Do you have grit?

I read a book a while back that said the main indicator of success in any venture is perseverance. People can have jaw-dropping talent or innovative ideas, but only a few of them have the persistence needed to hone the talent or develop the idea into a business. The book called it “grit.”

Showing Thunder in hunters a few years ago.

It got me thinking about whether or not I have grit. My initial reaction was no; I do not have grit. I thought about all the different horse showing disciplines I’ve tried that I ultimately dropped. I’ve tried everything from hunters to endurance, and never stuck with any of them. I never consistently showed or competed in anything. Something would always come up that prevented me from continuing, usually money, but sometimes soundness issues with my horses as well and, in the case of endurance, I just didn’t like it. That’s been a big source of disappointment for me because I had always thought I would buy a horse and show it and get really good at one style of riding. Things didn’t pan out that way. I saw that as a failure on my part; if I had just been more determined, things would have worked out.

Stanley the mini and me

The more I thought about it though, the more I realized I do have grit for other things, just not competing. I thought back to the rescue horses I’ve taken in. I had some great success with them. I have so many fun stories about the mini stallion who tried to mount everyone, the donkey who had never been touched by a human, another mini that was impossible to catch and would rather flip himself over backward than get in the trailer, the quarter horse that ran around with his head in the air and had a horrible, hollow back and a ewe neck, and the paint mare that bucked as soon as you got on her.

My previously untouched donkey.

I got them halter trained, taught them to trailer load, hauled them around to obstacle competitions and won ribbons, took them trail riding and got them going well enough to find homes where the owners could continue the training and turn them into good mounts.

I had some failures too, and one horse in particular was too much for me, but overall I did a good job at taking skinny, neglected horses that lacked training and getting them healthy, both physically and mentally.

This was too much.

I’m not a horse trainer. I’m out of my league with horses that have major issues, like bolting and rearing and extreme fear of humans. I don’t have the skill needed to deal with those things. What I do have is a lot of patience to do the same thing day after day after day until the horse thinks it’s no big deal. Trailer loading is the best example. I will practice loading every single day for a month until the horse is so bored with the trailer that he walks on just to be done with it. I have the persistence for mundane tasks like trailer loading much more than the skill needed to ride through bucking and rearing.

Practicing trailer loading at night

I’m good at the daily grind, doing the same thing with the horse over and over until it’s no big deal. With Olaf I’ve been working on getting him to ride out confidently alone. I try to ride him 4-5 times a week, even if it’s only 20 minutes at a time. We ride alone into the woods or out onto the country road. Every week he makes more progress. He gets more confident, less spooky, less apt to try and rush home out of fear. It’s just a matter of getting him out there day after day. Every mile we ride alone is a brick in the wall of confidence.


When I think about perseverance, hiking comes to mind. It’s funny that the one physical activity I love requires zero talent. It’s just walking. Anyone with two functioning legs can do it. We don’t typically think of people as being “good at” hiking. You either get out there and do it, or you don’t. I get out there. I put the miles in, day after day, week after week.

So maybe I do have grit. I just don’t have a ton of talent to go along with it!

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