a rider patting a horse

The Gift of Personality

quote about dreamers

I took a class in College called Personality in Politics. The class offered a wildly engaging analysis of the way that personality effects Politicians, policies and their ultimate success or failure. Think Time Magazine meets People Magazine. Needless to say, I loved it! This past week I found myself reflecting on those days while I observed some interactions between horse and rider, rider and trainer, rider and vet and so on. In the equestrian world, we are constantly surrounded by a huge variety of personalities, and I can’t help but take notice of how differently so many people seem to be working to achieve the same things.

In my past as a working student, and now as a happy horse loving amateur and a self-proclaimed student of the sport, I find myself spending lots of time in the schooling area. I am generally on foot more than in the saddle these days, which if you are in the right place at the right time can afford you some free lessons in riding, teaching, and patience (Let’s be frank, it is a busy schooling area).

three jumping trainers in the warmup ring

McLain Ward, Max Amaya, Jeffery Welles

There is no shortage of personalities in the schooling area at any busy show. Think about it the next time you are out there. There are timid riders, over-thinkers, under-thinkers, people in la-la land, aggressive riders, passive riders, angry riders and patient riders. I am really just scratching the surface here, and that doesn’t even take into account the various members of the ground crew that accompany each four legged creature. Look around, take a second to stop and listen. You will hear calm explanations, loud screaming, laughing, crying, fighting, joking.  And to each their own. It could be anybody’s day once they step into the ring.

a rider and horse in a barn

Meagan Nusz and Dynamo: No lack of Personality for Either of these two!

The additional complication to this meshing of personalities that happens  in any human interaction is that horses have personalities too. Part of working with horses is realizing that you are not just following a run of the mill recipe for success that works every time. Each horse requires a special understanding  in order to  best provide them with what they need.

In this vein, I thoroughly enjoyed a recent interview with the Incredible Eric Lamaze following his unprecedented winning streak in the Thursday WEF Grand Prix in Wellington, Florida this circuit. When asked by Equestrian Sport Blogger Extrordinaire Noelle Floyd what sets his sponsors Artisan Farm apart from other big time supporters of the sport, Eric answered very astutely:

“They are very, very understanding of our sport. They have a great understanding of our industry–what it takes to win, how easily you can lose. How easily you can be disappointed in a horse you purchased if {they’re} not a match with the rider or if you simply make a mistake. They really understand that this is not an exact science, and it’s impossible to get it right every single time.”

rider getting coached on a horse

Eric Lamaze, Artisan Farm’s Fine Lady, Tiffany Foster; Photo © Erin Gilmore

A rider such as Eric can hop on just about anything with four legs and 9 times out of 10,  he will make it better, or allow for him/her to be their best. This is not some magic voodoo that Eric, or other riders of his caliber have discovered and chosen not to share with the rest of us. There is no magic potion, bit or lucky socks. These people, and I include Managers, Grooms, Vets and Farriers in this category, have success because they take the time to understand each horse’s distinct personality. They put in the extra effort to find out what makes each horse tick, what makes them want to go out and give their all. And they find logical ways to meet the needs of each horse, each individual, each personality.

Similarly, the best teachers find a way to explain the same concept as many ways as it may take for each student to comprehend. They adapt their own personality to support and fill in the gaps of their pupils.

barn management team KPF

Team KPF

It is a beautiful thing to see a team like Mclain Ward’s or Kent Farrington’s work with one another, support one another, appreciate one another and succeed together.

a rider patting a horse

McLain and Rothchild aka Bongo

Personality is a gift. It makes us unique. It sets us apart and and makes us special. But the true gift is being able to identify and understand a personality, and work together to make something great. Sapphire and McLain, Hickstead and Eric, Rodrigo and Baloubet du Rouet, these are personalities who found each other, and made each other whole. And what horse and rider could not do for one another, grooms, managers, vets, exercise riders and more stepped up and did what needed to be done.

With modern politics in its current state, we could use more meshing of personalities to make each other great. In horses, in politics and in life, the dominant personality will always make itself known. But the success of that personality is all in how it works with others, and finds the right teammates to fill its gaps, make it stronger, make it better.

As horse people, it is on us to do the meshing, the hole filling, the supporting. Success with horses, no matter the arena, is finding the right fit, and working with your team to make it work. Personality impacts politics as it does equines. It is our responsibility to find the right team and adapt to one another’s personalities to support our equine counterparts (as I hope, however naively, politicians do to support their constituents).

horse in a paddock

Sapphire

As they say, teamwork makes the dream work. So the lessons that I have taken away from my observations of some of the best in the sport at the Winter Equestrian Festival through ups and downs, at their best moments, at their worst, and on the days that fall somewhere in between:

1. Surround yourself with a team that makes you your best self.

2. Respect and embrace the individuality of your horse, your team, your friends, and your peers.

3. Be willing to adapt to bring out the best in one another (Horse or human).

4. Stop and look around every once in a while. There are amazing people doing amazing things. And if you’re lucky, you may just get a front row seat.

Until Next Time…quote saying life is amazing

Comments
  • Georgia Coyle says:

    Loved your article. Thank you for stressing the fact that it takes a village to make this horse show thing work. I feel the shows themselves also have the same “village” to make the whole thing run. I worked as a groom on the circuit for a number of years and loved it. It’s nice to see the credit for a winning horse and rider being viewed as a team effort.

    • Thank you Georgia! It’s so much fun getting to work with some of these top teams and see how they do it. We are truly lucky to get the opportunities to learn from some of our heroes. And I am happy to be able to share some of these lessons with anyone who cares to follow our journey with barnmanager.com

  • Maralyn says:

    So beautifully written…words of wisdom for all of us to live by…..

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