Last week Roaming Rider did a review of her 2018, and under her Lessons Learned section, one of her bullet points was “form a tribe”. She’s right in that it’s a bit of a corny saying, for sure, but I 100% agree with her on just how crucially important it is to any kind of success.
I know that, for me at least, Henry and I wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are today if not for the people we have surrounding us. Our vets, our farrier, our trainer, our friends… they’re all part of that support group, they’re all important, and when you combine them all together it has a bit of a dream team effect. The importance of the roles of the vets and farrier are obvious – they keep Henry at his physical peak, keep him looking and feeling good, and help me make sure that he stays that way. We’ve had our vets (yes, I use a couple, depending on what it’s for) ironed out for years, and this year we finally locked on to a truly fantastic farrier. Not only do Henry’s feet look a whole lot better, but because his angles are back to where they should be, it’s had an overall positive effect on the entire rest of his body. We’ve done less maintenance this year than ever, despite a busier show schedule, increased work load, and more traveling.
But those are the most obvious “tribe members”, right? It’s easy for anyone to understand why they’re so critical – they look after the physical side of things. But what I think is even more important, although much less visible, is the emotional support. Friends, family, trainer… wherever you get it from, it’s really hard to be successful in this sport, or to grow yourself as a rider, without the right kind of people around you.
I keep a relatively small close group of friends. I’m not the best at socializing (okay that’s probably a gross understatement, I can hear everyone who knows me laughing wildly at that) and I’m not that great with people. As I’ve gotten older I’ve decided not to keep close ties with people who don’t enrich my life in some way, people who make me want to be better and do better. I believe strongly that we become like the people we surround ourselves with. I want to be around people who aren’t afraid to dream big, to raise the bar, to push beyond what other people might see as the limit. They might not be where they want to be yet, but they’ve got guts and they’ve got heart. But also people who are honest and who truly want the people around them to succeed as well. I ain’t got time for petty, or nay-sayers, or people who want to stay in their comfort zone forever and keep everyone else down there with them.
I’m lucky to have a lot of friends that I find to be genuinely inspiring. Whether it’s their unfailingly positive attitude, their tenacity, or their sincere selflessness, I look at the people around me and see a lot of good. Everyone is human of course, but what’s in your heart is what matters, and at this point in my life I’ve somehow managed to surround myself with a extraordinary number of golden-hearted people. That trend continues from my close friend group to what I guess you could call my “barn family” – my trainer’s other clients. Pretty much none of us board together, but you’ve never seen a better, more supportive group of people in your life. Everyone is sincerely invested in each other’s success, and that kind of support is priceless on both good days and bad.
I’m truly convinced that the reason there are so many good people in one place is because that kind of attitude comes from the top – the “top” in this situation being my trainer. You reap what you sow, and she sows work ethic, positivity, and gratitude. She can always find the good in a situation, and is one of those truly weird people (completely unlike myself) who seems to always know the right thing to say. She’s honest, she doesn’t put up with self-pity or cattiness or bullshit, and she has a good eye for a horse. Most importantly, she isn’t afraid to dream big FOR you, even if you don’t believe in yourself enough to do it on your own, and she always has your best interest as her priority.
My whole world has changed since I first started eventing. I’ve always been one of those people who is content to do things largely on their own. I didn’t NEED anybody else, right? I mean, to a point that is right… you don’t really need people to just get by, if you’re self-sufficient. I could take lessons with whoever and check off all the boxes and we probably would have done just fine. “Fine” isn’t what it’s all about though, at least not for me. The relationships I’ve formed have been the difference between “fine” and “wildest dreams”.
Since these people kind of fell into my life and made me realize how much of a box I had kept myself in, they’ve completely changed how I see everything. Most importantly, myself. They’ve challenged me and inspired me, supported me and believed in me, and that has truly changed my life. Find people like that: people who believe in you no matter what, people who don’t let you play small, people who constantly make you want to be better – as a rider and a horseman and a human. Find those people, and your road to success, whatever that may look like for you, suddenly becomes paved.