January 13, 2012
“Next group please come into the warm-up arena to check in,” the announcer said.

I looked at my horse’s chin strap and throat latch to make sure they were secure and not twisted. I started to get really anxious when I saw multiple horses and riders going into the warm-up. I checked my saddle and saddle pad, the black no-slip pad wasn’t showing and the saddle pad and saddle were in the correct spot. I made sure my girth wasn’t loose, then I dropped my irons. My mom wished me good luck and I quickly got on my horse to head into the arena to check in. I waited in line for ten long minutes and finally it was my turn. A lady came up to me and checked to make sure I was in the correct group. Then she looked in Lola’s mouth to make sure my bit was legal.

She smiled at me and said, “You better get warmed up, you go in first.”

I was weaving through everyone trying to get Lola moving just right. I kept her as focused as I could without over-correcting her. Her back was up and she was ready to work. We trotted and cantered both directions, and we also counter-cantered both directions. I made sure she was soft in my hand and listening to my legs. She was doing everything perfect for me, not shying from anything. Her trot was huge and her canter was slow. I knew we were ready.

I started to relax, then the announcer called, “311 please come to arena entrance.”

My muscles tightened as I walked to the chute. As the pace started to slow down in my mind I could feel the sweat drizzling down my back under my hunt coat and long sleeve blouse. The closer I got to the chute though, I could feel a breeze of cool air hitting my face from the air conditioned coliseum. Before I knew it I was face to face with the chute waiting for the gate man to give me the nod. I looked up and saw “Gateway of Champions” a chill went completely through my body. Everything I had worked for this year was going to be pushed to the limit in the next half hour. The gate man gave me a nod and told me to go when I was ready.

I glanced over at Leeann for reassurance. She smiled, “It’s just another show, now go get ‘em!”

I looked down the chute into the arena, it was narrow and had faint light showing. At the very end you could see the arena waiting for the next contestant to shine. I clucked and we started down the fifty yard chute. With every step Lola took my nerves disappeared. In the corner of my eye I could see people staring at me through the glass wall that bordered the chute. As the end of the chute got closer I picked up a posting trot and I put on a huge smile right before we entered the big open arena. The first step Lola took into the arena everything went dead silent. It was like everyone in the crowd had disappeared. It felt like I was floating by all judges as we trotted down the middle of the arena. The nerves that I had were in my past and my confidence swelled.

Competition is a metaphor for life, it structures the way that I will live, and I have learned so many lessons just from the experience of riding and showing my horses. I have been taking lessons since I was little which makes me a good listener and very obedient. It has taught me to never settle for less than the best I can do. I always try for perfection, but if their are little mistakes I don’t get down. If I were to get down on myself it would give it away to the judges and they would think I wasn’t very confident in myself. I have learned to never depend on anyone else because they can’t do it for you. When you’re in the arena it’s just you and your horse, there is no one to help you. I have learned that it makes it way easier when you have a set routine to follow. This helps me stay confident and I don’t get as nervous. Also American Quarter Horse Youth Association has helped me become a better leader. The programs that they offer have helped me get a better look at life. The seminars and the events I have experienced have made me much more social, more confident as a speaker, and have taught me to make the most of what I get. Confidence is the key to a successful life.

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