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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Groom Where You're Planted

I sometimes marvel at the envy I experience within my thoughts on a daily basis. I try my best to hide it, contain it, and keep it to a minimum, but it always creeps back in. On days when I'm really in the pity-party mood I like to think I'm alone in my horrible thoughts and jealous inner-longings.  The better part of me knows though that being human comes with many such challenges.  Jealousy (and its counterpart, hypocrisy) are ones that I'd wager are making a run for the gold in the category of most destruction to the developed world today.  You all know what I'm talking about.  "Keeping up with the Jones'" as its been coined. And let me tell you, if you were to find a huge group of Jones' and Jones-wannabes together, sharing an expensive, emotional and time-consuming hobby, well, you'd have found the world of horse-showing. Sometimes it seems that there is no ceiling to the fancy horses, the blingy outfits, the unbelievable rigs (with gorgeous living quarters ... that I would have to live in as I could no longer afford my house if I should purchase such an outrageous dream-machine).  How can any of us "little guys" compete?  Do hard work, hours spent, miles covered, solid training and preparation  count anymore if you are constantly being "outdone" by the guys next door?  Well, that all depends on your attitude I think.

Brendan's Irish-Catholic grandmother used to have this old sign hanging in her house (I think it was one of those needlepoint ones) that said "Bloom where you're planted."  Always seemed a little silly to me.  I mean what choice do you have if you're a weed growing out on a bare, dry prairie other than to just grow the tallest and strongest your little roots can make you.  Ay, but there it is. The saying isn't "Just barely make it where you're planted" or "Grow as tall and strong as you can where you're planted but complain about yourself in comparison to all the other beautiful foliage around".  No, it says BLOOM.  We generally think of blooming as the time when a plant is flowering.  This in itself is significant because we are called not only to grow, but to flower, right where we are.  Not where our neighbor is, not where our family is (and not on the horse that they have either!). We are called to develop our own deep, strong roots and fruitful branches, where we are, with what we are given.  There is an even deeper meaning I think though, when we look at the second part of the Oxford dictionary's definition of bloom: "the state or period of greatest beauty, freshness, or vigor".

How many of us believe that if we only had a fancier horse, a more prestigious horse trainer (is it wrong to admit that I sometimes feel this, even as the horse trainer?), or some new gizmo, gadget or outfit?

I am constantly telling my clients (and myself) that we have to have a truck load of perspective in this industry, and we have to really examine our own personal goals and achievements when assessing our success (see last month's blog, "In It to Win It"). 

Humor me a bit while I get a little philosophical for a minute.  I truly believe that anyone who is graced by the presence of a horse, has been introduced to this "world" for a reason.  Riding (and competing) with horses is truly like no other sport.  There is an inexplicable synergy found in the combination between horse and human.  Two animals, fashioned completely differently, one with two legs, a vertical carriage, wrought with emotion and both helped and hindered by advanced, conscious thought, and another with four legs, horizontal carriage, and ruled by instinct and deep biological impulses, both working together in a harmony that is fearfully beautiful.  Even if you aren't religious it is hard not to find some connection with something deeper when you walk astride a horse.  And regardless of what turns of fate brought us into this arena, so to speak, we all have to start somewhere.   Some start off with the best of the best.  Expensive horses, elite instruction, flawless training.  Some of us figured out how to stay on by playing "capture the flag" out in some back field on naughty little horses that we more or less trained by our 12-year-old selves. 

How truly wonderful it is though, when you study the profiles of those in the winners circle (both amateurs and professionals alike) that you find individuals fitting both of the profiles above, and all through the spectrum in between?

I believe it lies in the title of this blog (which I personally felt was extremely witty).  Instead of sitting around (and come on, if you're like me, most likely on Facebook) groaning over all of the successes and fancy new acquisitions of those around you, you need to get to work on just creating your own "blooms". 

I recently had one of these experiences myself (confession time ...).  This year there were several riders and horses at US Nationals who I know fairly well, and most of them had some amazing successes.  They have all worked so hard for and totally deserve it.  That, and it is absolutely awesome for the industry in our area that our Canadian contingent gave such a great showing.  I must admit though there was a moment (it was fleeting as I kicked myself in the butt quickly for it) that I felt envy.  For no justifiable reason, I felt it was "unfair" that they should have all of that success.  Why? I mean, they worked for it.  They paid for it.  What felt so unfair about it?  Plain and simple ... it wasn't mine.  

And in this moment I realized more fully than ever before that there will always be others I can compare to... those greater and lesser than myself.  In that moment though, I have to choose to focus on what I can do, not what I cannot. 

As most of you know, we have embarked this last year on a great new leg of our adventure ... our own place! The show horses all came home in June, the barn's a hoppin' and things are really and truly going great.  We don't have an indoor arena yet, and that can be challenging at times, but I'm just determined to "groom where we're planted" and try to make the best of it.  So, we get creative.  Sometimes weather causes cancellations. Sometimes we have to adapt our plans.  On days when I cant go full force in the arena, we do ground driving around the yard, stall-bitting and ground manner training (I even have a couple who can do some tricks now!!).  I spend a lot of time reading and brushing up on theory and technicalities.  We are also in the process of setting up arrangements to haul-in to some local arenas to ride when the real winter arrives!

I am ever-so-tempted some days to sit back and cry about what we don't have here (and no one gets to ask my husband how often I succumb to this temptation), but I hope at the end of the day I'll look back and think, "Wow, we really were able to make something awesome happen, despite facing some challenges".  It's easy to get spoiled with all the amenities our modern facilities offer.  And its easy to think that we need all of these things in order to create anything worthwhile.  Along the way though, I've learned that horses are hardy, and people are committed.  We just have to keep our spirits up about the whole thing.  And you know what,  in my estimation, our little band of horses are actually looking better than ever.  The naughty ones seem a little less naughty, the fat ones have slimmed down, and the skinny ones are getting pleasantly plump.  Everyone's morale seems great and we really have a wonderful little family here.  We're growing, we're learning, and we're blooming.  Right where we are.  No fancy trimmings (well maybe not yet) but man do we appreciate every little victory!

So my winter challenge for everyone is this ... The next time you visit your friend's new multi-million dollar facility with plush stall mats, heated floors and perfectly groomed and temp-controlled arena, or the next time you cruise Facebook and see how "so-and-so" just acquired an inheritance and picked up her five-time national champion that she is sooooo in love with, swallow that envy down hard. Put on a smile and be happy for them.  But don't dwell too long.  Pull up your socks, put on your muck boots, go down to the barn and then groom (and bloom) with a new vigor.  Life has a way of rewarding hard work and persistence, and the character you'll develop along the way will serve you well in being able to truly enjoy the successes you achieve, rather than driving you to look to the next, bigger, fancier thrill.  Do your best, and work hard, wherever you are, with whatever you have to work with.  Seek good counsel, and make changes when you can.  You will bloom no doubt, and when you do, the fruits of your labor will be so much more beautiful than the store-bought successes you once longed to afford. 

Happy Grooming!!