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December 26, 2013

Make It Happen

It's not just the rider who has to Make It Happen; everyone involved in a competitive effort has to as well.

For some time a favorite motto of mine, recited by me and at me by supportive friends and family, is “make it happen”. It started years ago when dreaming with a friend became a framework for an outlandish goal. Though the goal has since changed, the slogan immediately adopted into “go make it happen” to motivate me.

Along the way, that has meant different things, but when I fell into the role of groom and began to be a planner and a caretaker, making it happen took on an entirely different perspective. It was one that opened up an entirely fresh idea of horsemanship that, as a rider, I had overlooked or even been too focused on my performance to give myself the time to devote time to.

As a groom, making it happen means focusing on the logistics of the underbelly—bringing someone else’s goals into light and configuring the way there and back safely.

At a “big show”… be it a regional show with a lot of horses, a CDI, a CDI in Europe (because being abroad makes a huge difference!), a qualifier, or the Olympics, making it happen becomes the job of the entire team, from sponsors to veterinarians and everyone in between. As a groom, my slice of making it happen is the term that refers to figuring out what you don’t know before it’s critical that you know it.

When the stakes are high for horse and competitor, the groom behind them has to be the next best in line behind both of them. Grooms are a competitor of their own, acting as personal assistant, travel agent, bodyguard, hair stylist, makeup artist, wardrobe manager, crowd control, spit swiper, green-foam-scraper, equipment schlepper, and general right hand to your employer, rider, family, clients, and horses. The act of being on your A game is not just for those in the press conference post-ride! Even more so, a groom is in charge of making your rider’s equine partner on their A game, too!

While I’ve used my motto most recently in my tour of this amazing industry as a professional groom, it is easy to see how every single aspect of the equestrian industry employs the motto to Make It Happen, be it a training ride, on the rail, in the pen, over an oxer, down the centerline, or on the road to the next gig.

Making it happen as a groom means being prompt enough to allow for delays in the schedule, relaxed enough to be right on time, confident enough to step in with a piece of sugar or a correction when the need arises, prepared enough to know where everything is packed, smart enough to know when to borrow, and wise enough to know when to ask for help.

This strategy employs a little bit of “toughen up, buttercup” in that you may have to shove a 700-pound show trunk with flat tires around a show ground, improvise when things aren’t going to plan or find a way to braid a tangled mane in 10 minutes flat!

While as a rider, the meaning of making it happen is different. It may mean having your timing, your relaxation, and your focus in line like obedient ducks. Or as a coach, you may need to know the difference in when to push, when to be intense, and when to smile and encourage your student. In business, we create ways to fundraise, market, and advertise in order to find the perfect home for our sale horses. Making it happen comes in a million versions of varying degrees!

Making It Happen means that no matter what, you keep going. Even some of the highest level tests call for a rein back, so two steps backward for one step forward should never make you question if what you want is possible. Setbacks, injuries, accidents, lack of fitness, bad weather, we all know the List of Universal Signs To Quit goes on.

While I love my motto so much I’d consider making a tattoo, I don’t mean to imply that you go haphazardly swarming towards a goal with blind ambition. In my quest to make it all happen as a groom I also knew that a little swelling, the slight spasm of muscle tension, or a twinge of instinct should never be ignored. Even Olympians will tell you that they made it happen by failing more than a few times first. I’m here to share my favorite piece of the pie with full understanding of reality; sometimes detours are a part of the end result!

From horse show moms, farriers, sponsors, veterinarians, coaches, trainers, barn managers, riders, grooms, show organizers, and cheerleaders, we are all Making It Happen for our dreams in some fashion or another.

Cheers to all those out there braving weather, rehabbing injuries, overcoming setbacks, and making it happen anyway! To anyone else who is still in the daydreaming phase, I am here to tell you that you can go further than you imagine with baby steps. You will learn more than you can fathom when things go wrong. You will go further than you expect with an open mind.

It can all start with a phrase, a motto, a resolution… so, as the New Year approaches, will you make it happen?

Chronicle blogger Lauren Keeton groomed for Olympian Tina Konyot and was head groom at Jan and Amy Ebeling's The Acres. She also appeared in a story "A Good Groom Is A Horse's Home Base" in the Sept. 9, 2013 Horse Care issue of the Chronicle

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