Last 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.
For those unfamiliar with IHSA, there are different levels in their competition based on the rider’s abilities and accomplishments both within and outside the sphere of IHSA shows. Team members may or may not have had previous riding experience when they tryout for the team. Some have never have sat on a horse’s back prior to being accepted by their school’s team.
Host schools provide horses for the shows and the horse/rider pairs are drawn prior to competition. In addition, exhibitors do not get to warm up – at all! Students get on their horse at the gate just before they enter the show pen without so much as a jog circle to get to know their mount. It is truly amazing and I am always impressed with the talent and courage of IHSA riders.
UWRF Falcons were all that and then some. But what impressed me the most was the genuine team spirit – the obvious desire members had to see fellow team members succeed. It was as if each team members’ sole intention was to help the other team members be the best rider they could be.
They adjusted each other’s stirrups and hauled water buckets for each and every horse. Non-riding members fit saddles and bridles and everyone cheered from the sidelines for the riders on horseback.
The riders were clearly passionate about riding and fully invested in the process. No one complained, no one tried to steal all the attention; no one attempted to be singled out as the star. They were there to learn, to gain knowledge and together as a team they soaked up the information.
No doubt they have a great leader – one who inspires camaraderie, encourages personal best and breathes vitality into their team. She has very clearly made the importance of working together a priority.
Team leaders like Janie create an environment where the teammates elevate the performance of each individual to heights never before achieved. Code of conduct is strictly adhered to but independence is encouraged. Leaders understand that while every single individual need cannot be met, the most important needs of the individuals can be.
Team members learn to work together for a common goal. They give back, cheering for each other and in return have a cheering section of their own. The recognize the importance of traditions, the boundaries set by the leaders and predecessors. They understand that sacrifice on behalf of the team is sometimes necessary and just as important as the team meeting the individual needs of each rider.
So few riders ever get the experience of being on a team. Playing on a team benefits members with skills that last a lifetime. The behaviors learned from participating on a team enter every aspect on the path achieving life’s full potential.
Members learn to be responsible for their position and to do their best or the team will suffer. They learn the power of working together, of collaboration and have a heightened awareness that no one gets to the top alone. Most important, they learn that helping others helps themselves – a rising tide lifts all boats.
I commend Janie Huot and those who work in our industry coaching, preparing and organizing equestrian teams. They do tremendous work – work the rest of us benefit from often without knowing it. The environment they provide, the lessons they teach and the friendships they build are what makes life have meaning.
As the season for equestrian teams begins to come to a closing, I wish them all good luck. This is a special time in your life and the people around you have the power to give you everything you need to find success in your future!
Together Everyone Achieves More!