Publisher’s Note: Five-Year Plans

Piper Klemm and Adam Hill present the Richard W. Atkinson Memorial Challenge Trophy with Holly (née Atkinson) Bernhard at The Devon Horse Show to Mimi Gochman. The Atkinson Memorial Trophy is awarded to the leading Junior Jumper rider and presented to the athlete who earns the most points overall and showcases consistency throughout Junior Weekend at the Devon Horse Show. Photo by KIND Media

PIPER KLEMM, PH.D

I was boarding a plane the other night and as I boarded, the flight attendants were chatting with each other. “Only 1,753 days until I retire.” 

The other flight attendant laughed. They caught my eye and I smiled. Almost there! Only… Five More Years. It seems like…forever. 

In our world of “instant,” we forget so much. I don’t often think in terms of the five year scale. I certainly don’t count down. It’s not that I haven’t—clearly I did long bouts of school and I’m over eight years in on The Plaid Horse and feel like I’m only getting stronger, better, and more interested in bettering the community. That happened day by day, without any grand plan or vision. Just incremental improvement each and every morning that I woke up and got to work. 

The flight attendant’s comment also caused me to think about counting down to the end of a career. We’ll all work until we drop in this industry—I think we all know that and plan for that. I’ve aspired to be an aged horse show junkie still showing up and contributing in any capacity I am able. I hope to be throwing out deserved compliments while smelling leather, fly spray, and sweat in a sandy ring until the end. 

We are so lucky to have a passion that makes us wake up and want to come to work—an all-consuming passion. And while we might fatigue or not always feel the most confident in our path, there is true privilege that comes with lifelong expressions of self. 

But thinking on that scale is something we all have to practice in today’s world. I think we are past a time (if there ever was a time) that we can get by being purposeful and without mindful thought. Long-scale is the only way we can truly accomplish big projects—making careers, making horses, and giving riders the tools they need to be successful in all aspects of this sport. Long scale is how we make communities, raise children, and spend our entire lives. This is how we make impact and intention and belief can turn into reality and change. 

I pondered for most of the flight where I will be in 1,753 days. How I could last something that was unpleasant for that long to see the light at the end of the tunnel. How fortunate I am that I don’t have to wait to start my life. I spend my days around the people and animals who, when I put in enough effort, reward me with such joy. 

What am I waking up and doing tomorrow? Well, more of the same. And hopefully 1,753 days after that. And 1,753 days after that. And if I’m lucky, I’ll still get to go to work each morning with a smile and without a clock over my head. If I’m lucky, I’ll be fortunate enough to be a little inefficient here and there to enjoy each moment more. If I’m lucky, you’ll all be there with me.

*This story was originally published in the July 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!