Somewhere in the world, the 2028 Olympic champion is a foal out in a field. He’s ewe-necked, sickle-hocked, downhill and shaggy, with a club foot and a chunk of mane missing, because his buddy chewed it off.
Somewhere in the world, there’s a young horse that everyone says is too short to make it big. In three years, he’ll be jumping the standards, but right now he’s fat and short and no one is paying him any mind.
Somewhere in the world there’s a 7-year-old who can’t turn right, and a 10-year-old who has not shown the ability to put more than two one-tempis together without losing it, and a 14-year-old who hasn’t yet reached his peak, and all of them will be at the next Olympic Games.
Somewhere else in the world, there’s a rider who is thinking of packing it in. Maybe the bills are getting out of control, or she’s killing herself to get enough help in her own riding development because she’s having to spend all her time riding and teaching to make ends meet and change needs to happen, and she’s wondering if it’s worth it. She’s thinking it’s time to just give up and be a local trainer, to shelve her dreams of international competition. And then she’s going to shake off the doubt, double down, and make a team in the next 15 years.
Somewhere in the world, one of the next great team riders is 9 years old and couldn’t tell if she was on the right posting diagonal if her life depended on it.
Somewhere in the world there’s a future team rider who just got told that she’ll never make it because she’s too chubby, because she’s too short, because she’s too late.
There are horses who will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars that will never amount to anything, and there are horses who will be touted as the Next Big Thing only to be never seen or heard from again, and there are horses who will fly under the radar until suddenly they’re setting the world on fire.
There are riders who will win Junior and Young Rider competitions only to quit riding completely, riders who will be touted as the Next Big Thing only to get stuck in their comfort zones and never come to fruition, and there are riders who will make their first Olympic team at 50, at 55, at even older than that.
And yes, there are the horses that will be brilliant from Day 1, and there are the riders for whom success both comes early and stays late. But more often than not, history has shown that the unlikely story, the horse who was passed over in favor of his more expensive stablemate, the rider who no one saw coming, is the more likely path to greatness.