The Long Road is the Short Road

Photo © Shawn McMillen Photography

BY PIPER KLEMM

For those of you who work, and wait, and work some more – we salute you. 

I am impatient at best. When I focus in on a goal, I am whole hog. I read everything. Evaluate everything. Put in every hour, every movement, every sacrifice. I want it. Maybe not immediately, but after a month or so I start looking around for progress. By month 6 or 8, I want results. By year 3, I’m usually burned out.

As we grow and mature, we have to realign our goals. We hone the skills we learned along the way. We get comfortable at plateaus, and then gain strength to level up yet again. Throughout the journey, we slip down—thumping into barriers on our way down the backslide—only to scramble back up through hard work, knowledge and sometimes a little luck. The best help and do right by those around us along the climb. 

What you learn is that nothing worth being good at can be achieved in less than ten years… no matter how brutally you go after it. You can’t cheat the system. The long road is the short road. Just like making up a young horse, you eventually pay for any day of groundwork that you skipped. If you race to get into a division, you’ll have pieces to pick up at some point. Over time, you can never get away with anything. 

I have spent years pushing ahead, often not knowing where I am pushing or what I am pushing toward. I want to be better, impact more people, enrich and engage our community, but that occasionally leads me down the rabbit holes and mistakes. My progress is anything but linear, and it can be difficult to define what “progress” objectively means. 

During Pony Finals this year, someone called me and asked how it was going. I stopped to think amid the chaos, and replied, “I think I’ve got it. This year is going really well. In my eighth year here as an adult, I think I’m finally doing it right.” 

Photo © Adam Hill

Now if you told me eight Pony Finals ago that it would take me this long to feel this way, I never would have believed you. I probably would have fought it, had a meltdown and tried to beat the system. But instead, here I was with eight years of hard work, thrilled with my progress and grateful for all the time and energy that I’ve put in. Thrilled to be in such a zen place about my ponies, my friends, the magazine, and everything wonderful I have going on in my life. 

Which leads to the things that mean the most to me: my husband, the magazine, and my horse. 

As we enter our 13th year together, my husband Adam still encourages me everyday to be the most “me” version of myself that I can be. He supports my ambition, gives me space, and always assures me when I doubt myself. He listens to my goals, and tries to pitch in where here can help. When I come home from long days at the horse show, having turned feral in that lifestyle, he always eases me back into civilization and habits and a daily regimen of life that will keep me performing my best. 

After six years with The Plaid Horse and 48 issues at the helm, it’s just getting right. Just like with Pony Finals, I’m not sure if I would have been so invested up front if I had known how long it would take to get here. But, to see the impact over the years and all the writers, photographers, readers, and horse people we’ve engaged through thousands of blog posts, Instagram stories, and Facebook messages it’s humbling at the highest form. Our work to serve the community will never be done. Not today, not this decade, not even when I’m stepping down a division in my old age!

Then there’s my horse. He’s new to me, but is the culmination of the last decade of trying to navigate this industry the best I am able. He not only represents the best in horses, he’s lovely, but also the best in the people around him. Because of him, there is so much love from so many circles around him. I’m fortunate to have him in my life because of the supportive and collaborative nature of this business. 

When I was young, I had so many goals. Older now, I’m glad there were many that I didn’t achieve. Setting goals now, I think about the right goals for a specific horse instead of the goals the industry pushes us towards in upward mobility. After I rode for my horse for the first time in the schooling ring, I told Emily Elek that I was so glad he came to me at this specific moment in my life. When I don’t care if he ever does a hunter derby. Don’t care what division we show in. If I only ever jump him in the schooling ring or flat him at home, that’s enough. Simply standing in his stall with perked ears and a calm expression, he’s enough horse for me. After all these years, I have the experience, time and gratitude to see that, recognize it, and appreciate it. 

So, when you have a lot of years left in your journey towards a goal and the wind isn’t whipping in your direction, remember that it takes time for everyone. Keep at it. Keep learning and doing all the right things for all the right reasons. There’s a long road ahead, and many people and horses to take care of along the way. We’re all just getting started.


About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
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