Winning and losing. Succeeding and failing. Very different things with a very similar end result: the revelation of one’s true character.
Before I ever set foot in a show ring, my parents made one thing very clear: no matter my feelings about how a judge placed a class, I would not make those feelings obvious in the ring. I could express my frustration or anger in the truck on the way back to the house or the hotel, but not at any point in time before then. There was a zero tolerance policy for a bad attitude, something that I’ve come to appreciate more as I’ve gotten older. A few years ago at Houston, my dad and I witnessed an exhibitor who had placed Reserve Division storm out of the ring crying; Dad, always the opportunist, used this situation as a teaching moment. He told me, “People watching should never be able to tell how you did based off of the look on your face”- valuable words that I do my best to live by. Whether the judge pulls us first or walks up to our calf for the slap, a good sportsman is one who reacts with humility, dignity, and a heartfelt congratulations to the other exhibitors.
I would be lying if I said that I never get upset at or disagree with a judge’s opinions. I often have to remind myself that they are, in fact, just an opinion. I’m competitive to a fault, and losing is not something that I relish; it is, however, a necessary part of character development. Frequent success is great for the ego, but detrimental to the growth of a healthy mentality. Losing will happen eventually, and it’s not fun; however, the way that we handle losing defines who we are and the way we were raised. The resentful thoughts will always be there, waiting to be indulged in; a good sportsman learns how to tune those thoughts out. They value life-long friendships over temporary awards. Most importantly, they respond to others’ success in a way that they would want people to respond to theirs.
I’m a firm believer that perspective is everything, especially pertaining to something like sportsmanship. If we view our show careers solely as an avenue to obtain buckles and banners, then we’re going to be sorely disappointed on the days that we don’t win those awards. However, if we view it as an opportunity to build strong friendships and even stronger character, then we begin to see winning as a bonus, not a necessity. It becomes natural to be happy for someone else’s success when we recognize that we’re all walking away with the same thing: a set of attributes that will serve us well in every area of our lives.