For those of you that have not heard of the NRHA Derby held in Oklahoma City, it is one of the premiere events put on by the National Reining Horse Association. It is a derby that four, five and six year old horses are eligible to compete in, of which last year there were 450 entries in the derby alone. The event is held in conjunction with a full slate of classes and there are usually a little over 1,000 head of horses there to compete. The added money last year was $650,000, so no one is coming to this show just to practice or get your horse out for a weekend. They are here to run and win. Fans of the sport and spectators are here to watch, not just in the stands but with the internet, they are watching around the globe.
I have had the privilege over the years to compete at this event quite a few times and have done well. I have been the Reserve Derby Champion in the Limited Open, I have also fallen flat on my face. No quite literally flat on my face, skidding through the center of the arena like I was sliding into home plate while still in the saddle. My horse lost his footing, went down and the rest is history. It was quite a wreck, we were running fast circles and my horse, got a little out of control when it came to running his fast circles. My thought was, well I am here to show, and if I pull him up we are not going to get scored anything. Maybe I will just go with it and smile like it is something that I asked for and the judges will give me the benefit of the doubt. All doubt was removed when we both hit the dirt in the middle of the arena. Insult to injury came when my horse got up without me, and ran a lap around the arena with his tail in the air. One of my friends had to jump down out of the stands to catch my horse.
It was horrible. I was horrified, humiliated, defeated and a whole bunch of other things. To make matters worse I had to shake that off and go show another horse in the same pen, in front of the same audience, the same judges and the same peers. Then to top it all off I had to call my client and tell him not only did we not win, we wiped out and received a zero score. Not one of my shining moments.
I have had some tough times on horses; tough lessons learned and tough relationships lost. So you might ask, why in the world do you show and train horses for a living? Because, What I have learned and gained from horses, this sport and the people that surround me are priceless. Horses have sent me on a life journey that I will be forever grateful for, and I am a better man because of the horses I ride and show.
Horses have taught me about perseverance and grit. As the great Babe Ruth once said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” You have to fail to succeed and sometimes a lofty goal or ambition is worth failing for a few times. I have literally fallen off the horse and had to get back on (more times than I care to share). However, being able to persevere and actually succeed has been very rewarding. It has taught me that “I can” and I have been able to coach many others through to the same mindset of setting goals and achieving them.
Horses have taught me about grace. Not the kind of grace it takes to fall off of one, but the kind that is free and unmerited. They have been kind and forgiving of my mistakes and have tried in spite of them. Horses have given me perspective and taught me humility. The Bible says God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. I thank God that he taught me this and so many lessons through something I love so much.