Best of JN: A Holistic Approach to Measuring Success

Most of us are excellent at measuring success with our quantifiable accomplishments, but what about the more elusive qualitative aspect? In this week’s Best of Jumper Nation, Gillian Warner elaborates on how she’s added to her definition of success.

At the end of last semester, one of my professors had us write a paper reflecting on our experiences over the last few years, and how they will shape our move into our post-graduate careers. As part of this exercise, he encouraged us to include how we would keep track of our progress and success in reaching our goals.

In school, tracking success for me often meant maintaining a certain GPA or participating in or holding leadership positions in clubs. These relatively straightforward indicators of success were seen clearly on resumes sent in on job applications.

I’ve tracked my success in a similar way when it comes to my riding career: adding to my resume the levels at which I’ve competed, training sessions in which I’ve participated, and shows that went particularly well with good placings. 

While recognizing and being proud of these accomplishments is important, when I was growing up, I was oftentimes so focused on accumulating success through the levels that I overlooked a different kind of success that I’d achieved. I define success in many varied ways now. 

Success is in a strong partnership and enthusiastic hellos. Photo by Gillian Warner.

I’ve grown to see success in an ordinary day at the barn, when my mare walks up to me in the field. I see success in the soft nicker I hear when I call her name. Success is found in a clean flying lead change, in the effortless feeling of balance and connectedness through a tricky exercise, which, in fact, took immense effort to achieve, or in increasing my horse’s confidence on the trail. Success is in helping a friend with their horse, or introducing a friend to the soft feel of a muzzle grabbing a treat. 

While reaching my competition goals is something still important to me, the achievement reached in obtaining these goals is not solely about the goal itself. It’s also about achieving the goal as a result of improved horsemanship, connection, and partnership with my horse. 

Viewing success in this way might not be as easy to track… I can’t very easily cross it off my list written in that exercise for class. Striving for success as a horseman or horsewoman is a lifelong journey. Some days will feel more successful than others. Some days will be better than others. But as long as I show up for my horse every day, promising to try to be better than the day before, we will be successful.