One Foot in the Stirrup

A wise Jedi Master once said, “The truths that we cling to rely greatly on our point of view.”
When Robin had her awesome idea to have everyone on the ACTHA staff write something so that our members could get to know us better, I suddenly felt like the new kid at school. What if they didn’t like me? As I hesitated, Robin threatened to write my piece herself. She was going to tell you all how I spend my days on a beach in Key West, sipping Margaritas and chasing cowboys. Wow, that sounds great! I told her I couldn’t wait to read it. Then it occurred to me: If you’re someone in Montana who is just thawing out from last winter and here Thanksgiving is right around the corner…you might also view anyone living in Florida as having some sort of Disney World life. Meanwhile, I look around here and see beautiful lakes that I can’t swim in because of the gators. I see mosquitoes the size of Volkswagon Beetles, snakes, spiders and multiple bugs I can’t identify. Endless piles of sand in my boots, and hurricanes, lightning strikes and sinkholes that have us mortgaging our first-born children to buy more insurance. Millions of people save for years to spend a few precious vacation days here, and I see greener pastures up north. There you have it: Point of View.

So are you a ‘glass half-empty’ or a ‘glass half-full’ kind of person? Seems like we rarely find anyone in-between. I try to be half-full, but then there are ‘those days’. We all have them. What really inspires me is watching folks overcome the worst, and that pushes me to try to do better: I’ve seen Ride Hosts persevere…gritting out a genuine smile and forcing a bounce in their step to see their ride through…even though their daughter was in the hospital after falling from her horse, or a storm had completely turned their arena to quicksand, or a government shutdown had closed the state park where they were supposed to ride. I’ve seen Riders overcoming extreme challenges with their health, determined to have one more day in the saddle. I listened like a little kid to the story of the wild mustang who won an ACTHA ribbon just a few weeks after experiencing a human touch for the first time. There have been hundreds of owners bringing rescued horses back from the brink and showing them how to enjoy life again. I’ve seen juniors terrified of their horse transform into confident riders who just can’t wait to ride again tomorrow. These folks love to ride. They love the causes the rides support, and they love the beauty of the next trail and the challenge of the next obstacle.

Then there’s the other point of view. Perhaps the truck broke down or the ride started late. Perhaps the horse was too frisky or the porta-pots never arrived. Maybe some judges didn’t show up or they ran out of burgers. Maybe there was some unsportsmanlike behavior that got on everyone’s nerves, or absolutely nothing went right and the host hid in the barn. There are hundreds of things that could go wrong throughout the day, and the irritation of these items can quickly overshadow all the good stuff. It’s so easy to vent, especially with the online media and the pop culture that loves the drama and venom of those so-called reality shows. But ultimately, it’s each person’s point of view that decides the overall success of the day. How else could you explain the email I receive? I’ll get an indignant note letting me know that ‘X’ ride was ‘the worst one ever!’. Yet a few messages down and I find another note from another rider filled with enthusiasm, telling me what a great time they had on that very same ride and how they’ve already signed up for their next one! There you have it: Point of View.

Can things go wrong? Sure. Are some things inexcusable? Of course. Should we try walking in the other guy’s boots or try helping? Naturally! Should we always try to do better and learn from our mistakes? Absolutely! Yet for anyone out there who feels like a crispy critter, I’d like to say that while the criticisms can get disheartening at times, I choose to see hope. After all, we would never roast a stranger, a client, or even a friend the way some of us get raked over the coals. The only people we tell how we truly feel are family. Why? Because at the end of the day, we are still family, and we know they’ll forgive us and love us anyway. So regardless of your point of view, whether you’re the fire-breathing dragon or the toasted marshmallow, we’re so glad you’re in this family. Our family. The ACTHA family. As we approach Thanksgiving and I’m asked what am I thankful for this year, my answer has to include my large, new, wild, unpredictable, uniquely wonderful ACTHA brothers and sisters. Definitely a full cup!

So let me raise a toast with my Margarita glass that this next year will find all our glasses half-full: That we’ll see the thousands of things our website does right, instead of the 7 things it can’t do yet. That we’ll see all the hard work the hosts put into their rides, instead of the glitches that slip through the cracks. That we’ll laugh with each other out on the trail and lend a helping hand and a supporting word where it’s needed most. Working together we all win. No…much more than that…the horses win! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d better head back to the beach. You never know when Master Kenobi will come loping along on his Boga and ask me to go for a ride!

By Ann Kinsey

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