BY ELYSE SCHENK
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously said, “the biggest risk is not taking any risk.” Choosing the safe route is the most dangerous way to go, as it guarantees failure. There’s a 100% chance that your dreams won’t come true if you don’t give them a shot.
In the horse world, risks aren’t commonly encouraged past the ironic, unavoidable risk that is owning a horse at all. You’ll often be told that you can’t—that your horse isn’t good enough, you don’t have enough money or an injury will never heal. The green horse you see potential in is a lost cause according to “expert opinions.” A ribbon at medal finals is reserved only for the more privileged riders with million dollar horses—not you. It’s easy to see how so many of us grow to doubt ourselves.
These disheartening opinions typically aren’t malicious. They’re actually compassionate, meant to save you from falling (often literally) on your face and humiliating yourself. But how often does that really happen? Sure, we witness mistakes. Every class will have someone in last place. However, watching a rider venture outside of their comfort zone can be awesome. Don’t fear being the kind of rider that isn’t afraid to take risks.
Can you be too bold though? When is a risk overly-dangerous? Of course, you’d never put a horse in harm’s way by asking more than they’re capable of. Likewise, it’s important to value the input of your trainer, veterinarian, and respected horsemen so that your decisions are informed and contained by healthy criticism.
However, it would be a mistake to fear failure more than the risk itself. Big dreams are understandingly intimidating; you may feel inadequate next to your ideal. Remember that big risks grant the possibility of grand success. Opportunities are yours for the taking.
Every working student has to bravely apply for the job, despite their anxieties and doubts. Finals’ winners make sacrifices in their academic and social lives for the rare chance at victory. Each professional rider makes that bold, official professional declaration, risking the comfort of amateur status. The horsemen you admire have one crucial thing in common: the refusal to guarantee failure. They took a risk.
Maybe you feel content with where you are in your equestrian pursuits, and taking a big risk feels unnecessary. Comfort trumps ambition. Beware, however, of the changing world around you. What works to fulfill you now may inevitably expire. As Zuckerberg added, “In a world changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” Your traditional tactics might not withstand the unpredictable change that comes with horse life. Every equestrian will be faced with unexpected challenges, requiring adaptability. Adaptation requires risk, as the outcome of trying things in a new way is unknown, but the alternative to adaptation is simply giving up.
But don’t get discouraged—this is actually good news. It means an unexpected lameness doesn’t automatically mean the end of a career. Or unexpected budget changes won’t restrict your ability to adapt and overcome. This is a reminder that you behold incredible power to transform yourself into a better horseman despite your circumstances. You can, in fact, develop more talent, move up a division, earn more clients, sell more horses, or train more effectively.
Let’s be clear—no one is guaranteeing that your goals will come easily. We can only guarantee that the hardest outcome will result from not trying at all.
As equestrians, we’re designed for risks. We willingly and willfully ride massive, autonomous creatures. Quite frankly, simply handing them on the ground is a risk enough. We mount upon a giant risk every day, tell it to jump, then jump higher, gallop faster, and push harder. Just to top it all off, we compete to make the danger even more thrilling. It’s clearly in our nature to embrace fear and live on the edge, sacrificing control. Don’t forget how brave you are and how capable you have already proven yourself to be.
Whether you need to take risks in your horse life or outside of it, let this be your sign to push for that goal you’ve been putting off. Life is short. Do you have anything better to do than to chase this dream?