It was so worth missing homecoming and quitting track to attend another horse show in the middle of nowhere.
I grew up in a cut-throat industry competing from a very young age. I have shown horses on the national level since I was in elementary school. I learned that it takes hard work and a lot of dedication to get to the top, and once you’re there, it’s pretty lonely. It was a rough way to grow up at times, spending every weekend on the road to another horse show and having to tell the boys who asked me on dates that I did not have time was not always fun or easy. I gave up school sports, some friends, getting my drivers license on time and two of my high school homecomings for the love of this competition. Yet, despite all this, I still have a passion and love for this sport deeper than the day I started because it has shaped the woman I am today and I am so grateful.
Growing up showing horses taught me to do everything with confidence, even when I had none. Walking into that first job interview was treated just like showmanship at the world show; I strutted in there and dared them not to hire me on the spot. This was a skill I learned in the arena: always enter the arena with so much confidence that the judge does not want to place you any lower than first.Growing up showing horses taught me responsibility and accountability. I had animals who depended on me to feed and care for them. If I did not hold up my end of the deal, they suffered. I had expensive clothes and tack that I had to take care of or it did not get replaced. It made me mature very quickly and helped me to be a more responsible person in all parts of my life.
Growing up showing horses taught me humility. Getting dumped in the dirt in front of everyone or going off pattern at the world show showed me that no matter how perfect you think things are going or how great you can do, life always has a way of feeding you a nice slice of humble pie. It is easy to be boastful, especially when you are a winner, but it is better to stay humble and kind (also thanks to Tim McGraw for that).
Growing up showing horses taught me the value of hard work and dedication. Removing the stirrups from my English saddle for a whole week and forcing myself to keep two-pointing even when my thighs were screaming was not fun but when I won equitation at the next three horse shows, it was so worth it. Showing showmanship weekend in weekend out with a young gelding who constantly forgot how to set up was beyond frustrating, but dedication won out and he eventually became nearly unbeatable in that class. I learned that I got out what I put into the sport; the harder I worked, the more I won. Everything in life is like that. When I want to succeed, I set my mind to that and don’t stop until I have achieved it. It’s just like getting that first successful flying lead change in horsemanship. For a time it seems impossible but once accomplished, you have never been more fulfilled.
Growing up showing horses taught me the value of true friendship. I made many friends in the industry over the years. Some could not stand to be friends with competition and pushed me away. Some could not stand to watch me be successful when they were not. Some I pushed away with my own ego and competitive attitude. Others chose to stick by me through thick and thin and never let competition be an issue. These are the girls who I know I can call at any moment and they will always be there for me. Those girls I met at horse shows have turned out to be the truest and strongest friends in my life, and I am forever grateful for stumbling upon their beautiful personalities in this industry.
Showing horses taught me how to win. It taught me what it felt like to be the best. It also taught me how to win correctly and incorrectly. You can be a humble, kind and gracious winner who parents tell their little girls to look up to, or you can be an egotistical, boastful and greedy winner who everyone envies but no one actually likes. I strive endlessly to be the first and try my hardest to be a positive role model.
Growing up showing horses taught me the value of competition. I learned mental and physical toughness. I often had to show on little to no sleep or once, a few hours after a root canal. I learned to push through the pain or exhaustion and make it happen. I learned just how hard you have to work to be the best and how sweet a well-earned victory feels. Competition makes its way into every facet of our lives whether it is the workplace or school or friendships. Learning the value of competition and how to be a good competitor is a valuable lesson I learned through showing horses.
Growing up showing horses taught me respect and appreciation. I learned to respect the professionals in the industry: judges, trainers, farriers, breeders and veterinarians because they all have a specialty that helps me in some way and I am appreciative of their talent and knowledge. It taught me to respect and appreciate my parents for the sacrifices they made to allow me to compete at the level and scale that I did; nothing can repay them for all they did for me. Finally, it taught me respect and appreciation for the 1,000 pound animal that could kill me at any moment but instead chooses to work in seamless harmony with a small girl and achieve great things all the while showing me a deep love that only happens between a girl and her beloved horse. Horses are incredible animals that have a way of impacting your life irrevocably for the better.
When I look at all the buckles, trophies, saddles and ribbons, I see so much more than just awards; I see all the lessons I have learned thanks to showing horses. I would not be the strong, confident, humble, responsible woman that I am today if I had not grown up spending every weekend in a bouncy truck bound for another horse show in the middle of nowhere. I am forever grateful that I was lucky enough to grow up in such a challenging but rewarding way. I would not be where I am today without it. Written By, Brandy Smith.