The Long Road: The only thing that stays the same…

After she graduates next week, Maegan Gossett has decided to move home and embark upon a full-time journey to get to the AQHA World Championships. It’s time for a change.

Well it’s almost the week of my final final exams. Yep, that’s right. The last final I will ever have to sweat, guess, and bullsh!t my way through is only a few days away. Of course, thanks to Rolex being this weekend and the USEF’s wonderful live broadcast, there will be more bullsh!tting than normal. GO WILL COLEMAN AND TWIZZEL!

I passed my final project for my Econometrics class, which means the prospect of me actually passing enough classes to graduate this semester is looking much peachier. Yet, this brings up a whole new set of issues for me. For the last four years, I’ve been the typical college burnout (five years if you count my senior year of high school). Upon graduation, I have to face the fact that it is time for a change. Burnouts don’t win world championships.

I think change is a pretty common theme among us riders. We change bits, spurs, horses, trends, trainers, and barns. The list is endless. It seems like we are always contemplating a change. We normally take these adjustments in stride (pun intended) and move on to the next. It’s part of what makes our sport so great. My dad always tells me “adapt or die.” The horse represents a constantly changing dynamic equilibrium, and we either adapt with it, or we get passed by the next younger, better sensation.

So we will change a bit right before a class hoping it was just what we needed. We will spend a freaking ridiculous amount of money on a white shirt because colors aren’t in style anymore. We buy a new horse. Sell a horse. Buy a new saddle. Try a new instructor. Move barns. Move states. Do this. Do that. We will change anything to give us an edge, but sometimes we still find ourselves stuck in a rut. Maybe changing a bit or spur won’t fix the problem. Maybe if we are honest with ourselves, we know the problem is something bigger.

Maybe it’s us.

Change has definitely been a common theme in my life lately. I’ve moved my horse around more times within the past six months than I care to recount. And now I am staring down the barrel of another change. I would be an idiot to say I don’t welcome this type of change. I mean, who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to show your horse with your parent’s support and under the tutelage of a great trainer? But what makes my mouth go dry is the fact that I’m going to have to make a change in my attitude.

And maybe herein lies our culprit: attitude. Or at least I know it is for me. As a kid, I would make a decision, and BOOM. Done. I went with it. Right or wrong, buddy, I was there for the long haul, headfirst and without a second thought. Change wasn’t an issue back then, because I embraced it with a different attitude. It may not have been the right change at the time, but I stuck with it with a stubborn tenacity until things eventually worked out. And if you didn’t like it, well then you could shove it. Change was just another blurry tree in my peripheral as I sped by.

But as an adult, I’ve learned that there really are wrong decisions. Those missteps have real consequences that will stick with you. I’ve made quite a few of them. So many in fact that my attitude towards change has shifted from enthusiasm to more of a bone-deep wariness. I think this is common with adults, especially riders. Using those sharper spurs might get you a more responsive horse, but it might get you bucked off too. We’ve been trained to make changes with trepidation because we know that things go wrong sometimes. We might have lost the fearlessness of our youth, but we have gained some wisdom, right?

Maybe. If that childhood fool-hardiness has turned into something more like honesty. If instead of leaping into something blindly, we can assess our situation and truthfully tell ourselves that yes, we do need a change then maybe it is wisdom. In that situation, how can we not have a good attitude about it? If in the end, we know this is what we need, then how can we not jump into that change with a child-like enthusiasm?

I know this change is good for me. If I am honest with myself, I can say that while it may be easier to fit into the burnout persona, it’s not for me. I can make all these little changes like moving home, changing jobs, changing whatever, but if I don’t allow myself to change my attitude then all those other changes won’t matter. I may not win a world championship, but if I can be fearless and embrace these changes in my life with a willing and tenacious attitude then what could really go wrong?

Knock on wood.

So until next time, try to look at change through the eyes of an adult but accept it with some of the vigor of your 10 year-old self. You can change your horse’s bit as many times as you want, but if you don’t put some effort into making it work, he’s still going to drag you around.

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