Grit and Grace

By: Barbara Aitken Jenkins  

Success in the horse industry requires a strong combination of grit and grace.

As a stay-at-home amateur, it hit me one day that I’d compete at the AQHA World Championship Show without a trainer. I knew my husband, Cody, would be at the back gate to give me last words of encouragement, but other than, I succumbed to the fact I would compete amidst a sea of strangers.

The reality was quite the opposite.

When the draws were published, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Of the draws between 40-50, four were friends.

I was draw 44. My friend and stall mate, Caitlin Ferguson was draw 46. My best friend, Emily Russell, was draw 49, my good friend Jenny Honey was draw 50. We all joked that the World Show had suddenly become a “home show.”

 We wished each other good luck in the holding pen, laughing and praying for the best.

On Tuesday night, I ran into trainer/judge/AQHA professional horseman, Brent Maxwell, whom I had formed a relationship with during my years living and working in Ohio. I casually asked him a few pattern placement questions. Without hesitation, he began talking through each maneuver.

“Ride the pattern smart,” he advised. “Use your arena, and don’t try to win the prelims. We’ll work on the finals pattern when you get there.”

A few hours before showtime on Wednesday, I ran into trainer/clinician Dana Hokana, a woman who I have collaborated with multiple times as a freelance writer. I’ve even lessoned with Dana long-distance via her video lessons with my mare Lean On Black Satin.

Even though Dana had four clients competing in the Amateur Ranch Riding, she immediately stopped, gave me a hug, and proceeded to provide tips on how to best run the pattern.

“I’ve never seen your palomino mare, so you need to do what’s best for your horse, but here is what I see in this pattern,” she shared.  Her last words to me were, “Let me know if you want me to be another set of eyes. I’ll help in any way I can. You will be amazing.”

With the encouragement of my friends, my family, and the professionals willing to share their expertise, I felt at ease walking into the pen. Our pattern started beautifully. Just as we had prepared. Just as I had hoped it would go.

Some of you saw my ride sitting in the stands, or tuning in to the live feed or watching the video I posted on Facebook. There is not any way I could have prepared for what happened in our extended lope. The trip, the reins ripping out of my hands, the recovery, the continued pattern. None of it was imaginable when I entered the pen. Nothing could have prepared me for those moments.

Miss Shiney kept her resolve even when everything fell out of control. Once we stopped, she stood still, ears perked, waiting on me to regain the confidence to continue. While picking up the rein, I contemplated my next move.   Should I finish the pattern? Give a wave and walk out, head hung? I decided in an instant to give her another pat on the neck and said, “Come on, girl, let’s ride. ” She possessed the grit to pick up and keep going.

 Miss Shiney and I walked out of the pen with a composite score of 102, one of the bottom scores of the day.

Up until the time of the trip, our ride was one that might have given us a call back for the Level 2 awards and maybe even the Level 3 finals.

Of that, I’ll never be certain.

After settling down from the shock of what happened, I felt humbled by the amount of grace my family, my friends, top professionals, and even Miss Shiney had shown me throughout the day.

Being a stay-at-home amateur does not mean you have to do it on your own. Trainers, friends, fellow amateurs alike all want success for the people who share their passion. Never be afraid to simply ask for advice from a trainer you admire or ask for a helping hand from a fellow exhibitor. In return, be supportive, encouraging, and invested in the people around you. We all love horses. We’re all in this together. The world, especially the horse show world, is much better with both grit and grace.


5 thoughts on “Grit and Grace

  1. Vicki Rose-Couturier says:

    What a great article Barbara. I felt your disappointment when i watched your run but i was very inspired by the loving reaction towards Miss Shiney and your correct decision to complete your pattern. You are a true horse woman with Grit and Grace. You have inspired me…


  2. Amanda says:

    I happened to be watching when you went and my heart went out to you. You handled the situation with grace and many people will remember that. I have been completely humiliated in the prelims over the years but that was equine partner unwillingness.
    I also do it on my own but don’t let that define you, use it to your advantage and be the one who perseveres.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. barbaraaitkenjenkins says:

    Ah, I appreciate your kind words. I love having my horses with me. They are the best part of my day. Miss Shiney was certainly trying for me out there, and it was just a step. We’re already gearing up for next year!


  4. Kathy Baxter says:

    I just stumbled on your writings and really enjoyed them. I too am a stay-at-home amateur (rookie) the difference is that I am 66 and have just been showing 3 years. I have gone to a few clinics and worked with various traing when the budget allowed. I live in Idaho and do not have an indoor facility. I bred and trained my boy who is 7. My goal is to be a world champion Super Select. I love your perserverence and look forward to following your journey. I was heartbroken for you when I watch the trip/rein drop but I loved that you finished the pattern. I plan on visiting your FB page to watch your run. Good luck, you got this!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s