What Last Place Looks Like


Go to any kind of equestrian show and you will likely see a photographer taking pictures of the horses and riders in action.  I love looking at these photos, but yesterday, at my youngest daughter’s first dressage show, this was the image I most wanted to capture. The woman to the left of my daughter is her coach and the woman to the right is her mentor.

Parents are often a child’s first role models, but I believe it takes a village to raise a child so the more positive role models the merrier.  The actions of a role model can have a powerful influence on a child impacting their self-esteem, sense of purpose, work ethic, values and so much more.  

The two women pictured above are not superhuman (although my daughter may disagree), but they are both amazing role models.  They have taught her about horse care, horse health, riding, dressage, saddles, and all that other equipment stuff I can never remember the names of.  They have provided her with experiences to gain knowledge and opportunities to ride other horses, but yesterday they shared something better than all that put together.  They shared their last place finishes.

Yesterday, my daughter rode in two classes.  When the results of the first class were posted, and she saw that she had placed last, her face fell.  Prior to the show, knowing this was a possibility, we talked about expectations. We landed on: push past her nerves, do her best, have fun and try not worry about the results.  This is a tall order for anyone, but especially for an eleven year old.  Truth be told my heart was hurting too.  No one wants to place last or see the heartbreak on their daughter’s face when they do. 

Unable to find the right words, I found my daughter’s coach and mentor.  These women didn’t try to console or disparage the judge and marking system.  They both simply said, “I placed last in my first class today too.”

Then they shared about good rides and bad rides and about the days when everything works and the days when nothing does.  They talked about the little victories, and how far they have come. I want this horse thing to be a journey for my daughter.  I want her to have fun. I want her to grow stronger and wiser. I want her to be brave and face her fears. I want her to be encouraging and supportive of other riders.  I want her to win and lose gracefully. I want her to become a positive role model for other young riders.  

If this photo is what last place looks like, I’m more than okay with it.  And to my daughter’s coach and mentor:

Thank you for modelling sportsmanship.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Thank you for investing your time.

Thank you for not sugar coating it.

Thank you for being risk takers.

Thank you for sharing your stories.

Thank you for being part of my daughter’s village.




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