In June, I watched my little sister’s state finals rodeo. I saw many different types of kids competing. I think these types exist in any sport, not just rodeo or even the horse world in general. And every type deserves to be seen and recognized.
To the kid who wins the all-around: I’m so proud of you. I’ve been you. You put so much time into what you accomplish. Countless hours spent—in the practice pen, down the road, at the vet’s—preparing for this win.
You worked to succeed not just in one event, but in multiple. You knew what it took and were willing to put in the time to see it happen. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
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To the kid they call “rich”: I’m so proud of you. I’ve been you. You’re so blessed with what you’ve been given. You’ve been fortunate with the opportunities you’ve had.
People will see what they want to see on the outside, but not always understand what it takes on the inside. You work hard, you spend the time, and you put in the effort to do well. You still have to earn every run and appreciate every victory. Money can’t buy hard work.
To the kid they call “poor”: I’m so proud of you. I’ve been you. You’ve pulled into the rodeo with only a Suburban and an old, beat-up trailer. You’ve unloaded the best horse your parents could afford and even duct-taped his bell boots on.
You know what sacrifices have been made for you to compete in the sport you love, and you appreciate them all. When you enter the arena, you have as much of a chance as anyone. You get to show how much work you put in, and when it pays off, you feel like a millionaire.
To the kid who takes fifth place: I’m so proud of you. I’ve been you. To be the person who worked as hard as the contestants ahead of you and fall just short isn’t easy. You’re as good as they are, and you deserve the victory as much as they do. But it wasn’t your day.
Don’t quit there! If you love something, you’ll never give it up. You’re allowed to be upset and frustrated; in fact, I believe that’s how you know you have a passion for what you do. Keep working, and your day will come. You can’t always control what happens, but you do decide what comes next.
To the kid who finally qualified: I’m so proud of you. I’ve been you. You set your goals, you made your plan, you worked hard, and it finally paid off. You didn’t enter the arena taking anything for granted; you appreciated every part of what it took to be there. You prepared physically, mentally, and even emotionally to compete at the best of your ability.
You may not be the most talented or have the best horse, but you gave yourself no excuses. You just did it—so enjoy it.
To the kid who didn’t make state: I’m so proud of you. I’ve been you. You worked as hard as you thought possible, and it wasn’t quite enough. You see your friends succeed, and you’re happy for them, but can’t help but wish to be them. You want to earn your spot, to feel that victory. You want to do what you love at that level, but it just didn’t happen.
Don’t stop now! Don’t sell yourself short. You’ve worked for everything you have, and that matters. That will add up if you keep going. Take a minute to see how lucky you are to do what you love, then start again. You’ve got this. I believe in you!
To the kid at home who dreams of competing: I’m so proud of you. I’ve been you. You think horses all day. You eat, sleep, breathe the thought of being able to compete. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are; you can feel the love you have in your bones. You know what your goals are, and you know how to work hard, but the opportunity hasn’t yet presented itself.
Hang on! That love and passion you have are important. When you have the chance, don’t let it pass. There’ll be a million reasons why something can’t work, but just focus on the one reason it can, and don’t quit working until it does.
In every sport, there are victory and defeat. We all want to be the best. We all want to win every time, but it doesn’t work like that. Life doesn’t work like that. There’ll be loss, frustration, and upset. There’ll be moments you believe you’re the only one who understands what it feels like to be you.
That’s all part of the journey. And we can choose to continue on this journey, no matter what life has thrown at us. We can’t control every situation or what someone else has or does, but we can control ourselves.
You get to decide what you want to work for or what your attitude will be. Appreciate what you have—because I promise you, someone else is praying for it.