"Cowboy-Up" Into the Real World

Author and Toby

I grew up in semi-rural Ohio, a weird balance of being about an hour from a big city (Columbus, OH) and still having roads that were so small, they didn't have a yellow dividing line in the middle. 

4-H was a big part of this world, in part because of the lack of other social activity, and I was naturally drawn to horses. Big, fantastic creatures; I was lucky enough to begin riding at an early age. I rode a span of horses, including Arabian horses, a donkey in a Christmas parade, a few Thoroughbreds, and Quarter Horses. (In the photo, you'll see my leased Quarter Horse "Toby"). After about 13 years living and breathing horses, I hung up my breeches and jeans for college and yoga pants. However, I still hang onto the principles that shaped my childhood.

  • Fear is getting back in the saddle. I've had some pretty interesting falls, though the one that really sticks in my mind is the night I went through a 4' jump (3 times in a row). Yet you have to get back in the saddle, even when that's the absolute last place you want to be. Find what makes you scared- whether it's going on your first job interview, accepting a new job and entering a different industry, speaking up in front of an intimidating superior- and do it with your shoulders back. Once you jump the mental hurdle, it's easy to finish the course. 

  • Smile, even when it's the absolute last thing you want to do. Showing horses isn't that glamorous - there's a lot of sweat in the summertime, and you tend to lose feeling in your extremities in the winter. Yet the show ring is your time to shine. No matter what happened - your horse did something wrong in front of the judge, or you missed the chair when sitting down in an important meeting- smile it away. Life happens to everyone; what makes us different is how we react. 

  • Cowboy Up This is a phrase that's still popular among the rodeo crowd and basically means, when things get tough, work through it. No matter what happens, you need to finish what you've started. I've been dragged by a 2,000 lb horse, I've been kicked a few times, I've been run over by an overeager colt... All these were learning experiences. Horses are animals, and no matter how much you work with them, they're always full of surprises. The same can be said for humans - we're all animals, and the best thing to do is to hope for the best, and plan for the worst.

What lessons from your childhood are you the most proud of? Which ones have shaped you, much like mine?