I am completely aware of the fact that I am a cynic at heart. Maybe some people find it depressing, maybe some people view it as complaining but the way I see it is that if I’m constantly prepared for the worst case scenario, when it happens, I won’t be as devastated or if it doesn’t happen, I will be pleasantly surprised. Because of this, the whole mindset of “if you work just hard enough and set your mind to it, you’ll get there!” has always pissed me off and this exact type of mindset is an absolute epidemic in the horse world. So many people preach this time and time again and many of them truly mean well, so that part is flattering, but I think pushing this mindset on young and impressionable people can be dangerous and in some cases, even a little condescending. How, you may wonder? Well, read on while I crack my knuckles and put my complaining pants on.
The problem starts with telling people that if they set their mind to something, it WILL happen. This isn’t how the world works. I really would love to win the lottery. I’d love to be driving a brand new Dodge Ram 3500, but unfortunately, no matter how much I set my mind to it, the money doesn’t materialize. Weird, right? I kid. I know that’s not exactly what people are getting at in saying “If you set your mind to it and work hard enough, you’ll get there!” but honestly, it isn’t all that far off. If hard work and really wanting something were a guarantee of getting something, there wouldn’t be so many people with broken dreams who have to alter their career and life paths to adjust to the sudden, unexpected things that occur in life or upon realizing that no matter how much they want something and how hard they try, sometimes it isn’t enough. Now, this is where I get to my point of why this type of mindset can be condescending. By telling people if they work hard enough, their goals will materialize, you’re inadvertently implying that if they haven’t happened yet or if the person isn’t close to reaching their goals or if said goals aren’t attainable, it’s automatically their fault for not working hard enough. It implies that everyone has equal opportunity so long as they work hard and want something badly, when that couldn’t be further from the case.
Someone who is working full time along with going to school and riding will have a different definition of hard work than someone who has a decent amount of financial support and as a result, does not have to work full time. The person with more time will have more energy to work hard and develop their goals as a rider, as a result they’re less likely to burn out. The person working full time and attending school will have to arrange riding time around all of that, all while trying not to fall behind on finances and school work. To get to the same point as someone with more support, they will need to work quite a bit harder. That’s reality. Capitalism and the way our world works makes it so that if you have a lot of money, there is an ease to achieving things. Unfortunately, it’s the way the world works. People who can’t afford post secondary on their own will have to work harder to try to get scholarships or they’ll have to put themselves into debt in order to attend school. Telling people who are often already running themselves into the ground that they just need to work harder can be so incredibly damaging, especially when it all to often comes from people who haven’t dealt with the same amount of obstacles standing in the way of their goals.
The fact of the matter is that some people are given a head start in life may it be in way of financial or social status or being naturally talented or incredibly intelligent to the point where things come easily to them. For example, while some people can ace classes with little effort, others may have to work themselves half to death to achieve the same, or in some cases, a lesser result. This doesn’t mean they’re trying any less hard or that they care any less, it simply means that they’re coming from a different background and have different obstacles to overcome. The same can be applied to riding and working in the horse world.
I got a head start to my riding career and I will readily admit that. While I would say that I now do work very hard for what I have, it wasn’t always that way. If it were not for my parents funding my riding from a young age until I was old enough to start working at the barn, I do not think I would be where I am today. Through their utmost support of me, I was able to start to build a good foundation as a rider whilst beginning to build the necessary connections that I’d need to further progress, especially without the same available finances. After some very unfortunate financial and health problems plaguing my family, I was very quick to understand what other people, with sky high dreams in the horse world but no funds to achieve them, must feel like. The thought of potentially losing my horse at the time seemed like an unfair joke and frankly, it both devastated and angered me. I felt that I deserved a horse and couldn’t wrap my head around why this was happening to me. To my family. Circumstances that I couldn’t change or escape from. These types of events occur in everyone’s lives, no matter how hard you work or how much you want something and can upset the path to your goals. Circumstance matters. Sometimes hard work can’t overcome it. There’s been far too many occurrences where I’ve heard people in despair talk about how they’re trying as hard as they possibly can, only to have their parents, teachers or peers tell them to try even harder. They’re running themselves into the ground as it is, only to be made to feel stupid for not simply trying “harder”.
Now, I’m not here to depress you. If you do work hard and set your mind to things, you are more likely to be able to achieve said things than you will be if you just dwell on circumstance and feel sorry for yourself. I’m living proof. I was sad about maybe losing my horse due to my parents’ finances being embezzled but I set to work and began to work harder and harder as I aged and now I own not one, not two, not three but FOUR horses at age 22, while going to school. Mind you, one is essentially sold, but still, I would never have thought that I’d be here so young, with my main source of income coming from riding horses. It’s truly a dream come true. If I had dwelled on my family’s lack of money or the fact that I’d inevitably have to put myself into debt to pursue my post secondary dreams or told myself I couldn’t do it, I would not have accomplished any of this. I can tell you that for certain. So, while I’m saying that hard work can’t make up for everything, I’m also saying that hard work definitively does matter.
I suppose the point I’m trying to get across in the midst of this rambling mess is that just because someone cannot accomplish their ideal goals doesn’t mean they didn’t try or that they weren’t working hard enough. Just because you may have to change your route to said goals doesn’t mean you are a failure. Just because you may take longer to accomplish something than someone else did doesn’t mean you’re any less talented or less hard working. It simply means both of your paths threw different obstacles at you. I think it is important for people to be aware of circumstance and how different people’s lives allow for different levels of adversity to affect their journey to the “end game”. We are not all on equal paths, we all experience different traumas and victories at different times. Your reality is not the same as someone else’s, so with that in mind, I compel you to be more understanding and realize that the unfortunate reality of this earth is that wanting something doesn’t mean it’ll become tangible. There are so many variables in this world, so much change constantly occurring, let us not unintentionally guilt people for their inability to make something happen and instead celebrate what they are able to make happen. What they are able to overcome and the way in which they go about making things happen.