have gone from not being able to canter a circle to doing a not to bad of a job at elementary (L3) in just over 2 years, starting our 3rd year now, thanks to these two amazing coaches. That is my definition of success.
I go to competitions and I see these big moving warmbloods that are born uphill and with expressive movement and know I am going to be competing against them on my bred for jumping, not uphill or expressive, would rather trundle on the forehand, Irish Sport Horse. I know my horse will be reliable, I know that I will feel safe and I know there won't be any unexpected surprises. I see his pricked ears out in front of me and I feel him try as hard as he can underneath me. I know what we found hard last time and have been practicing, I feel that we did better this time. I pick up my test sheet and the mark for that movement confirms we have improved. That is my definition of success.
Each time I want to ride I need to put my horse on the float. I do that and I do it 4 or 5 times a week. I am very, very lucky to have access to an equestrian park 15 minutes up the road and an amazing arena that belongs to a friend that I am privileged to be able to able to use 20 minutes the other way. I train and work on what I have been taught at my lessons when I ride. When those lessons come around again and my coaches assess where I'm at then tell me they can see the difference compared with when they last saw me, that is my definition of success.
The other day I received this Facebook message from someone I know, but not hugely well. 'You're an inspiration to me, just wanted you to know I admire you in your dressage journey, wish I didn't doubt myself so much and we could be getting even scores at L3 together' (we had scored the same mark when riding against each other at L1 and that had come up in her memories on Facebook). That message blew me away. It proves you don't need to be out there winning ribbons to be an inspiration to someone else. She went on to say that when we were in the same class she would see me as the one to beat and if she did she knew she was doing well. Me! The one who doesn't win, the one who rarely places, the one to beat. That is my definition of success.
Success is what you want to to be. Not what someone else tells you it should be. Set your goals. YOUR goals, not based on what someone else is doing. Go out there and smash them! If you don't, look at what didn't go to plan and try again. Smash them next time! Don't give up. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Trying, and trying and trying again, and enjoying the journey, that is my definition of success.