Jul 31, 2009
With a Little Help From Our Friends
A recent post on Mugwump Chronicles kind of pulled at the heartstrings. She tells a story of a young Mugwump, excited to be invited to attend a competitive trail ride with a friend and her mother. The friend, knowing Mugs hadn’t the money or the opportunity to learn about the sport prior to going, does not help set her up for success by sharing her knowledge, but rather watches in the shadows at Mugwump’s humiliation for the lack of it. We’ll never know if the friend’s motive was to score better or to make Mugs look bad. Regardless, I am sure there are many times in both our childhood and adult life that we have felt ambushed by so called friends.
I'd be lying if I said I hadn't met some folks like Mugwump’s friend, whose bravado must be measured by other’s failures or short-comings. Some can be a bit patronizing, others downright mean. I’m not sure if this comes from their own insecurities or just plain taking pride in seeing someone else struggle. Although I wasn’t born in the saddle, I’m thankful my skin is as tough as leather. It’s a rough world out in equine land! But I won’t blame the activity. I see these same people at our boys’ sporting events and other activities I have partaken in over the years. There are some in every crowd. I bet even those scrapbooking people get cut-throat on occasion! (And no offense to the scrapbookers – it just struck me funny thinking of someone saying “did you see how she handled those pinking shears?”)
On the flipside, in the years that followed the purchase of our first horse, my address book as changed considerably. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some people through horse activities with whom I would have never met in my other walk of life. These friends have been instrumental in making me a better horsewoman. They have done so by setting a good example, having the patience of a saint and most of all, a sense of humor. They know how to offer advice without criticism and lead by example. Some of these friends have had horses all their lives and others, like me, come into the sport with a strong desire and little experience beyond a childhood pony. (Thanks, guys. You know who you are.)
Some of my best horse memories were those shared by friends. Having almost a decade behind us, we have a lot of “remember when” moments now. I heard a statistic once that said 80% of new horse owners will have called it quits in the first year. Of those 20% that stay with it, 80% of those will be out of it in 5 years. So out of 100 new horse owners today, using this theory, only 4 would still have horses five years from now. (And feel free to check my math because it’s NOT my strong suit.) I am pretty sure that statistic would be higher if they had horse friends like mine!
We are all busy in our lives – horse and otherwise. And admittedly, I am guilty of looking down my nose at a new rider or two who had tried my patience in a particular activity. (Those who know me well know I lack in the patience department.) But I am going to make it a point to pay it forward as a thanks to those who didn't look down their nose at me. I'll try harder to make a new horse owner feel like they belong. To reward the try, advise without criticize (when asked) and lead by example. It doesn’t matter what I know or don’t know, nor does it have to be a lifelong commitment to that person. It only takes a moment to offer kindness, support and a pat on the back and hopefully that gesture will perhaps give that person the courage to continue this crazy sport another day.
Who’s your best horse friend? Did you have a mentor or worse, a nemesis? Feel free to share your story in the comments.