By Elizabeth Ector, The Oily Stable Community Coordinator
One of my favorite quotes has always been, “wherever you are, be all there,” spoken by the brave missionary, Jim Elliot. When I think of what “quality” means to me I think of this quote. Whatever I’m doing, I want to do it well. Not just well, I want to put my everything into it. I don’t want to be thinking about what I’m supposed to be doing tomorrow, or where I wish I could be right now- I want to sink my whole self in- into the activity, ride, book, piece of work, or conversation- whatever it is, my entire being is going to be there.
That’s how we can give our best, right? We could mess up- but if we know deep in our hearts that we tried our best, put our all into it, gave whatever we’re doing all our attention- then we know we didn’t actually fail, because we gave it our best shot and now know more to do better next time.
Let me tell you the story of one of the most embarrassing and trying horseback riding lessons I had while I was in college.
I was riding a pony named Rocky. He was adorable, don’t get me wrong, but we all know how ornery ponies can be. Rocky’s bad habit was never wanting to stop. He was like the energizer bunny that you can’t figure out how to turn off!
So, my coach put a trot pole a few strides after a cross-rail and told me that I had to get him to stop before the trot pole. Sounds simple enough, huh?
Rocky and I jumped over that cross-rail more than 15 times, and each time- he just got faster and faster. Feeling defeated, my coach called me over to talk.
“I want you to give me a step-by-step plan of how you are going to get Rocky to stop before the pole. He knows what he’s getting away with.”
“I’m going to canter around the first turn-” I started.
“Where are you going to start to turn? When are you going to transition to trot? I need more detail. If you’re going to accomplish this, you can’t skip ahead. You have one shot, all or nothing- million dollars or zero- one chance to do it right. Be confident, get frustrated, do whatever you have to do,” my coach lectured.
I got serious real quick. I should be able to complete a simple task. Wherever you are, be all there. I gave her detail by detail of my plan and gave the exercise my all, tears included.
You know what? Rocky stopped about 3 steps after the pole, but I didn’t walk away from the lesson still defeated. I learned what it takes to have confidence; what it takes to complete something with excellence and quality.
No matter how small the lesson, exercise or task is, take the time to be all there and to strive for excellence, not perfection. Even if it takes you 17 times to achieve the outcome you’re looking for, don’t rush through it and just keep trying your best.
If you cannot get a horse to stop well and correctly in a small exercise, there's no way you're going to be able to enter a show ring and feel satisfied with your performance, let alone have a well-behaved and accurate athlete underneath you.