3 Life Lessons I Learned in the Saddle

While swimming this past Friday evening, I got to thinking about the lessons I’ve learned from horseback riding and triathlon and how those lessons have a broader application to daily life.  Here are 3 of the lessons I learned in the saddle – either on the back of a horse or on a bike or both – and how I think they have helped me in life more generally.

  1. Nothing can replace time in the saddle. When I was riding horses, there were people who would hardly ever ride, but then they’d show up for an event and get upset when their day went horribly.  What this taught me is that nothing – not money, not popularity, not smarts, not wit – can replace the hours of time you spend in the saddle.  Only by putting in the time and work will you improve and set yourself up for success.  Getting through law school and the bar exam was a beast of a journey over the course of about 4 years, and I believe that having this knowledge of what it means to work hard and that it’s a necessary part of success definitely helped me remain grounded and focused during that time.
Me & Rocky at Championships for Pony Club Games, 1999


  1. Do your best to be prepared. For horse shows back in the day and for triathlons now, I keep a list of every item I need to pack & then I pack it the day/night before.  I’ve found that this helps ensure that I don’t forget anything and also decreases the stress on show/race morning because I already know I have everything I need in one place.  Of course things don’t always go perfectly – which I’ll talk more about below – but by making a concerted effort to be prepared, I think things tend to go more smoothly.  For me, it’s not just about race morning because I have a fairly busy life working a full-time job, training 6-7 days per week, serving on the board of 2 nonprofits, being a wife, and trying to keep up with everyday tasks.  In order to give myself the best chance to get everything done, I keep lists and pack my breakfast/lunch/workout gear in specific bags the night before so I can wake up the next morning and just grab everything and head out the door.  This is especially important during the triathlon season because I often have workouts before and after work, so I potentially have as much as my purse, swim bag, breakfast, work clothes/makeup, lunch, and running gear with me when I head out the door in the morning.  By being prepared, I decrease stress and increase the chance of getting everything done.  Furthermore, I’ve been able to incorporate these skills into work, particularly with my lists – I seriously don’t know how anyone gets through life without lists and I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried using lists to give it a shot and see if it helps you stay more organized and get more accomplished. 
On the 56 mile bike course in Coeur d’Alene, 2016
  1. Don’t implode when things don’t go as planned. No matter how well you prepare for something, there are almost always factors that are out of your control.  It’s pretty much impossible not to learn this lesson when you ride horses because no matter how well you plan everything, nothing is going to save you when a plastic bag flies into the ring and spooks your pony who takes off at the speed of light with legs flying into the air.  This is a lesson I learned very early because of horses, and a lesson I’ve carried into triathlon and life.  The most important thing in this moment is to take a deep breath and reevaluate what’s happening so you can move forward and hopefully salvage whatever you have left of the situation.  Rather than having a pity party for yourself, try to focus on what you can still accomplish despite the new challenges you are facing.  I think this skill definitely transfers to life in general because every time we start to think we have things figured out, a monkey wrench gets thrown right in there.  For example, I was devastated when I broke my rib last year because it meant I wasn’t going to get to race at Nationals in Santa Cruz.  I cried very briefly when I called my coach to tell him the news, but then I dusted myself off and used the time period I wasn’t allowed to exercise to focus on projects at work and Zach and I used the trip to California to reconnect with some friends and play tourist in wine country.  I truly believe I was better equipped to handle this entire situation because of the skills I’ve acquired in the saddle.

What are some life lessons you’re learned through sport?  I’d love to hear about them, so please share in the comments.


One thought on “3 Life Lessons I Learned in the Saddle

  1. Sports are definitely a powerful place to learn about yourself. Running has taught me perseverance, dedication and patience as well as grit. Loved hearing all about what you learned through riding!


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