We don’t often get to hear the world’s best riders waxing philosophically on the merits of making it in the sport, but when we do, it’s important to pay attention. This morning in Wellington, Florida, the Worlds #1-ranked show jumper Kent Farrington gave an introductory gymnastics demonstration which he followed up with a Q&A session with the auditors of the 2018 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session.

Farrington provided many thoughtful insights this morning, but one of the most telling was to an auditor who asked what advice he’d give to young riders coming up through the ranks. In his response, Farrington spoke from the heart as a person who’s been in those shoes, himself. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Learn From Everyone: There’s Nothing That’s Below Your Notice

“Where I started riding was in Chicago, at a carriage stable in the city, so my exposure to higher level shows was very small, if not at all. So I studied videotapes, and when I had [the opportunity] to go to bigger shows, I would stand at the warmup ring and I would watch everybody.

I wanted to know what equipment they had on, what bridle they were using, what kind of warmup they were doing. Were they wearing spurs? Did they carry a stick? How short were their stirrups? Did they finish [schooling] with an oxer or a vertical? How many fences did they jump?

I would notice everything, and by doing that, I was gaining a lot of knowledge and ‘free lessons,’ as I call [them]. So now, today, with the internet, and YouTube, and all those things, I think you can spend all of your free time looking up different people, different horses, clinics around the world, etc. There’s a lot of things to learn just by spending some time and keeping your eyes open.”

Anybody who’s made it to the top has also had those same fears. If they don’t say that, I think they’re lying to you.

2. Be Resilient: Dealing with Doubt Is Part of the Game  

“This is a sport where you do a lot of losing, and a lot of things go wrong. It’s very easy to become discouraged, especially on your way up. It seems that the opportunities are [few and far between], and the top of the sport can feel very out of reach.

[We all have thoughts, like], I’m never going to have the horses to get there, or have that type of support; I’m never going to make it. All of these kinds of doubts, I think, anybody who’s made it to the top has also had those same fears. If they don’t say that, I think they’re lying to you. I think to know that everybody else has had those same doubts and fears, and that they just kept pushing through [is important]. If you really want to make it there, I think it’s a matter of how bad you want it, and you just have to keep going.”

-Photo credit: Thomas Reiner.