We always look forward to watching the Olympics. The athletes and their stories are amazing and inspiring. As I watch the snow boarders, figure skaters and ski jumpers, I can’t imagine doing those things, let alone doing them well.
Hard work and dedication do pay off, for some. I can’t help but wonder about the equally talented and dedicated athletes who don’t make the cut. Perhaps their parents decided that a college fund was more important than moving cross country to secure the best coach. Or maybe family time was more important than practice on a particular day.
My niece is a talented show jumper in Ireland. She would love to make the Irish Olympic team. She competes on a wonderful horse that she and her family train. But an Olympic horse would cost a fortune.
Since I was a young girl, my dream has been to compete at the World’s Championship Horse Show in Louisville. Not even to win, mind you, just to have the horse worthy of competing. Our daughter shares this dream, I’m sure. But I’m not likely to make it there. Is it for lack of trying? No. It’s for taking a real job with health insurance, for putting college and retirement money aside, for having a home.
When we were in our fifties, we did follow our dreams of becoming full time horse trainers and instructors. We had some decent horses which were competitive at small shows and we taught a lot of children and adults to ride, some of whom eventually made it to compete on the green shavings. But for the most part, our customers were like us, able to compete on a small scale, but not to invest enough to go to the top. I had dreams for my students, but dreams and dedication and hard work are not always enough.
Yesterday I was looking through my pictures for some examples to give the illustrator for an upcoming children’s book called The Riding Lesson. I saw happy children, acquiring skills and developing responsibility, loving every minute spent at the barn. They competed at academy shows and winter tournaments, learning life lessons along with horsemanship. Many went on to own and sometimes to train their own horses. When I look at those pictures, I see success.
Susan Williamson is a lifelong horse person, former extension agent, newspaper editor and food coop manager. She is the author of two novels: Turkmen Captives and Dead on the Trail. She has written two e-books: How to Buy Your First Horse and How to Get By as Time Goes By.