The One Thing Judges Never Miss

20141110_151912Exhibitors ask all the time, “What is the one thing that judges are looking for in XYZ class?” The answer given most often is judges consider many aspects of the performance when determining the winner. It makes perfect sense. After all, anyone who has ever met with success understands the amount of time, work and countless hours of practice that go into making a stellar performance.

Yet the truth is there is one thing that judge’s never miss.

In the 1991 movie City Slickers, Jack Palance playing a crusty old cowboy named Curly, tells Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch, that the meaning of life rests on one thing. Mitch is a 39 year-old man suffering a mid-life crisis who goes on a two-week cattle drive in search of what’s missing in his life.

When Mitch asks Curly what that one thing is, Curly tells him, “That is what you have to find out.” Finding that one thing is crucial to creating winning results, to finding success in life.  That one thing launches winners to the top of a judge’s card. That one thing is called purpose.

In the best seller, Think And Grow Rich, self-development author Napoleon Hill said, “There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”

Winners use purpose like a compass to direct their actions. A strong purpose prioritizes every area of life – work, family, relationships even horse showing – and creates productivity. And while it is possible to have productivity without purpose and priority, the results will disappoint.

Purpose, priority and productivity are the bedfellows of success. Acting like a road map, purpose driven priorities determine the steps necessary to achieve the desired results. They keep a person grounded, doing the right things, one step at a time in practice and when making life choices like putting on the show halter and practicing showmanship after a ride, teaching a 180 before asking for a 360 or skipping the Starbucks Macchiato in lieu of water.

Extraordinary performances are the result of countless hours spent perfecting one goal at a time – in order. Ken McNabb recently compared riding a horse to learning the alphabet; you cannot skip letters and read all the words. You cannot become a World Champion if you only know one lead.

Winners use purpose driven priorities to order their lives. This does not necessarily mean they live extremely rigid and disciplined lives. Instead, the priorities determine what is important. They learn to focus on doing one thing correctly before moving to the next step. Extraordinary performances require the person to focus with laser intensity. The ability to focus on that one thing motivates achievers to learn from mistakes, to make a move without fear of failure and to build success one syllable, one step, one ride at a time.

With a single purpose as a guide, successful people ensure that everything on their to-do list is congruous with their purpose. If it is not, they do not do it. Period. Everything is broken down to a level that helps them achieve their goals with their purpose at the core. It allows them to stay in the moment, in the here and now and to avoid the distractions that so often fight for our time and lure us off course.

At the horse show, every exhibitor wants to win. But winning is not the purpose –it is the result from living a purpose driven life. Living with purpose is the most proven path to presenting the one thing that judges are looking for – extraordinary results.

Just as Curly told Mitch that his one thing is something he must find for himself, recognizing purpose is a unique experience each person must undergo on his or her own. Finding what one stands for comes easily to some while others have to dig deep to find purpose.

The work that goes into making a winning run cannot be done without the individual possessing a burning desire. Winners have passion for their purpose and using their purpose to determine their actions, are driven to succeed. Staying true to a purpose opens the floodgates to the extraordinary results individuals and judges are looking for.

Those who live life with purpose develop priorities and understand results are the consequence of their actions. Learn to prioritize and make sure that all your objectives, the short-term goals, serve your long-term goals and each serves your purpose. Concentrate your efforts on one thing at a time. When everything you do revolves your purpose, you will see extraordinary results. Do right by your purpose; be the best horseman you can be, enjoy the ride and the results may surprise you.

7 Steps to Becoming a Mature Rider

Everyone understands what maturity means. Even a five year old navigating their way through childhood recognizes the consequences of growing up. A person’s level of maturity determines their ability to cope with situations. It is observed through thoughts, behaviors and reactions to situations. For a rider this could mean how you respond to your horse becoming distracted at the start cone. Or how you catch the correct diagonal, prevent a wrong lead or mask a misstep.

Some riders seem to automatically understand how to respond to their horse’s behavior. They are the mature riders – and the one who usually ends up in the winner’s circle.

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Seeing Things Differently

Steph Judge 3 blDo you ever wonder how you can receive two firsts and a gate in a class at the horse show? It happens quite commonly yet always creates a bit of a stir. Most of the time the odd judge is thought to have “missed” something. But more often than not, the odd judge did not miss something but rather saw something that others did not.

Riding on both sides of the fence, I have been the odd judge who saw or missed something and the exhibitor whose mistake was seen by one but not by all. And after my initial disappointment by not receiving a clean sweep, I remember the far corner where I had an ugly departure I thought no one saw and must acknowledge my performance was less than perfect.

Most of the time now I am the one in the center of the pen who misses or catches – sometimes it makes me the odd judge and sometimes my scores match my peers. Regardless of the outcome, judges mark what they see and what they see influences how they score the performance.

It is not uncommon for judges to place more emphasis on one aspect of a performance over another. For instance, in showmanship, I think the most important part of the performance is tracking and setting your horse up straight in front of the judge. If an exhibitor misses their line and is off, their score is going down on my card.

However, if one judge is sitting three chairs away from the steward who is walking the class, viewing the performance from an angle, they will not be able to see if the exhibitor is getting straight to the steward. Unless the horse is standing sideways, the judge viewing from an angle will not able to place a great deal of importance on straightness. Lining up in front of the steward is important to me so you will always see me sitting as close to the steward as I can without interfering in the exhibitors’ performance.

It is human nature to remember the good over the bad, the positive aspects over the negative aspects of our performances. Judges’ results and scores reflect their view of a performance from the judges’ unique perspective based on their vast experience. A judge that has experienced a horse trip and fall resulting in an ambulance ride may fault your horse for tripping more than the judge who has never experienced a wreck caused by a horse stumbling.

That is what makes it so dang cool to receive high marks on all the judge’s scorecards. It is truly impressive when an exhibitor can positively impact multiple opinions with one single performance. Keep at it and that exhibitor will be you!


Goals Versus Principles

DSCN0169Every day riders are faced with decisions that test their moral fortitude. The temptation to push the limits increases with competition. The more variables surrounding the game the easier it is to manipulate the situation increasing the pressure to abandon your principles – especially if you feel like “everyone else is doing it.”

Author and mom Kate Lambert talks about the negative affects of believing the myth that all the winners are cheaters on her blog If You Thought it was About Cheating You Need to Read Again. Whether a false assumption or the truth believing that others are cheating may tempt you to forsake your principles to achieve your goals.

And no doubt about it, everyone who has ever shown or trained horses has, at one time or another, stretched the boundaries. There are times when a rider simply must push – partly to determine whether resistance from the horse is due to pain, lack of knowledge or a side effect of simple arrogance and sometimes, just to make the point. Continue reading

Getting the Most Out of Your Lesson

Fred & MeWhenever I give a clinic or lesson to a new group or student, I go with little expectation of what we might work on. It is difficult to plan for something when you have no idea what skill level your riders or horses might be. Although I always ask what the rider wants help with, sometimes the ride goes in a different direction.

As a student, you have expectations for the lesson. Communicating that to the instructor is an important part of getting the most out of your lesson. You may come with a list of things you want to work on or maybe you come to every lesson open and let the instructor guide you in your progress. Most coaches are going to focus on what they perceive as your biggest hurdle to achieve good horsemanship.

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Thank You Pro Horsemen

IMG_7750Last week I was honored to receive the 2014 AQHA Professional Choice Professional Horsewoman of the Year. It is especially rewarding since the award is given based on the vote of my peers, fellow Professional Horsemen. Standing in front of the group to receive the award I was overwhelmed by emotion. Had I more control of my emotions at the time this is what I might have said:

 “Wow! What an honor. It is such an honor to stand before you tonight and receive this award. I am humbled by your support and so very grateful to have been introduced to the American Quarter Horse back in 1966 at Murphy’s Stable.

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Team Spirit

10968551_10204183404477557_8294998042190058390_nLast weekend I had the pleasure of working with the University of Wisconsin River Falls Equestrian Team. It is always fun to work with riders who are  passionate about their riding. But working with teams is different – they work as a cohesive unit, with a single common goal – to win as a team. Team spirit  is one for all and all for one and for the Falcons, with coach Janie Huot leading, the girls that comprise this team epitomize team spirit.

IHSA riders amaze me. Their dedication and work ethic is incredible but what always strikes me with IHSA riders is their passion for the team. They work for the success of the entire group – something often hard to find in tour fast paced world.

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Showing – An Investment In Your Future

Today after struggling to get an answer from a customer service department, the thought occurred to me that the person in charge would make a lousy horse trainer. In fact, they would probably not be successful in the show ring at all!

 People who show horses possess remarkable talents. The characteristics that make for success in the show ring are the same traits sought by employers, partners  and leaders. Do any research on “characteristics of good ….” and you will see for yourself.

 The traits employers look for are identical to those required by good riders to find success in the show ring – traits that are developed by people who show horses or any livestock for that matter. Continue reading

If It Is Not Broke, Don’t Fix It

A friend once told me that the hardest thing a horse trainer has to do is stay out of a good horse’s way. The advice has proven itself to be true.

Leaving a horse alone and allowing him or her the opportunity to do what you have trained it to do may seem like an oxymoron. And in many regards it is. Continue reading

Who Do You Want to Be?

Congress Henry_fotorUntil last night, I had never heard of John Legend. An award winning singer, songwriter and musical genius he is making the rounds as an Oscar nominee for a recent collaboration with rapper Common for the song “Glory”. His list of accolades is long and his success evidenced by his popularity.

But a statement made by Legend stopped me in my dinner table setting tracks and made me listen. In a talk show appearance he told the hosts that as a kid he watched Michael Jackson and Prince on stage during the Grammy’s and thought one day he ought to be up there too. He has now won nine Grammy’s.

Success is owed in part to the ability to see yourself as the person you want to be. You have to be able to let go of the past, look beyond who you were yesterday and concentrate on the future. You must focus on where you want to be instead of where you are if you are ever to achieve your goals. Continue reading