Vince Lombardi, football Hall-of-Fame coach, has been credited with a famous maxim on winning (“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”). However, most experts feel that Lombardi was either misquoted or that the statement belonged to someone else.

We prefer another quote with a clear history of attribution to Lombardi:“It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you’ve got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not yet a winner.”

Equestrian sports are always a work in progress, a higher jump to be jumped, a faster race to be run, a better score to strive for. Even when you earn that blue ribbon, you don’t always win. Your effort, and that of your horse, might have been better than that of the other competitors that day but it might have been less than the best you were capable of.

Or, you can win even when you lose, if you reach the goal you set for yourself when you loaded up the trailer. The goal might be to get around a jump course without stops, or to score 60% in a third level dressage test for the first time. They hand the blue ribbon to the person who is both clean and fast or the person who scores 62%, but you still take home an important prize when you finish your ride with a good feeling.

People who keep moving forward are the winners in horse sports. They have faith in themselves, and they have the discipline to never settle for less than what they are capable of . They win by the gratification of a job well done in how they rode and eventually they win a blue ribbon as well.

We also like another quote, this time by someone closer to home, three-day event rider Buck Davidson: “You either win or you learn.” We suspect Buck was speaking somewhat ironically, but it’s nonetheless true. You can take away something useful in the way of experience even if you don’t take the blue ribbon.

The trouble is that much of the time we do more learning than winning. That’s where the confidence part comes in that Lombardi refers to. There’s a lot of learning to be accumulated between here and the top podium at the Olympics. If you don’t find a way to gain confidence, you won’t win. And the way to gain confidence is to watch and read and listen to the best equestrian minds you can find and then get on your horse and try out everything they say that makes sense to you.

Winners aren’t afraid to lose. They’re afraid to stop learning.

-Margaret Freeman

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