My 7-year-old daughter Mia has been riding horses for a couple years now. It is her passion and a completely foreign world to me. She’s also been doing shows for awhile now at the barn where she takes lessons, and she’s almost always won a ribbon in her classes. It was any other normal horse show Sunday when Mia and I made the drive out by ourselves to the barn so she could get her horse ready before the rest of the family showed up to cheer her on.
We were both in great moods, especially coming off a rather successful horse show she had a few weeks back. I randomly mentioned to her the importance of maintaining a positive attitude no matter what. I also told her sometimes it is your day and sometimes it is not. I want to make sure she is a graceful loser. To be honest, we have seen too many examples lately of how not to act in the face of defeat. Mia nodded, and we continued our drive.
I should mention that Mia has had her fair share of not being amazing at things. Her short-lived soccer career was lackluster, to put it mildly. She plays softball but is by far not the best on the team. So she understands losing in the traditional sports world, but has not had many “losses” in her horse world.
So, the show started and Mia was on her favorite horse. All was right in the world. She looked poised, kept her horse on the rail, had her heels down, smiled, and (we thought) crushed it. But class after class, her name was not called. She walked her horse over to us during a break, and I for a second thought I spotted tears in her eyes.
I was crossing every finger and repeating in my head “Please don’t get upset, please don’t get upset.” This was the moment she needed to understand you can do a great job and still lose. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of her. I watched and felt like I could visibly see her shake it off. She broke into a huge grin and her eyes got wide as she said “Man, these are some big classes!” I saw her make a joke with a fellow rider friend, and she headed into her last two classes with a great attitude.
She got a sixth place ribbon in one of the remaining classes, but did not place in the other one. I walked back to her stall afterwards with her ribbon. I told her I thought she did awesome, and she replied with a laugh and an “I know.”
We are very careful never to speak poorly of any judging, coaching, refereeing, or anything like that. We do not want to raise a child who blames others when faced with a loss. She needs to know the cookie won’t always crumble her way in the horse world, the sports world, and in life in general.
This was just a simple Sunday and a simple horse show. But it was yet another moment in time when it hit me how much we can learn from kids. Not every day is going to go your way. Staying positive has almost never been as important as it is right now with everything we’re all dealing with. I am thankful she lost today.