It’s amazing how quickly the glow of the holiday season fades. A new year on the horizon, new responsibilities in tow. When the intensity of our resolutions starts to wane, however, and the winter blues creep in, it’s nice to take some time to remember what equestrian sport means to us.

While people around the country are tucked away under down comforters, waiting out the months to come, many in our community are ramping up and heading South. This means weeks on the road, in many cases, in the pressure cooker of intensive and prolonged competitions. There will be smiles and blue ribbons. There will be spills and tears. Either way, in a few months’ time, the season of celebration and good cheer will be nothing more than a distant memory.

So now, perhaps, the first, shiny weeks of 2017, is as good a time as any to remember why it is we do what we do. Horse shows are about competition, skill, and if you’re very lucky, ribbons. But they are also a showcase for our time and dedication—mental, physical, and financial—and above all, the important bonds we forge with our loved and trusted partners in the sport.

The images above aren’t about the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. They’re about riders—some of the best in the business, actually—taking a moment, however brief, to enjoy what they do. If, like them, you’re lucky enough to be able to do what you love, don’t forget to stop every once and a while and soak it in.

You won’t be sorry you did.

Photos by Erin Gilmore for NF Style