Triple Trouble: What Is Winning?

“Finally, I told myself to snap out of it, get my $h!t together and look at all the positives… I may not have won my class that weekend, but I won in other aspects that are greater than a buckle and a pay check.”

Over the past several months Buns and I have been putting in some serious time to be successful in mounted shooting. Recently we moved into the upper levels and we’re now a level 4. To break it down even further, we’re running with the big dogs.

Up to this point in my mounted shooting journey Buns and I may not have gone the fastest, but we were the most consistent. Almost all of our qualified wins were because I’ve kept Buns at a consistent speed and shot clean. Unfortunately for me, I’m coming to the realization that those days are over.

September 25th and 26th were the CMSA Midwest Regionals. I was pumped to go with my great friend and coach, Cara Penley, for a girls weekend! I was ready to kick some a$$ that weekend. I gave it what I considered was my best at that time. I shot every stage clean and Buns’s lines as we navigated the patterns were on point.

Going into the final stage I was leading the class by 0.4 seconds. Buns and I had a nice clean run, keeping us clean for the entire shoot, but we fell short and ended up taking second to a competitor who had a miss because she outran her miss.

Photo by Gwen Vhr

If I said I wasn’t disappointed, I’d be lying. I can handle losing. If I shot clean and another rider shot clean and she outran me, good for her, she deserved to win, but I felt overly let down that we were clean and were beat by someone who had a penalty. For a few moments there I lost sight of what winning actually is. There was so much to be proud of and happy about that weekend and not getting a qualified win made me lose sight of all that.

Finally, I told myself to snap out of it, get my $h!t together and look at all the positives.

I’m winning just by being in the sport of mounted shooting. I am so grateful for all the friends I’ve made in the sport who cheer me and Buns on every run. Some give us pep talks before our runs and others video our runs. The support in the sport is unmatched from any other discipline I’ve ever participated in.

Photo Courtesy of Marcella Gruchalak

Buns is healthy, happy and loves his job. I just enjoy riding him and being able to trust my equine counterpart. I forgot that my favorite part of shooting weekends is not the competing but actually just riding Buns in the warm up pen, listening to music, seeing how he feels for the day. Having him as my partner is winning.

While at the competition Buns received a massage from our good friend, Kelsey Gibson. Buns was SO appreciative of her and her services. He was licking and chewing, yawning and several times he even smiled. You could see in Buns’s expressions how happy he was to be getting a massage. When Kelsey was finished Buns actually wrapped his neck around her and gave her a hug. Seeing how appreciative he was of a nice gesture that made him feel good is winning. I love knowing my horse is happy.

@mgruc01Buns getting a massage from @kelseygibson81 ❤️. ##horse ##mountedshooting ##massage ##massagetherapy ##ottb ##offthetrackthoroughbred ##thoroughbred♬ original sound – Marcella Gruchalak

On Saturday night, after we were done competing, eating dinner and getting ice cream, Buns, me and a few of our buddies went out onto the race track and breezed around a few times. Again, Buns was so happy. He was doing something he found fun, an activity he was familiar with. He stretched out, utilized his big stride and just enjoyed his moments galloping around the track with his fellow horse friends. It was a freeing experience, a tad frightening, but Buns continued to listen to cues to slow down and fall behind to take little breaks. Just enjoying those moments with my friends right before dark was winning. These were moments and memories that made me truly happy.


@mgruc01Racing around the track with friends ❤️ ##horse ##racehorse ##racetrack ##racing ##ottb ##offthetrackthoroughbred ##thoroughbred ##galloping ##gallop

♬ Racecourse, Horse Racing – Sound Effects Factory

I’m almost ashamed of myself for letting losing get the best of me for a short period of time. However, if I didn’t care about how Buns and I performed, would it really be worth it to continue doing? The experience was eye opening and definitely one I’m not too keen on, but that’s motivated me to push harder at practice every week so it becomes a less frequent occurrence.

I’ve always been one to be grateful for what I have and happy for those who are doing great in their lives, being successful and accomplishing their goals. I just really needed to step back from my disappointment and remember that. Remember how great of a journey I’m on and how I may not have won my class that weekend but I won in other aspects that are greater than a buckle and a pay check.

Photo by Gwen Vhr